We had to give up our privacy to take back our identity

Nina Muhleisen | 29 January 2020


The future of digital and innovation

I attended Silicon Block for the first time; it’s their 11th event since inception and now one of the largest meetings for corporate strategy and innovation in Melbourne.

It got me thinking about the future of digital and innovation in Australia and the opening speaker, Stephanie Winkler, Research & Insights at VICE APAC put it so simply – “the world is changing, (and) the impossible is now possible.”

But just how well are we keeping up with the speed of change and just how ‘possible’ does the ‘impossible’ really seem? Are we taking full advantage of the digital innovation that is before us?

Our environments are changing, both socially and in the workplace. But it’s our interactions with the work which has leaders scratching their heads, trying to work out what people need to give them purpose and to feel fulfilled. How can you create a future workplace with purpose, where your people want to come and learn, solve problems and think differently?

Have we forgotten the human constant that exists beneath this constantly changing world?

How would you define the future of digital, innovation and work in 2020?

Digitisation vs Digitalisation vs Digital Transformation

Isn’t it all the same thing? Yes, one may believe so because we see them used so often, and so interchangeably. But no, they’re distinctly different and understanding their differences is critical for leading your people through a digital transformation.

Digitisation – the process of changing something from an analog to digital form. For organisations, it’s the automation of back-office processes that previously relied on the manual processing of its people. It’s no secret now, why so many redundancies have resulted in the adoption of digitisation.


Digitalisation – the way in which our individual social lives are restructured around digitisation, how we interact with our changing digital world. It shines a spotlight back on your customers and your employees, and their interactions with your digitisation.

J. Scott Brennen, Doctoral Candidate in Communication, and Daniel Kreiss, Associate Professor, both at the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism.


It’s why the supermarket self-checkouts are now full, as consumers we have embraced the digitalisation of grocery shopping – it’s more efficient, we don’t have to engage with another human being and despite all the frustrations around packing our own bags, being told by a machine to “please take your items” every couple of minutes, despite this, we keep coming back. That’s digitalisation.

Digital Transformation – it’s less about technology and more about the humans that transcend it; it goes beyond your digitisation and digitalisation and addresses your collective challenges surrounding customer-centricity, organisational culture, visible leadership and psychological safety.

Digital transformation should inspire the likes of Coles and Woolworths to capture and prioritise the collective frustrations from both the employee’s and customer’s experience with self-checkouts. What’s your biggest pain point associated with self-checkouts and how likely are you to shop with a supermarket that addresses your pain point first?

Digitalisation cannot occur without digitization and digital transformation must occur for your organisation to survive.

Identity in a Digital vs Human context

Our sense of identity or lack thereof is one of the many reasons behind our mental health crisis in the western world. It’s an idea that’s been debated for a while now, so just how much of our identity is being influenced by digital?

Digitalisation has been inviting us to embody a wide range of digital identities, ever since we set up our first Hotmail address or when we had to decide on an MSN Messenger username that our school mates thought was “kool”. How many digital identities do we actually have? How many have you created in the last year, or month or 24 hours?


55% of us are constantly connected online
48% of us feel more insecure without our phone as compared to our wallets
38% of us believe online networking leads to social isolation

Stephanie Winkler
Research & Insights at VICE APAC


Every time you ‘register’ online, you create an entirely unique digital identity and with every digital identity is an opportunity or risk of extending yourself beyond your own sense of identity, physically. Think about it, your physical identity will no doubt differ from your social media identity and furthermore, your Instagram identity will differ again from your Facebook identity or LinkedIn identity.

In a relatively short amount of time, we’ve embodied a large and varied number of identities and blurred the lines between where one starts and the next one ends. Different identities serve us for different contexts, but in a world of constant connectivity and constant context switching, just how well is our warped sense of self keeping up?

To switch off and pull away feels increasingly liberating because we’re freeing ourselves from dozens of identities all demanding our attention.

Tying it back to digital innovation

As the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) develop further, the designers of digital services are increasingly defining identity in terms of the tactical needs of their systems. So, when Keir Breitenfeld of Experian writes about “reinventing identity for the digital age”, he defines digital identity as the combination of three things:

Personally verified physical identification
A collective set of devices or ‘things’ which the identity uses
Perhaps the most important, the historical data from that identity.

So previously, your various identities relied on the direct involvement from you as a customer, an employee or leader within your organisation for example. Now, your mere interaction with the digital world around you, your devices and their automatic interaction or response with your various identities have meant that an exponential set of interactive identities are being created automatically. In this context, a customer now resembles a device or piece of technology more so than it does its original creator.


But just as we’re struggling to keep up with the exponential growth in the data that represents our digital identities, so too is your organisation in the race to make sense and capitalise on the data gathered from customer identities. There’s a minefield of customer data points that can form human insights, whether those insights are automated or not – how advanced is your organisation in this area as compared with your competition?

We’re moving from an era of opportunity, where commerce has never been more accessible to businesses and their customers – to an era of termination or ‘truth’, where your very survival depends on your digital transformation.

In the era of termination, a 10 month lead on your competition will seem like a 10 year lead time today. Employment will fail in place of machine learning, business will fail in place of decentralisation, governments will fail in place of digital nations and education will fail in place of self-learning.

Are you simply digitising your business and forgetting about the human element? Are you preparing your employees for digital transformation? Because one thing’s guaranteed, your customers are already there and your competitors are next in line.

That’s the secret to a sustainable digital transformation, find out where you lack the capabilities and reach out and say hello@three6.com.au