May 15, 2020

164 | Growth & Evolution: Mission-Driven Digital Transformation – with Lisa Schneider

Join us for a fun and enlightening conversation with Lisa Schneider, Chief Digital Officer of Merriam-Webster.

You’ll learn about how Lisa led a true digital transformation at a company best known for their physical dictionary, the value of leveraging mission and transparency, and how letting the world see who you truly are can be a catalyst for transformation. Plus, you’ll hear about Merriam-Webster’s new Puku app for kids.


Why do missions matter?

  • When Lisa went into Merriam-Webster, she met all of these amazing, smart, and funny people — but she didn’t see that reflected in the public-facing brand.
  • “A mission is not what you do but why you do it.” So, Merriam-Webster creates and distributes dictionary definitions… but why?
  • Lisa helped create a new, two-part mission statement: to propagate their unnatural love of the English language and to help people understand and use language better so that they can better understand and communicate with the world around them.
  • With this new North Star, Merriam-Webster was able to make a successful digital transformation and offer new products and services that still accomplish its mission.

How do you pace digital transformation?

  • If you are responsible for leading digital transformation within an organization, you have to start by taking the temperature in the room. What are people’s current mindsets and dispositions? That’s going to dictate how quickly you can make changes.
  • The first step you can take towards change is identifying the smallest, simplest, or easiest thing you can do that will work and create some positive change. When people see it works, they will be interested in doing more, and the more small wins you have the more you can gradually increase the pace of change. 
  • At Merriam-Webster, that meant starting with a social media overhaul that revealed the humor and personalities within the organization. That may not seem like much, but creating a communication strategy with daily messages was a huge leap from publishing a throughout-reviewed dictionary once a decade.
  • You can’t just go in and completely change how and what people are currently doing, and you certainly can’t do that in an organization that relies on institutional knowledge, such as Merriam-Webster.
  • The leadership aspect of change management is just as important as the structural or strategic aspects — if not more so.
  • “Technology by itself is just a tool. Transformation is strategic, it’s a mindset.”



About The Innovation Engine

Since 2014, 3Pillar has published The Innovation Engine, a podcast that sees a wide range of innovation experts come on to discuss topics that include technology, leadership, and company culture. You can download and subscribe to The Innovation Engine on Apple Podcasts. You can also tune in via the podcast’s home on Spotify to listen online, via Android or iOS, or on any device supporting a mobile browser.