Envisioning the Future: Adapting to Emerging Technologies

Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, describes six verbs that are shaping the future of the Internet: screening, interacting, sharing, flowing, accessing, and generating.  Kelly’s assessment of emerging technology provides us a window into what our world will look like in the future and how we must stay current and adapt as this technology changes.  Technological trends are not only providing a more productive solution for business or increasing the speed in which individuals can meet ever day goals, they are expanding the use of how we utilize data, increasing the rates in which share and interact socially, physically, and mentally, and most importantly transforming our human culture.  Kelly uses the example of how people are using data in every day life by sharing information.  He notes, we share real-time data about our healthy habits, location, activities, health statistics, and weight. When speaking about sharing and how it relates to the future of the Internet, Kelly (2011) states, “part of the adventure now is to imagine things that are not being shared now and how they can be shared”. This is the mindset of the future.

As technology continues to establish new grounds at an increasing pace, staying current and adapting to these exponential changes are critical. Organizations can implement many best practices to their repertoire in order to remain fluid in the knowledge and practice of technology.  According to an article posted on Six Sigma Online (2012), in order “to survive in the modern business world, business executives should try to purchase and use the latest software and hardware they can find and afford” (Six Sigma Online, 2012).  The continuous use of the modern technology in daily practice can help to keep employees educated and improve the ways in which organizations attempt to adopt these emerging technologies.  As leaders we should be involved in continuing education efforts and at the same time train our employees on these same emerging technologies.  First, however, we must articulate the value of these new advances and design processes in order to evaluate and implement them.

With the convergence of applications, data, screens, and social media brings many new implications within a networked environment.  In the modern world, we broadcast our lives to others freely and openly without considering any consequences.  By doing so, opens ourselves up to a host of privacy issues. Although there are ways to maintain anonymity, more and more users are becoming comfortable with sharing information about oneself without hesitation.

Another implication to emerging technology is that technology is changing faster than individuals can adapt.  We see this mostly in organizations where there is a lack of financial investment in training employees for these changes, purchasing updated software and products, and the unwillingness to take risk and adopt new ideas.  The organizations that are up to date in their technological practices have found ways to deliver and infuse the new technology to their employees.  However, these same organizations find it difficult to diffuse new innovations, so the time it takes to shift one gear the second gear is already in motion.

References:

Kelly, K. (2011). Web 2.0 Expo. Retrieved :http://www.web2expo.com/webexsf2011/public/schedule/detail/19292

Six Sigma (2012). Stay Current with Modern Technology. Retrieved: http://www.sixsigmaonline.org/six-sigma-training-certification-information/stay-current-with-modern-technology.html

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12 comments
  1. You bring up a great point in the importance of being able to articulate the value of new technologies to a group. Without a clear understanding of why they need to change why should they? It has to be viewed that way because it seems that the way we view technology now ideas is personal, hence all the sharing, so a change in an operating system or software et cetera is like a change in oneself. That needs to be explained thoroughly in order to create the buy-in necessary to create the benefits in utilizing new technology.

    • Hello Solace, if the technology is right for what you are trying to accomplish, then getting buy-in from your team is essential. One way to do that is to articulate the why behind the what. Why are we using this? How will it benefit us? What will it change? Where will it take us? When will he have to change again? Thank you for you response post.

  2. Peter Kramer said:

    I’d actually take the opposite approach. I’m still struggling to understand Pinterest. I can’t even begin to understand how I would use it, if it has applicability to my business, or what value we might be able to leverage from the technology. But even without that ability, I have two people in the office who are regularly playing with it, interacting with some of our members, and trying to figure out what we might be able to do. Sometimes I think the best approach to a new solution is not to articulate a value, but to find a value through interaction. You obviously have to set reasonable limits for exploration (cost/time) but there should be some sort of “fun” period where you really don’t know where it will end up, but you need to invest some play time to figure it out.

    • Hello Matt, I would actually have to agree with you about Pinterest. In most cases, Pinterest would not have any value to the process and procedures at the university I work for. Perhaps it could be used for student clubs or organizations, but for accreditation, compliance, curriculum, etc. it may not be appropriate. When articulating the value of a new technology solution it is important for the leader to first research the technology to ensure it has value to what you are attempting to accomplish (in your case this could be the “play time”). When the leader chooses one or several solutions, then they can introduce it to the team stating what it is, the value, how it can be used, who will use it, and how it can be done. This is an essential process in order to diffuse innovations. But the key aspect here, is doing your research and coming up with the right solution so you are able to meet your goals. For example, I’m sure the university that we are attending or any university for that matter researched several learning management systems for online programs prior to implementing what we are currently using. They most likely compared several before choosing one, stated why it was the best solution, how it would meet student needs and goals, etc.

      • bwatwood said:

        “Play” is a word we use to infrequently that could have big impacts for businesses. You and Matt have raised Pinterest as an example. The Washington Post called Pinterest “crack cocaine for housewives.” It certainly is addictive for some…and many might question its value. I have played with it but have not incorporated it into what I do.

        Yet a few months back, I had some student teams doing virtual projects in a class. One group created a Prezi for their presentation, but the first link in the Prezi was to a Pinterest board, where they “introduced” the three presenters. It was a very creative use of the tool and created a natural affinity with the three presenters.

        This could be a case where – rather than attempting to figure out some use myself – I am doing what Matt suggested and observing others.

  3. kballom said:

    You wrote “As technology continues to establish new grounds at an increasing pace, staying current and adapting to these exponential changes are critical. Organizations can implement many best practices to their repertoire in order to remain fluid in the knowledge and practice of technology. According to an article posted on Six Sigma Online (2012), in order “to survive in the modern business world, business executives should try to purchase and use the latest software and hardware they can find and afford” (Six Sigma Online, 2012).”

    Funny this is the same advice that real estate professionals say about buying a house, buy the most you can afford. I thought your post was excellent and used excellent examples. I must add that as it relates to technology, I don’t think we will ever be able to keep up with the new developments. It is very important to be flexible and adaptable to changing trends. Therefore, I agree with the thought that we must purchase the latest software available but there is also a common thought as it relates to software about waiting for the bugs to be addressed.

    • Thank you, KBallom. I appreciate your thoughts when it comes to changing technology. Perhaps you may be right about never being able to keep up with the newest of technology. As you note, being flexible and adaptable to these changing trends is essential if you are in business. Organizations should take some risk in attempting to test, implement, and diffuse these technologies to stay current and keep up with competition. Also, organizations can also become innovators by creating their own solutions to fit internal and external needs. Apple is a great example of this. They are great innovators that develop both evolutionary and revolutionary technologies. We see the evolutionary changes led by major computer suppliers every time we hit the “update” button on our computer. Revolutionary changes are ones that make major changes to current technology. A great example of this is the YouTube video of the Google Glasses Project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSnB06um5r4 that Dr. Watwood provided in our resources for this.

  4. In your post, you quote an article that states, in order “to survive in the modern business world, business executives should try to purchase and use the latest software and hardware they can find and afford.” (Six Sigma Online, 2012). I couldn’t agree more. As leaders, one of the most important ways we can support and encourage technological change is to model the tools and applications we expect our workers to use and implement. In my post, I gave the example of our board president directing management to purchase Ipads and have them installed with new applications for supervisory efficiency by the next board meeting. He comes from the private sector (in fact, the technology sector) and realizes how important it is for our district’s administration and managers to use the technologies we expect our students and teachers to use in the classroom. Besides the PR piece (having administration model new technological tools in public board meetings), our board president is a firm believer in automating as much work as possible and using the latest tools to increase productivity. For me, the PR piece is most critical. We need to make a public statement that our entire district-from superintendent to kindergarten student-welcomes the changes of the flattened world. At first, the other managers expressed some concern about what applications to use. However, we decided to create our own PLC and share best practices and new applications at each management meeting. Hopefully, we replaced any fear about new technologies with a spirit of acceptance and excitement. I believe that this type of top-down commitment to change is critical for organizations as we usher in the global/cyber age.

    • I am a firm believer in automating work as long as it makes sense to. It surely helps when programs are able to provide data automatically. There are also times that I also think that by doing that it may decrease the amount of human input and as leaders we might run the risk of eventually forgetting how to complete these types of tasks ourselves. Do you believe that we may run the risk of relying on technology so much? If we allow technology to automate everything, what would happen if the systems crash and people would be required to do this manually? Just a few thought that I have about this and think about often.

  5. You wrote, “Technological trends are not only providing a more productive solution for business or increasing the speed in which individuals can meet ever day goals …” I’d be foolish to disagree, but there are many instances where the speed businesses enjoy is on the backs of others.

    Take, for instance, the automated phone call. I am required to call a central number to access my retirement accounts (I can aso do this online, but the same argument holds) and to “speak” with an automated operator. They give me 4-5 choices for every response, in order to properly route my question. Now, if I spoke with a live operator, I’d give them the nature of my call in one or two sentences. There would be no need to go through all the choices.

    Technology has sped the ability of Fidelity Investments to clear their call board. It has lengthened the time I must spend getting answers.

    The lesson here for leaders is that when technology is thrust on our followers, it may actually SLOW them down. The entire organization may see benefits, but our team might be the ones that have to slow their processes.

    One thing leaders have to consider is that technology can rob from Peter to pay Paul.

    Thoughts?

  6. Hello Brian, you do make some valid points here and I would have to agree with you that in some cases there may be a different perspective such as the one you describe about the call center. I once was an operations manager for a call center that provided technical support to a variety of big named computer companies. The call tree or call flow you describe above about an automated operator is called an interactive voice response (IVR). Although these systems are in place for the organization to become for efficient, customers do find them quite complex and frustrating. Organizations have become so large that these systems are actually more beneficial to the customer than they think. Calls are actually routed to different areas within the organization and even the world in order to be connected to the right call center representative. If this system was not in place, you would spend more time waiting in line for the next representative because calls would be backed up in line.

    As a university analyst it is my job to look for ways for the entity to become more effective. You do make a great point above and my thoughts are that there are many variables that go into choosing the best software for any given goal. It is the leaders job to make the right decision that fits best with what they are attempting to accomplish. One program may work for one department and not for the other. You must way the options and make smart decisions that are realistic, feasible, effective, and efficient all at the same time. Thank you for your question.

    • bwatwood said:

      Neat response, Kelly. I also think, to yours and Brian’s point, that systems are becoming more intuitive. I suspect the use of common I.P.’s coupled with facial recognition might lead to streamlined responses…though some might fear the Big Brother aspects of such a system.

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