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?
14 thoughts on “Eight Days a Week.”
If I was starting up a new university, my tag line would be “Networked knowledge is amazing, but networked knowing is even better.” Fun post that wove together many of our thoughts over the past 8 weeks (which did seem to fly by like 8 days).
A perfect tagline for a new university – a connected learning environment that will certainly be built! I found the construction of this course inseparable from the content. Learning about networked knowledge (and knowing) by experiencing its dimensions has been a great experience. Thank you, Dr. Watwood!
LikeLiked by 1 person
What a brilliant approach to your blog! I have looked forward to reading your post every week – for the content, the fresh writing and your subtle and delightful humor This week was a definite capstone – integrating the thoughts of your whole leadership team. I would tolerate eight day weeks if they ran as yours did. Your statement “We have to accept that that questions outnumber answers, and view challenges as opportunities to move forward” (https://catonthekeyboard.blog/2017/03/03/eight-days-a-week/) in this week’s post stopped me in my tracks. BOOM! I actually just reiterated this view again in a three day session I was teaching this week. I know it to be true … but reading your phrasing – “we have to accept” made me recognize that I do not accept it at a visceral level. It causes me great anxiety. So I know it to be true, but I am not accepting it. I need to do more introspection on the root of the anxiety so my knowing can transform into accepting. If you are at the accepting phase – I would love to know some of your secrets. And then you wrap up with, “Networked knowledge is great but networked knowing is even better.” That’s reassuring… at least if you are connected to the right network. And herein lies another anxiety point for me – the old saying of “one bad apple …” I fear that in a strong, informed group of networked individuals – a single individual with a different agenda – can sway the entire train of thought – quite possibly to a place where alternative facts (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Alternative%20facts) are just as relevant as facts based on actual fact. Maybe some solace can be found in the arts rather than science this time around:
Thank you Johnny Nash ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEstgTAXyec)
There are more questions than answers
Pictures in my mind I will not show
There are more questions than answers
And the more I find out the less I know
Yeah the more I find out the less I know
I’ve asked the question time and time again
Why is there so little love among men?
But what is life?
How do we live?
What should we take and how much should we give?
Neat reflection, Tricia. I think that the metacognition illustrated here is part of what moves us forward as leaders!
With your wonderful reflection and a Johnny Nash song, my weekend is off to a great start! For me, part of accepting is knowing that I do not need to compromise my leadership immune system. In the book “A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix” Friedman points out that one aspect of leader integrity is protecting an organization from destructive entities. Caring and patience might not be what is needed in a hostile environment, and leaders may need to reconcile intuitive behaviors with respect to different situations. That is always one of my challenges. Which takes us right back to Johnny Nash. Viva the arts!
Ah – leadership immune system … on reflection mine is definitely getting stronger – and that’s very good news! And the right playlist will surely help keep us all healthier 🙂
Fun post this week, CatontheKB! Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed taking a walk down memory lane of this course. Day Five stuck out to me in ways that I am unsure it did at the time. The challenge of cyberslacking is one I believe every organization today is facing. So, how do we respond to it effectively and not disengage our employees? Kuschnaroff and Bayma (http://file.scirp.org/Html/5-2830019_46510.htm) wrote about how web tools now allow organizations to manage the activity of their employees online. So, it is now much easier to keep employees from visiting the areas of the web that may make them unproductive. However, will that anger the employees and make them look for employment elsewhere? Should we as leaders care if those individuals do? Interestingly, Platt wrote that cyberslacking may actually improve worker productivity (http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/computers/stories/cyberslacking-actually-boosts-workplace-productivity)! The article describes that cyberslacking actually allows employees to take the breaks in the day that they might not otherwise take. This allows them to be more productive in the time periods when they are hard at work and avoid burnout!
What do you think? Where is the line between slacking off, and taking necessary breaks to allow us to be ideally productive?
The Ayes Have It
CatonKB and Ayes, awesome post and comments. Adding to this thread… We need also to consider that access to areas that might be considered cyberslacking may also be beneficial (or necessary) to the work being done and the overall business. My role as a communicator requires that I have access to a number of sites that others in my organization are blocked from reaching. However, I could make the argument that even if not directly a part of one’s role, as in my case, the rest of my company’s team members could also use access to many of these sites to contribute positively to reputation, share knowledge, and glean insights. Cyberslacking is a very real thing, but I believe the many benefits of allowing employees access outweighs the time gained back from not allowing slack in the virtual world (Wallen, 2012). If an employee is going to slack, many real world ways still exist to do it. The problem is not opportunities to slack, it is the slacker.
Wallen, J. (2012, December 25). 10 reasons NOT to block social networking at work. Tech Republic. Retrieved from http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-reasons-not-to-block-social-networking-at-work/
I agree that unproductive workers can always find ways to slack. I recall my dad telling me about a co-worker that took several hours during the workday to shop for groceries, and then take them home to put them away. This was long before the internet was available. You add an important perspective about how limiting access might be limiting value to the organization. I work at a university where everyone has Internet access. If someone violates the computer usage policy there are consequences, just like violating any policy. I have never had a problem with employees cyber slacking, and I must admit it has gotten me through some terribly boring meetings.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Julie…add to this thread the point that with networked workers, “9 to 5” are just numbers. One cannot complain about cyberslacking at work and then turn around and expect an email answer after hours. Some routine slack time at work could compensate for some expected routine turnaround after hours…and I would thrive in that environment!
LikeLiked by 1 person
CatonKB and Dr. Watwood, yes! Thank you for the additional comments. I think the employee/employer relationship is fundamentally about clear expectations and trust. Provide the guidelines for employees to operate successfully within, and then trust them until/unless they prove untrustworthy. If employees are allowed latitude to accomplish work, and work is getting done with quality and within the necessary timeline, micromanaging the details is unnecessary and counterproductive.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for your comments! Cyberslacking has its pros and cons. As the Platt article shows, a few minutes surfing the net can provide a needed break that increases productivity. An article by Heathfield points out that a conscientious employee who spends a little work time on the Internet is probably answering emails from home in the evening. A small percentage of employees might abuse the Internet by spending hours on non-work activities, but unproductive workers can find ways to waste time without the Internet. Heathfield recommends having good policies and clear expectations, and avoiding onerous policies just to mitigate the actions of a few. Cyberslacking is sure to be an area of continued debate. I wonder how sentiments will change as digital natives create the computer usage policies.
Cat on a Keyboard-
I enjoyed your post! I have to say I am impressed by your ability to weave some much of the class into one post. One part of your post that resonated with me is the idea that there will be more questions than answers. I think technology has led to leaders being uncomfortable with not knowing. I spend a lot of my time asking questions, mainly to students. It took a long for me to let go the impulse to answer the questions for them. Now, I want my students to understand it is okay to go in search of answers. I think that is in itself is a leadership training.
Thank you for your comments! I enjoyed reflecting on the many connections everyone made throughout the class. Your observation that leaders might be uncomfortable not knowing is very insightful. When I started teaching I was petrified students would ask me a question I could not answer. It took me awhile to realize that students did not expect me to know everything, and that there was great value in engaging students in both questions and answers. When I switched to an administrative position, I went through this all over again, thinking that my job was to have all the answers. Wrong again! I had not thought about technology contributing to the discomfort of not knowing, but I can see how it could. You are right, this would make a great leadership training! Kudos to you for creating such an engaging environment for your students — I am sure they appreciate it.