Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Let Digital Natives Be Your Guide in Defining the Future of Work


Don’t let complacency undermine your company’s hyperconnected present and future.

Pervasive technology fundamentally changes how people communicate, discover and connect. With smartphones and tablets serving as digital ­appendages, we focus on small screens throughout our day, every day and in all we do. Technology’s biggest impact, however, is not so much on the devices or the apps we use, but on our behavior. Specifically, it affects how we learn, how we buy, how we work, and how we influence and are influenced.

This behavior modification is ­significant because we take for granted the processes and systems in place to manage employees and customers. Although our personal activities are radically changed by mobile technology, we still tend to base how we work, market and sell on dated principles designed to optimize tasks from a very different time.
A Radical Shift

To date, we’ve built upon legacy investments and operational procedures to adapt to technology and market shifts. In the 1990s, the Internet required new expertise, technology and processes for internal and external governing. The same held true for desktop PCs, notebooks, mobile and desktop phones, and telecommuting. But most of how we’ve managed transformation was done in a command-and-control fashion. IT managed technology; the HR staff led operations; and managers ensured productivity.

With social, mobile, real-time data and cloud now a part of everyday life, how people work in and outside of the office has become radically different. This is bigger than the bring-your-own-device movement. It’s about changing why and how we choose new technologies, how we roll them out, and how we design new processes for working individually and together to accomplish a work objective.

As Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl said, “It isn’t the past which holds us back, it’s the future and how we undermine it, today.”

We, the architects of the future of work, must build upon a foundation from the past, which inhibits our ability to optimally see or plan for our ideal future. Said another way, how we see the future is rooted in how we dealt with things in the past. To counter that, how we need to plan and build for the future requires that we see the human drivers behind how people use technology in their personal lives.

Doing so will help us naturally emulate and foster collaboration and engagement in the workplace in ways that are both intuitive and seamless. Otherwise, we will force people to conform to inorganic practices that will detrimentally affect morale and loyalty over time.
Look to Digital Natives

Success in business today requires new methodologies to engage and scale the infrastructure for a new generation of employees and customers. Rather than rebuff the differences in how so-called digital natives work, we should learn from and be inspired by them. It’s the only way we can truly lead. Otherwise, we’re forever doomed to react to them.

We can’t change everything at once, nor can we continue with business as usual. But we do need to take small steps in a new direction. Change actually begins with us. And it all starts with learning what we do not know. That’s the only way for us to see what it is we can’t see today and to build what doesn’t yet exist.

That future — the future of work — requires architecture, and we are its architects. But as much as our challenge is affected by technology’s impact on behavior, we cannot assume that technology will necessarily be part of the solution.

To design a meaningful and scalable ecosystem moving forward, we have to understand how people’s behavior and expectations are evolving. With technology now part of the fabric of life and with innovation a constant, solving for behavior actually depends on making our future more human.

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Originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of BizTech

Image Credit, Digital Natives: Shutterstock

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