Posts Tagged ‘Change’

Technological Change–Above and below the water line

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

In the final instalment of our systemic view of the changes that surround us we com to the area we talk most about, but perhaps understand the least – how technology has changed around us.

When I started my career (and I suspect it is the same for many of you), the only place I would see a personal computer was in a place of work or a place of study. Think about how different that world is now. We are surrounded by technology, much of it has become so pervasive to our everyday lives that it has started to become invisible.

When was the last time you thought about how the internal combustion engine actually works? Apart from a few petrol heads which are undoubtedly reading this, what do you do when you get in your car? Do you sit and think, <nerd voice> well, turning this key activates the fuel pump which even as I sit here is preparing the correct amount of fuel to be compressed in the cylinders and ignited at precisely the right moment, the resulting explosion creating sufficient force to drive a powertrain supplying the correct amount of longitudinal force to each of the driving wheels </nerd voice>. Of course you don’t, you get in turn the key and crack on with getting to your destination.

TechChangesmIT is becoming no different. Although the way in which we use it becomes increasingly sophisticated, we care less (or we should care less) about the specifics of what makes it work. This is a good thing. In my book, a minute spent thinking about the tool is a minute wasted as it should have been spent thinking about the task.

I like to think of it as a water line that we continue to push up as we are able to effectively “commoditise” the core elements of technology. Above the water we see the graceful, pretty technology that helps us be productive. Below the water, we know there is a complex eco-system that drives it, but we don’t necessarily need to understand every intricacy of what makes it work.

Increasingly, understanding and using this commoditisation will be the difference between success and failure.

The “Noughties” By The Numbers

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Got this from an internal thread, interesting stats (although mainly US based) that contrast the changes from 1999 to 2009…

Noughties by the Numbers

All this and still no hoverboard!

Monologue or dialogue?

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

RIP

We all know how important the internet is to companies these days. But I get the feeling that many businesses are still fumbling in the dark. First and foremost it’s important to remember that for the past century companies have controlled the communiction with their customers through monologues over traditional media like radio and TV. Then along came the web and turned this model on its head. Naturally, it will take any business a long time to fully adapt to this change but unfortunately consumers don’t have the patience to wait. Companies need to develop a greater undertanding of the way people interact with brands on the internet so that they can connect with their customers and have the much awaited dialogue that’s been needed for so long.

Luckily, Razorfish, who are one of the largest interactive agencies in the world, recently released their annual consumer behaviour report in an attempt to explain how people interact with brands online. This report should be compulsory for everyone that in someway interacts with customers in a business. If you don’t want to understand the behavioural trends on the web then just have a look at the awesome illustrations in the report.

There are so many intersting facts in this report and the one businesses should pay extra attention to is the fact that 65 % of consumers reported to have had a digital experience that either positively or negatively changed their mind about a brand. Of that group, 97 % stated that this eventually influenced whether they bought from the brand or not. This is incredibly interesting and it illustrates the importance of managing digital relationships.

The facts

I think this is great news for everyone. This changing relationship will force businesses to push the boundaries of  quality in everything from product development to customer service and consumers will get a lot more for their money. Whether you are in B2B or B2C doesn’t make much of difference. We are all conusmers in the end, so if you are in B2B it is very risky to believe that you can afford to ignore the digital trend. I also think it’s important to point out that the digital relationship will not replace face-to-face interaction but simply add immense value to the overall relationship you are able to have with your customers. Businesses will need to adapt to the digital ways quickly and start having more dialougues instead of monologues.

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?

Workforce Evolution OR Workforce Revolution? | a Prologue

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Many people seem to think that technology is a means to innovation, when in actual fact its the people that drive change. Understanding people in the workforce is arguably the most important thing when planning for the future of a business, “Why?” you may ask – well, from now until 2018 and beyond the workforce will be enhanced with new skills and characteristics coming into the mix that have the potential of changing the way we will be working, possibly even as soon as five years time.

 Before we get to the above conclusion though, whats’ more important is to understand how we will be getting there. There is logic behind my madness!

Where we are today (UK)

So today we have four generations in the workforce, but for this post I will focus on the three prominent generations, Baby Boomers*, Generation X** and the Millennials***.

 

The Baby Boomers*, 14 million strong in the workforce and hugely important to industry – A generation born between the years of 1946-1964, began coming into the workforce several years after WW2 with an enthusiasm to change the world by coming up with new ideas, building new industries from the ground up.

 

Generation X**, 11 million in the current workforce, born between the years of 1964-1980 -  The generation that witnessed the inception of the personal computer, worked through the ‘Dot.com’ boom and possibly dabbled in the rise of MTV and Punk music. Gen Xers are also presumed to be ‘Next in thrown’ to the boomers, but is this really true?

 

Millennials***, currently 8 million in the workforce, though having been born between the years of 1980-2000 meaning that there is a huge amount (9 million) still in education. The youngest era of this generation are in fact still at primary school. By 2020 it is possible that there could be 17 million Millennials in the workplace (A deeper look into the fundamentals and importance of this generation in relation to the evolution of the workforce will be explained in the next blog post).

 

These demographics matter, they’re not ‘shock’ facts or over glorified estimates, its a realistic possibility, our workforce is going to change, unless we can figure out a miracle cure for aging…

 

Baby Boomers are important, they carry mass amounts of invaluable knowledge, experience and seniority, the data and information that they hold is imperitive to the organisations that they are part of. Now is the time to start sharing with the generations that will be leading industry in the future, but how? Sharing information is simpler today than ever before, we can consume huge amounts of information from multiple repositories daily, now is the time to experiment with things such as social computing.

 

As stated, there are 9 million Millennials that have still not entered the workplace, but its important that they do in order to fill the void that the Boomers will leave over the course of the next decade. Good education is a must in order to get the rest of this generation into the workforce and fullfill generational blend and insdustry sustainability. But its not all doom and gloom, this generation are going to bring in a whole host of new skills and character into the workplace, not to mention their lack of fear towards technology, but the fact that they couldn’t give a stuff about it. Millennials ‘pick up and play’, not just technology but processes, they can learn from multiple mediums at a worryingly fast pace.

 

So going back to my intro-conclusion, the next generation of workers will change our methods of work, possibly not as drastically as first perscieved, but in terms of such things as sharing, storing and consuming information. Lessons can be learnt, are you going to sit and wait for the changes to be more apparent or are you going to be prepared for the change to occur?

Forgetting, changing and innovating

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Over the past 12 months myself and Jonathan Peach have done so many presentations to different people that I struggle to remember them all. As people this is what we do, we do things and then forget about them. Very rarely do we get the chance to reflect upon what actually happens. Blogging is good for this purpose, because you can go back and read about what you had forgotten. When we present our research around the Workforce Evolution we tell people that things are changing and that it would be wise for them to understand that change so they can prepare for it. The change we talk about is a difficult one. The workforce is already evolving, but it might take more than a decade to see the full effects, and as anyone can imagine it is difficult to tell people to change today in order to prepare for ten years ahead. Although, I would argue that if you cannot respond to the way your workforce will change then you will probably not be in business in ten years time anyway.

I think many business leaders find what we say interesting, but they do as we all do, they forget. Buzz words like strategy, innovation and future are widely used by business leaders, but do they act upon it? Some people argue that short term thinking brought us the recession; business leaders talked the “long term language” then but clearly did not walk the talk.

Over the past couple of months I’ve met with many decision makers and its incredibly tough for them to make strategic decisions as the whole economy seems to be in survival mode. If your ideas do not show quick ROI or saves money then it’s not interesting. To me it seems we have gone from one extreme to another. Looking to the past to determine the future can sometimes work really well and when it comes to recession behaviour this is definitely true. Companies like Proctor & Gamble, Walt Disney, Microsoft and Google were all recession era start ups. Also, let’s not forget that transformational innovations such as the PC and the IPod were invented during tough economic times.

These companies believed in innovation and the long term but still managed to survive tough times. Maybe focusing all efforts on driving down costs will work for some, but the real winners will be those who can do what’s right now and act upon what they predict will happen in the future. Too often innovation is associated with technology and inventions, but it’s much more than that. Innovation is “a new way of doing something”, so how about behavioural innovation? Businesses will have to change their culture and behaviour to suit the most diverse workforce ever witnessed, and the way in which they respond will have a massive impact on their future success.