The hidden harm of the luddite line

image of papers with charts figures and a calculator to represent the hidden harm of the luddite line

Ever been in a meeting where your organisation’s digital presence is being discussed?

Has an attendee (let’s call him John) ever smiled and said “I don’t get all this tech stuff” or “I’m a bit of a luddite!”?

Did you detect a note of pride in John’s voice?

Light-hearted asides like these (let’s call it the luddite line) these are more harmful to digital than they look.

If that person really does struggle to use the internet or computers generally, that’s a problem for them. Accessing day-to-day things like buying parking permits from their council or customer service for their goods might currently be beyond them. This problem will get worse as these services move increasingly online.

But like all statements, the luddite line is made in context. What’s ok to say on a stag do might not go down well in a parliamentary committee.

So what’s the context here?


The context of the luddite line

If you’re part of the digital team, the luddite line will have made you cringe. The digital understanding in your organisation is partly down to you. And everyone just saw that it’s not very good.

There will be a wider effect too. If John said it, maybe Barbara will think that her low level of digital understanding is ok too.

Before you know it, the bar is lowered forever. Everyone’s ok with your organisation just not getting all this internet stuff. The culture that supports the change is weakened, and your vision of a transformed charity full of digital natives delivering life changing services online at a massive scale is in ruins.


Dazzle with digital

If you want the bar to be raised, what won’t work is taking John to task for what he said, demanding he at least keep schtum if he doesn’t understand your work. You might as well mend your cracked phone screen with a mallet.

What will work is showing them the new world you want to move towards.

Show John, Barbara and everyone else how many people get real time support with cancer in Macmillan’s online community, regardless of where they live. Dazzle them with how many donations you could get just by using Stripe. Even better, show them what great work your rivals are doing online.

Dazzle them with the possibilities of digital done well so much that they will want to learn more.

You can also start with the foundations – how to write a good marketing email, how to tweet that organisation they’d like to partner with, the three key numbers to know on your Google Analytics account.

Many people shy away from digital transformation because they think it’s all Apple Watch apps and virtual reality. That’s too much to contemplate, so the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. Equipping your colleagues with basic digital skills that actually help them do their job (instead of giving them more work) will stoke the fire further.


At the next meeting, you might even hear a ringing, public endorsement of your transformative approach instead of the luddite line.

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