Delve: How Digital Technologies Could Turn Crisis into an Opportunity for Societal Change, with Michael Barrett

Published: 3 February 2023

How useful, overhyped, or even detrimental are digital technologies in a crisis? Zoom came in to save the day when work went remote during the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping and food delivery grew rapidly, even doctors’ appointments went online. What can be learned from experiences of crisis-driven technology use, both on an individual and organizational scale?

For many, these digital technologies and even more specialized innovations provided a kind of utopian hope for large-scale societal change. In reality, the acceleration of digital innovation across sectors and the world has disrupted business as usual and exposed systemic challenges and inequalities. This is what Cambridge professor Michael Barrett points out on the Delve podcast as he discusses his latest research examining the possibilities and limits of digital innovation. Professor Barrett spoke with Delve shortly after he gave the Laurent Picard Distinguished Lecture at Desautels, on the subject of rethinking digital innovation and crisis, in December of 2022.

“Any crisis will disrupt work practices in ways that challenge routines that have a need for new ways of operating,” explains Barrett. “We have seen how at scale, digital platforms allow us to engage in activities, whether it's telemedicine, whether it's learning opportunities or sales meetings through Zoom, many things that we knew were possible, but didn't scale anywhere near that. But we must also always look at the tension and the critical issues that might produce new risks, in that these platforms are becoming increasingly indispensable and overdependence on them raises concerns.”

For more insights, listen to the Delve podcast.

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Founded in 2019, Delve is the official thought leadership publication of McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management. Under the direction of Professor Saku Mantere, inaugural Editor-in-Chief, Delve features the latest in management thinking that stretches perspectives, sparks new ideas, and brings clarity to decision-makers at all levels and across sectors.

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