Organizations continue grappling with identifying the right blend of competencies essential for navigating new IT-based applications. Technology can seem daunting and unfamiliar for many, often appearing as a mysterious realm, despite being anything but magical. Conversely, there are tech wizards, highly skilled in handling applications and devices, often stereotyped as individuals spending more time behind screens than under sunlight.

A common query arises: How many of these tech experts does an organization truly need to maintain operational systems? Can these skills be imparted to ‘regular’ employees to enhance their proficiency with IT systems? Does possessing these IT skills automatically elevate a standard company into a modern Silicon Valley-style success? These musings tend toward wishful thinking.

The challenge lies in understanding that simply operating an IT system doesn’t instantly propel an organization into a competitive, agile market leader. A functional IT system, by itself, amounts to little more than consuming electricity. The true value lies in effectively using the system. Understanding its intricacies isn’t always necessary. Just as many car drivers know little about engines but rely on mechanics for repairs when needed, users of software programs often feel pressured to comprehend the inner workings, which can act as a psychological barrier, hindering their usability.

Well-designed software removes this obstacle, prioritizing the application’s utility in task completion and support rather than requiring users to grapple with the technical aspects.

There’s a belief that older individuals, less acquainted with IT systems throughout their lives, might struggle more with learning new digital skills. Research, however, doesn’t support this notion. Instead, an open-minded approach emerges as a better predictor for adapting to new skills. Open-minded older individuals are as adept at learning new technology as like-minded students. This highlights a crucial digital skill: the willingness to experiment, fail, learn, and iterate—a skill that involves articulating problems and test results.

In many organizations, there’s an excessive focus on imparting unnecessary IT technical skills (often quickly outdated) and insufficient attention on fostering a culture of experimentation, challenge, and learning among employees.

To read more about organizational design I made a list of curated articles on this subject