The shape of the world is a troubling matter, and leaders can reorient themselves by looking at a map from 10 years ago. It was a perplexing time, with Friedman and Florida arguing over whether the world was flat or spiky—metaphors for the influence of technological advances on the global economy. Shapes are a matter of perspective. Microscopes can make smooth things look spiky, distance can make spiky things look flat, and metaphors can take many forms altogether. There is wisdom in unicornmagis’ thought that “there is value in every view of the world.”
There has been a lot of technological upheaval over the last ten years. Facebook has expanded and MySpace has declined. AOL and Yahoo! are hanging on, and WikiPedia has connections everywhere. As the world is reshaped over and over again, the question most people are asking their leaders is “Will this affect my job?” People want to know if machines will take their jobs, or if machines will destroy the planet in which case people won’t have to worry about jobs. History has proven that new technologies eliminate some jobs while creating others. Still, not knowing how things will turn out can be unsettling. With so much change, leaders need to accept that questions outnumber answers, and view challenges as opportunities to move forward. As EA said, “Perhaps together we can chart the path ahead…if not to the final destination, then certainly the next step. And may we do so with one foot raised.”
I spent a lot of time working on email this morning. It seems like my mailbox is always full. Maybe I should tell the IT department about the abundance of information the Internet is enabling so they can find us some helpful tools. IT would have liked today’s leadership team meeting. The leaders reported on the Web 2.0 tools they have been testing. livingthedream530 and rd2dochazen showed that Yammer and Slack can enhance workplace collaboration, and there were some good presentation tips in Tricia’s review of Haiku Deck and Keisha’s review of Canva. I was a little apprehensive about using Twitter, but after hearing peopleologist’s report, I am going to give it a try. I saved everyone’s reports so I can review them again later. I’m glad Dr. Watwood introduced us to Jane Hart’s top tools for learning. The participatory nature of Internet is different than the closed environment the organization is used to, and the leadership team agreed we need to leverage Web 2.0 tools to stay competitive.
Today I investigated ways to manage knowledge. It turns out that knowledge is expanding so fast that managing it can be quite a challenge for leaders. As Weinberger describes in the book Too Big To Know, the Internet is an open, social space where everyone can contribute to the networking of knowledge. However, as Christopher mentioned, “the network is messy, and it makes getting to the truth even harder.” There is a good chance that a hierarchical model of knowledge is no longer relevant. And, as The Ayes Have It pointed out, it is unlikely that the leaders in the room are the only ones who possess organizational knowledge. With all of this change, leaders will need to think differently and learn how to operate in a connected world. At lease we have five generations in the workforce to collectively figure this out. For now, I am going to take Men in Black’s advice to look ahead and imagine what I will know tomorrow.
This morning I watched a video that estimates Gen Zers will go thorough 14 jobs by the time they are 38 years old. I wonder how many jobs are fungible (Friedman’s term for work that can be digitized and outsourced). According to a McKinsey report, highly structured and predictable environments are the best candidates for automation, whereas cognitive tasks involving context, improvisation, common sense, ambiguity, socialization, and emotion will be difficult for machines to master. In a modern workplace humans and machines are expected to work side by side. Agility will be key for workers—they will need to trust each other in order to work through changes together. Maybe peopleologist is right, “it comes back to psychology and understanding how to truly leverage the new technology opportunities.” Husband’s idea of a wirearchy grounded in interconnected knowledge, trust, and credibility sounds great, but how do we get there? I think Shelli’s guidance to focus on interpersonal communication and emotional intelligence will help, and leaders can find insight in Tricia’s advice to listen deeply, be transparent, and be able to “let go of power and control.” We have such a great leadership team—I love hearing their insights.
Maybe the Internet is not such a great invention, and things would be better around the office if we got rid of it. The leadership team met today to discuss some of the problems caused by a connected workforce. I brought up the issue I am having with workers wasting their time surfing the net and looking at baby pictures on Facebook. The leaders suggested I address work productivity in general rather than singling out cyber slacking, since other factors can hinder productivity too. Several of the leaders expressed that flexibility was a great benefit of connectivity, and they thought being connected would attract a broader pool of talented workers. The leaders agreed we need to learn how to facilitate virtual teams and manage teleworkers, which reminds me, I need to get with the training department to set up a workshop. I thought the meeting went well, even though it seemed like everyone was booking flights to Hawaii during our discussion. While I was driving home I thought about what James said, that only 40% of the world’s population has access to the Internet, while about 89% of US residents have access. We need to keep working to eliminate the digital divide.
It’s the end of the work week, time to look ahead to the weekend and check the Giraffe cam. It’s funny how change seems to accelerate during the work week and slow down on the weekends. It will be nice to emerge from the office into the sunshine. Maybe I will catch the symphony, or visit the Corning Museum of Glass. I should start shopping for a new car. I want one with a nice sunroof that drives itself, but I am concerned that smart cars won’t be able to make ethical driving decisions. Have you noticed that everything is getting smart, even dust? With so many emerging trends it is hard to keep up, but there are plenty of resources to help leaders learn about new technologies. Still, I worry that our organization is too hierarchical to create a modern workforce structure, and I fear that our limited resources will hinder us from being as innovative as we need to be. unicornmagis reminded me that leadership is always about “effectively leveraging resources.” Maybe things aren’t so different after all. As long as I focus on the underlying factors that are driving change, I should be will be able to help the organization. (I apologize that I have been rambling a bit today. I will understand if you send me a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head.)
I am not sure if I like these new eight day weeks. They are even harder to adjust to than daylight savings time. Anyway, the week is coming to a close, and it is time for five minutes of reflection. It was terrific working so closely with the leadership team these past few days. I learned a great deal by connecting to the team, more than I would have working on my own. Machines helped me make connections, but very real people inspired my thoughts. I am grateful for their ideas, their encouragement, and their insights. Networked knowledge is amazing, but networked knowing is even better.
I had to the opportunity to catch up on some reading this weekend, and to check out Michele Martin’s insights about the skills that leaders need to thrive in a networked world. The skills and attitudes she highlights—hosting, observing, listening, questioning, connecting, learning, imagining, visioning, co-creating, and openness—are things the leadership team has been discussing all week. Machines will be great at routine tasks, but people are essential for the aspects Martin describes. We will always need compassionate, creative, caring leaders. One advantage of these eight day weeks is that there is plenty of time for leaders to show they care.
Take care, CatOnKB
Einstein’s first paper on relativity had no references. I guess you don’t always have references when you are reinventing the universe. If Einstein was blogging relativity today, I wonder what he would link to. Hubble and his telescope, Gödel and his theories, Verne and his novels?