Summer time is usually one of the busiest times of the year for me in terms of extra curricular work related activities. I know that this may sound a bit weird, but it’s actually rather accurate. While most folks keep enjoying their summer vacation, or a relatively quieter time anyway, my busyness increases a notch or two! And it’s actually quite fine. I have been enjoying it for a good few years already, more than anything else, because of a particular activity that helps me advance forward and take a good peek into what the workplace of the future would be like in the next 10 to 15 years, where I am hoping I’ll still be employed by then. And what activity would that one be? -you may be wondering, right? Well, engaging with the next breed of Leaders: (young) students working through their PhDs thesis on Social Business or Org. Change Management, amongst several others subjects…
Indeed, it all started around 2006 and 2007 when all of a sudden I began to notice how plenty of PhD students were contacting me, through whatever the means, asking for help, advice, coaching, interviews and what not, because of the research they were doing around Social Business. Most of them found me through Google.com (Yes, I know, I am the one who doesn’t bite other people!), mainly landing into this blog. Before I knew it, I was approached by them asking me whether I would be willing to help them out with their PhD thesis. And that continued to repeat itself over the course of the years.
In fact, and most folks may not know this, but one of the sources of inspiration as to why I kicked off the Life Without eMail movement, over 5 years ago, was eventually from my interactions with those younger generations and how they live AND work through a different set of collaboration and knowledge sharing tools. Never mind their different mindset and behaviours. Yes, I know what you are going to say… I, too, don’t believe much on the digital divide or the generations divide, however, they do have something special in terms of how they get work done. For instance, throughout all of these years I have been working with hundreds of students I never, ever, exchanged a single email with them and yet not only did we get work done, but for some of them, those who decided to come and join IBM afterwards, they eventually did so and they are now my colleagues. And very soon, I am 100% certain of that, they might be rather my boss, my executive or, who knows, even my next CEO.
I know that in times where we are busier than ever at work, all of us for that matter, where time and work pressures are massive for everyone and where we are asked to keep delivering more and more with less and less, it’s surprising for most folks why I keep saying Yes! to that activity when in reality most knowledge workers out there in the corporate world would kindly decline helping out with the argument they are just too busy. Goodness, they don’t know it just yet, but right there, they are closing down the door to find out plenty more what the workplace of the future is going to be like. Starting today.
Even more, they are closing down the door to find out what their next leaders would be like for their own work, how they are going to re-define the workplace through those social technologies, networks and communities, and with one particularly interesting aspect, that those potential new leaders who live and thrive on building strong personal trustworthy relationships, when they get there they usually tend to remember who helped them out when they were starting up and who didn’t. Yes, that’s how the hyperconnected, networked business world will start operating in the near future, if not today already altogether.
Are you ready? I surely hope so, because if there is anything that I have learned throughout the years interacting with those younger generations, both inside and outside of IBM, is that they are not going to wait. Not for you, not for me. Not for everyone else for that matter. It’s how they live. It’s how they operate. And that’s what I really find fascinating, because it’s through those networked interactions that one gets to learn how if you decide to be part of the pack, you are more than welcome. If you decide instead to do your own thing, that’s fine, they will move on without you. It’s just like when senior subject matter experts decide to cling together to their ivory tower related mantra of “Knowledge is power” and they refuse to share their expertise. I keep telling them how long would you think it’s going to take a group of younger folks to recreate their knowledge just good enough to get by and rebuild from there? It’s rather interesting how these wonderfully different working styles collide and clash with one another in an attempt to come up with something better, because there is always something better.
Thus here we go with the question again. Do you think you are ready to face that side of the corporate knowledge workforce, that I read somewhere that by 2020 they will be about 75% of the active working population? Yes, 75%. Well, if not, just yet, allow me to share a couple of resources that I am sure you will find rather interesting at best. The first one is this blog post by Frederic Gonzalo under the suggestive title “Social Media Defined by Kids” where he reflects on a short video clip where a bunch of young kids (That generation that will probably be part of the active workplace between 2020 and 2025 approx.) talks about what they themselves understand about Social Media. Very nice, witty, smart, fun, and insightful video on its own:
Did you notice the remark about email? If not, watch it again; it’s worth it. Yes, indeed, that’s the kind of knowledge workforce that’s just already entering the workplace already today, except that by the time they themselves join the acceleration and pace of the adaptation to social technologies will probably be complete. Vast majority of those generations and working styles will have adapted by then. The workplace will be ready for them by them.
In the mean time though, let me share with you all one other resource that I think would fit in perfectly in terms of where we are today within the corporate world, in terms of having multiple generations and working styles at play. It’s a presentation put together by my good friend Professor Paul Jones who I had the great pleasure of co-sharing the remote stage (Along with Robert Shaw from ATOS) through a webinar, organised by IORG, where we talked about Information Overload and what it is like living in a world without email. I would encourage you all to take a look into slides #9 and #10 to get a taste of what’s coming (If not already there!) and, even better, if you can spare 51 minutes you can actually go through the entire recording of the event, which I am going to embed over here, in case you may want to hit Play right away (See embedded code at the end of this blog entry):
If you would just want to jump ahead and listen to Paul himself delivering those slides that he used, fast forward to minute 25, 16 seconds, and watch it through from there onwards. Very inspiring to see how the very same trends that the world of Academia are experiencing are also starting to become more palpable within the corporate world. That’s what I meant earlier on about the impact of social networking tools for business along with the younger generations and, perhaps, why I would want to add a final piece of advice for knowledge workers out there: next time a PhD student approaches you to help them with their thesis, remember that very very soon they may end up being your boss, your executive, or, even your new CEO.
Thus choose wisely 😀
[Oh, and if you would want to read through another interesting discussion on a similar topic, i.e. younger generations and their education in today’s more complex world than ever, have a look into “I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate“]