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Why the digital revolution is an anthropological correction

The irony of the digital revolution is that it is primarily about people and less so about technology.
This short article makes this case and also provides some suggestions on how your organization can capitalize on this reality.

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Why the digital revolution is an anthropological correction

  1. 1. Why the digital revolution is an anthropological correction Augmented work A series of white papers by Ade McCormack, Auridian Sponsored by:
  2. 2. 2 Introduction The irony of the digital revolution is that it is primarily about people and less so about technology. This short article makes this case and also provides some suggestions on how your organization can capitalize on this reality.
  3. 3. 3 A brief history of mankind The path that has led us to where we are today started some 2.5 million years ago. We first came down from the trees. Some of us started to pursue food by raising up on our hind legs and outrunning it. This activity was conducted with a group of other people. Pursuing lunch across the savannah required us to be highly mobile as well as agile. Those that stuck to the original strategy of running northwards, despite the fact that the prey was now heading west, were destined to become extinct. Pursuing bigger prey resulted in bigger meals. It required us to hunt in a pack to coordinate the hunt and, as such, it required us to be highly social. A miscommunication could possibly lead to us being eaten by lunch. We started to develop tools / weapons that could be used to defend the pack and deal with prey more efficiently. The development of these tools required creativity and the ability to share our skill with subsequent generations so that they could use the skills we had acquired, to develop them further down the generations. No other animal does this so well. This way of life continued until about 12,000 years ago with the arrival of the agricultural revolution. In many respects little changed, other than we became slightly less mobile. 200 years ago saw the arrival of the industrial revolution and that delivered massive efficiencies and wealth. Many people saw a significant economic improvement in their lives. However, we stopped being mobile as our job required us to turn up to the same factory day in day out. As paid labor we were discouraged from being social and being creative. Operational efficiency, through crisp process adherence, turned us into ‘cogs in the machine’. The digital revolution of the last few years in essence is humanity’s urge to return to its true nature. The technologies we see today support our desire to be mobile, social and creative. They also enable us to make better decisions and, therefore, be more agile in terms of how we engage with an ever-changing world. Given how recently we were roaming the savannah, the industrial era can best be described as a blip in our history when we temporarily became decoupled from our true humanity.
  4. 4. 4 Let nature be your business partner Knowing this, organizations that provide an environment that supports our true nature will, in effect, turn nature into their business partner. Given that there is a growing shortage of talent available, organizations that get this right will attract the talent. Those that do not will perish. Most organizations understand that happy customers are good for business and so there is an increasing emphasis on the customer experience. Thus, it would be smart to acknowledge that they too have natural tendencies to be social—and so it would be wise to build such features into your offering. This is all good but I believe that many organizations have not quite understood the importance of their staff in the customer experience. Again, if you do not provide the environment for staff to do great work, they will leave and that will filter through to your products and services, and so your customers will eventually follow them. I would argue that your people are more important than your customers and, thus, your working environment and user tools need to be your priorities.
  5. 5. 5 The augmented enterprise Summary Mobility Staff, who increasingly are turning away from work-life balance and towards work-life integration, require mobile technologies that are consistent across every aspect of their lives. Thus, embracing BYOD is crucial. Of course, mobility is not confined to user devices. Trusting your people to work where they need to work needs to be part of your operating model. Security is, of course, an issue. Though keep in mind that enabled mobile workers, not locked-down security, is the goal. Sociability The tools need to be in place to enable your people to engage with their colleagues and friends seamlessly. Increasingly, the value your people bring to work will include their extended social networks. The expertise your organization needs will increasingly lie outside the perimeter wall, so having access to the social networks of your staff will be of great value. Insight Your people want to do great work. To do that they need to have the tools to make great decisions. In order to do so, your organization needs to develop an infrastructure that enables the workers to dive into the data, whether it be structured or unstructured, social or academic, and to extract insights from this ocean of bits and bytes. Creativity Indentured slavery should be a thing of the past. Forcing people to follow the process is a mindless and soulless activity that will, in any case, be done by software and robots in the fullness of time. To maximize staff engagement and their output, you are encouraged to evolve your job specifications such that everyone is in the creative business, not just a handful of people in your research and development function. Increasingly, people are demanding that their work is meaningful. Productivity Our ancestors were judged on animals caught and berries picked, not on how many hours they spent hunting and gathering. Similarly, modern organizations must move away from the ‘paid labor’ model and start to judge their staff on outputs rather than presenteeism (i.e. the act of being present at work in order to be perceived by one’s boss as a committed worker without any focus on actually doing productive work). In essence, smart organizations will capitalize on our anthropological tendencies, rather than try to suppress them. In any case, it is best to never pick a fight with nature as, over time, it always wins. Ade McCormack So what does the new world of work look like? Of course, it embraces the practices of our ancestors and, where necessary, augments the outputs using new technologies. Here are some examples:
  6. 6. Ade McCormack HP Ade McCormack is an advisor and columnist for the Financial Times and CIO magazine. He helps organizations thrive in the digital economy. Ade’s particular interests lie in the future of work and humanity. Ade’s perspectives can be found via his Digital Strategist blog: HP Mobility and Workplace services help you transform your workplace and empower your employees, while ensuring your workplace remains enterprise grade, scalable, and secure. We can advise you on building a road map and implement a managed environment that is user-focused (rather than device-focused), protects your data, and delivers relevant information to provide the employee productivity you and your employees want. For more information please visit: