We’ve spent so long worrying about how to make technology simpler, safer, more secure and efficient at work that we’ve forgotten that people too are evolving in their needs and understanding about what technology can do for them at work.
Many organisations block these tools at the firewall, I understand some of the reasoning for this, especially around security concerns, but far too often it is used to hide issues around poor management. “People will waste their time on these things” is the answer I hear all too often.
You see, what you are saying to me as an individual is that you simply don’t trust me to be professional and productive in the way in which I carry out my work for you. It’s the wrong argument and one I find inconsistent. If you are really worried about my productivity, then either you shouldn’t have hired me (or you should have provided me with more support to become productive) or actually, you should also ban telephones newspapers, Sudoku books and water coolers as these too can be exploited to drain resource away.
It’s a bit like when the internet first arrived – do you remember when there was just one guy/terminal in the office with internet access? What do you think would happen to your business today if that was still the case? Social media will be no different just a few years from now.
The other side of this is that increasingly, these tools are where your customers exist. Blocking access to them is just cutting yourself off from an increasingly significant portion of your audience. Remember, over half of people connected to the internet are on Facebook – it just makes no sense to me that you would chose to ignore the portion of your customers that chose to communicate in this way.
Finally, we’ve got to deal with this concept of the “dumb user” once and for all. This out-dated concept is increasingly irrelevant in how we think about managing change within our organisations.
Now before you get all upset, I’m not saying you can ignore the issues around IT literacy, it’s just that they’re no longer as acceptable (or believable) as they were even a few years ago.
Those of you with kids will likely understand what I say, where increasingly it is just unacceptable as Dave Briggs puts it – to wear your IT ignorance “as a badge of honour” – in a modern society, that’s almost like being proud of the fact that you can’t read.
Our success will come from empowering the individual within the context of the organisation – give your people the power to work the way that works best for them, measure outcomes not process.