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What 6003 hours of golf can teach you about your ability to compete in the digital era

10.000 hours. According to Malcom Gladwell in his book 'Outliers', that is what it takes to achieve excellence in anything. Playing the violin, ice-hockey, you name it, Gladwell made the case that it takes about the same amount of effort to be a top performer in any category. This observation came from looking at top performers who already operated at the stellar level, the Wayne Gretzky's and Tiger Woods' of this world.

In 2009, the idea of being able to put in 10000 and achieve world-class performance intrigued a then 30-year old commercial photographer who quit his job to try to make it to be one of the 245 professionals on the Golf PGA tour. Dan McLaughlin never played golf before but for five years he put in everything he had, to get to the 10000 hours of practice and a ticket to become part of the elite group of golfers in the PGA tour. McLaughlin called his project 'the Dan Plan' and tracked his efforts meticulously.

Initially, his progress was impressive, but after putting in 6003 hours he had to abandon the project due to sustained injury to his back. While McLaughlin developed an appreciation for golf, he was never passionate about it. It was the 10000 hours idea, regardless of what category to apply it towards that motivated him to start 'the Dan Plan'. We'll never know if Dan would have made it to the PGA tour had his back not become a reason to stop his project. But the point about like vs love vs passion is an important take-away from this experiment.

Transforming your organization to embrace digital technology takes tremendous effort. Without being able to put it into a single number like Gladwell did, we all know it is substantial. Regardless of the size of the #digitaltransformation quest for your organization, the question to ask yourself is what is the fuel that sustains your efforts? Do you feel propelled to act because your competitors are doing it? Because you feel you may be left behind? Or because you feel passionate about the potential of digital technologies to delight your customers?

Even if Dan would have been able to get to the 10000 hours, would he have been able to compete in the PGA tour? Would clean, mechanical competency have been enough? Or would his competitors who have reached the PGA partially thanks to a passion for the game still operate at a higher level because of their passion? What about you and your organization?

Even applied without any kind of passion to delight customers or exceed expectations of citizens, it is obvious that the technology powering #digitaltransformation will help you improve substantially. But without passion, will it be enough? I am convinced that passion for what you do is the great multiplier in #digitaltransformation. It is passion for your customers that will allow you to see whole new and amazing applications for new technology.

They will only come to life because of your ability to empathize with your customers, to feel their needs and desires. That passion drives innovation. It is often said that the great innovators don't see themselves as innovators at all, they simply care about their customers at a different level.

Successful projects like Ecolab have passion in common. Passion to delight, to overdeliver, to improve. That is what makes the difference and will be what sets you apart from your competitors in the digital marketplace. When you are deciding the next step in the #digitaltransformation journey, take a moment and think of Dan and reflect on the driver for this particular project.

Can you feel the passion? If not, what are you passionate about and why are you not working to unleash the power of #digitaltransformation on that? It will probably take you further and allow you to compete much better.

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