Archive for June, 2009

Is technology always good?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I just read an interesting piece of research about the future of work life balance and our work habits in general. As I was reading I wondered what work must have been like 30-40 years ago, without all the technology we have today. As I have grown up in a world where computers and the internet is pervasive I really couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to write reports and documents with pen and paper. The thought of not being able to communicate through IM, mobile phones, email and even Facebook is just unthinkable.

These thoughts entered my brain again a few days ago but from a different angle. It was 11 o’clock at night and I was responding to a bunch of urgent emails when I suddenly thought that if I didn’t have the technology I wouldn’t feel the need to write emails late at night. The ability to “always be connected” has increased our expectations around work but also socially. I often feel that my friends expect me to respond (rapidly) to their messages, comments, tweets and pictures online. If you don’t respond online people will try your mobile phone. Too often I feel like there isn’t enough time to manage it all but I guess that it all becomes part of a routine that you don’t think much about.

computer-hooked8The amount of unpaid work hours has soared over the past decade and the amount of time we spend with our families has decreased. It is clear that technology  has imposed new burdens on families and individuals and there aren’t many signs of improvement. The big winners are of course the companies we work for, as we can now work from anywhere at any time. Work and private life are becoming increasingly integrated but it seems like work is eating away at life at a rapid pace.

I not right to put all the blame on technological advancements but it is of course part of the problem. It is also important for us to remind ourselves that no matter how much technology moves forward, human beings still have rationale and ability to make their own decision on what is right or wrong, that is something technology can’t replace. Employees and employers will need to take more responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t spiral out of control because that is where we are heading. A glance at government statistics shows that “over-work” is one of the primary causes of growing ill health, both physically and mentally.

These thoughts made me think a bit differently about technology and maybe technological advancements aren’t always positive. The ability to “always be connected” has definitely eaten in to the amount of time people spend together but does the buck stop with us or is technology the one to blame?  Or maybe it’s just that our economy has become more demanding?

Millennial Worker

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

For the second of our regular monthly podcasts, we’re joined by two of our latest additions to the Envisioners team – Robin Cavonious and Jonathan Peach who have been working over the past year on some research around the impact and challenges that the Millennial generation will bring to the workforce.

I’ve been really fortunate to work with both of them over the past couple of months and they very kindly agreed to share this research with me by both contributing to this blog and by providing us with an opportunity to hear a summary of their work to date.

It’s a great perspective and rather unusually, it’s from some real life millennials, (rather than those of us that have to pretend what it’s like…)

Sit back and enjoy…

You can download the webcast here (right click and “save as”) or click here to subscribe to the Envisioners podcasts on iTunes.

The Arrogance of the Present

Monday, June 15th, 2009

A Brief History of TomorrowIn doing some research for some video debates we’ll be doing with the FT soon (more on that soon), I’ve been reading Jonathan Margolis’ intriguing book on Futurology – A Brief History of Tomorrow.

Early on, Jonathan posits a condition known as “Arrogance of the Present” – a condition many people suffer from (and have suffered from throughout history) which is the “belief of every successive generation that at last, sophisticated, modern folk that we are, we’ve got it and indeed, we _are_ it.”

This condition means many things to different people but whatever it means – it spells trouble for those of us that believe we can do better and/or different things with technology and that, believe it or not, as clever as we think we are, there’s still a whole lot more for us to do/invent/evolve.

This arrogance is not restricted to technology either, it applies to many of the changes we face in both our professional and personal lives. Think about what people must have thought when mobile phones were first invented – “why would anyone want to carry such a device” and then think about your lifestyles today. As much as we’d like the option to not have one for a week or two – I’ll bet there’s not many of us that would want to be permanently without one.

The problem for me is that this kind of attitude is infectious in those who don’t have an understanding for what the changes may bring and worse still, feeds on itself to blow even the inane into matters of critical importance to society.

I’m asking you then, as readers of this blog to seek out examples of this “Arrogance of the Present” – highlight them for what they are (hell, send ’em in and I’ll post them here in a special category of their own if they’re good enough) – but whatever you do, help people understand that we’re just not _there_ yet and if it’s OK with them, we’d like to on keep trying to push the envelope a little…

A great debate

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Yesterday was a brilliant day. We got invited to present to members from the Institute of Directors (IOD) in Birmingham, having done a similar session on Workforce Evolution back in May. The guys we presented to yesterday made the session a real success and I want to thank everyone who attended for their input. When I think about it, we didn’t really present yesterday we discussed instead. So instead of two people having their say and sharing their insights we had around 20 different people from different industries express their thoughts on technology and the future. We talked about everything from search engines to education.

One thing I have realised is that businesses are becoming more demanding of technology. They aren’t interested in technology that “does the job” they want and expect technology that will push their business and drive the company forward. This is fantastic as it will force the technology industry to push the boundaries of innovation much further. When I say we talked about technology, I don’t mean products and specifications, but rather what technology enables us to do. One of the most interesting discussions was the need for office buildings. Do we really need them? Think about it, would it be possible to get rid of your office building and still run your business? One suggestion was to have team meetings in Barbados, attendance would almost certainly be at 100 %.

We all agreed that the education system will be incredibly important over the next decade or so as we need to ensure that the youngest Millennials can fill the huge gap that Baby Boomers will leave as they start to retire. And is it really true that all Millennials are tech savvy? definitely not. There are still a lot of young people in this country that do not have access to the internet which is something the government will have to improve drastically over the next couple of years.

Sessions like the one yesterday are very thought provoking and in our modern society there isn’t always time for that, but there should be. Thinking is crucial and it’s something we should make more time for, so I hope we made some people think about the workforce evolution and the change it will bring about.

Another thing that made my day yesterday was watching this video with Seth Godin presenting at the TED (Technology Entertainment Design).I think the guy is one of the best presenters on the planet. And in this video he talks about the internet and the way it is ending mass marketing, awesome stuff.

Seth Godin on the Tribes that we lead