Back in 2004, I read an article in Strategy+Business: The Wisdom and Worth of Generation Tech. Combined with listening to a talk by Tim O’Reilly, held at Microsoft in 2003 – The Internet Paradigm – it became evident that we were going to start seeing some disruption in the workplace as technology enabled new ways of working that disrupted established methods. It’s not the technology itself causing the disruption. Rather, it’s the people who have grown up with that technology in their everyday lives who enter the workplace and challenge the status quo… or not. Musing over these thoughts, as Tim O’Reilly started talking about Web 2.0, spawned a couple of blog posts over the past 2 years:
- What does Web 2.0 mean? (October 2005)
- Changing habits (June 2006)
Web 2.0-style technologies are beginning to enter the workplace, as organisations explore the use of wikis, blogs and social networking tools. But working habits are still proving too slow to change. A blog post over on Reflections of a Newsosaur – Brain Drain – describes the challenge facing media companies, that could easily be applied to many industries: an inability make use of their talent
He summed up the frustration of the twenty- and thirty-something professionals who grew up with a keyboard at their fingertips and an iPod, or at least a Walkman, plugged in their ears. They use modern media the way their generation does, not the way their fifty-something bosses wish they would.
But the young net natives, for the most part, rank too low in the organizations that employ them to be invited to the pivotal discussions determining the stratgeic initiatives that could help their employers sustain their franchises.“In most organizations, the people with the most online experience have the least political capital,”
It always amazes me when I hear managers talk about ways to prevent their employees from thinking. In too many cases, there is still a strongly held belief that implementing standards and rational systems that ensure consistency is the right strategy – enables you to grow and scale, minimises the possibility for human error, makes it easy to measure what you are doing, provides consistent customer service/product quality etc. (somewhere along the line, someone has confused the word ‘consistent’ with ‘good’). It completely misses the point that such systems are designed for zombies without brains. And last time I checked, having a brain and aspirations is quite a common trait within humans… Those pesky humans with ideas might hold the secrets for the next killer product or service, and want to share them given half the opportunity. But you can’t standardise that process, it doesn’t fit with ‘how things work around here’. So what happens? The talented people give up and leave. Organisations who let this happen should worry about where those people go…