Laurie Aznavoorian, Geyer's Workplace Sector / Innovation Leader, recently attended the CoreNet Symposium held in Sydney on 15 August.
This is the second event that reflects a new and welcomed approach to Corenet's conference planning. It appears that instead of selecting speakers by proposals received in an open 'call for cases', they are hand-picked to support the day's message. The result was a program that more cohesively followed the theme of technology and innovation with some very high calibre speakers.
A stand out presentation was delivered by the Futurist Mike Walsh, who spoke about the next generation at work. Walsh takes an anthropological approach to helping business leaders prepare for what is next, exploring the nexus of human behaviour and technology. His goal is to see how disruptive technologies impact people, but he warns us not to focus on technology, but on anthropology because it contains the forces that shape us as human beings.
He asked the question - How will the next generation work?
Walsh maintained that for the next generation of workers who have been influenced by: Harry Potter, the launch of the A380, Al Gore winning a Nobel Peace Prize, The GFC and the introduction of the iPhone, will live in a world where the web will disappear - not go away but become so easy to access through convergent technology, that the cumbersome log in process we now go through will be skipped. In so doing we will change the relationship we have with the web forever.
He looked at the impact of gaming and how it has rewired a generation of workers brains, creating a generation who live in 'real time' and expect continuous interaction
He offered the amazing example of the rock star avatar in Japan that sings to sold out conference halls. As technology become ubiquitous, we will no longer consider it technology; it will just be a button we press. There is synergy with Geyer's Fertilizer findings on technology adoption: most things we use start as a new technology but over time they become everyday objects. Pencils seem like the tool of luddites to us, but they didn't grow on trees, they were once a new technology that most likely frightened people and caused apprehension.
How all of these changes impact organisations and workplace was the question of the day. Walsh believes it will drive a re-evaluation of top performers in an organisation, when everyone has access to the same facts and data how will we measure performance? This will cause us to question our benchmarks around intelligence and productivity.
The second major point Walsh made had to do with the impact of 'the cloud'. At the moment its influence does not seem as disruptive as it will be, mainly because it is new and we are taking old business practices and mental attitudes and applying them to the new technology - hampering its effectiveness. In time there will be a new generation of cloud based "freelance nomadic" workers who will change the way we work, do business and compete. This will drive a necessity to rethink IT and change our policies to consider the work environment as a marketplace rather than a fortress that the IT needs to protect. The office will be wherever work is done and that will be everywhere. Obviously, when this happens it will impact the buildings that house offices. There will no longer be a need for data centres and we will rely on new technologies such as the Nest air conditioning unit that is more ambient and has the intelligence to read the conditions of the environment, monitor occupant's comfort and readjust to create optimal conditions.
The goal post moves for both IT and building services. There will also be changes in how we measure our worth as a business, for some organisations profit and loss will be less of an indicator of success than public perception and sentiment. The new measure for them may be the number of twitter feeds per day. Smart offices will be ones that support social networks, considering every opportunity to meaningfully engage people within the business will be our mandate. Every aspect of a business must be connected; in the best companies both people and technology are networked. Walsh raised the question, how can we create a physical space that causes people to interact more in the virtual world?
The final point made was around the conditions for innovation. Walsh began this section with an image of the new Apple HQ and asked whether the building was a creative hub or a fortress of solitude. He maintains the closer you are to a customer's "pain load" the better chance you will have of driving innovation. In conclusion we were asked to consider the next generation, the cloud, social networks and disruptive technology - to think about them all and to think about them quickly.