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Learning As We Go

Tags: technology
It is apparent through the information in this course that Technology has forever changed the way we learn, communicate, conduct business and that the pace of change is only accelerating. It gives me the impression that this fast paced atmosphere has created an situation where the popular leadership, business and technological trends of years gone bye are of diminishing relevance, implying the intersect between technology and the act of leadership has created a vacuum in the understanding and application of leadership today.  Nowadays, individuals are equipped with the same technological abilities as organizations; it ought prompt us to consider a different, more long-term perspective about the affect technology has on our lives.  Including a new perspective on a workforce connected by technology, rather than geography and the implications this has for existing business (Beechler & Woodward, 2009).  What we see with the advent of today’s technology is an interconnected network of people that defines Web 2.0 as a place to share and construct knowledge.  Unlike previous generations where knowledge was possessed and reserved to increase power, technology has challenged that behavior because it is difficult to restrict access to knowledge thereby reducing individual power. The prospect is that business, which was once committed to finding efficiencies through the use of logic and performance indicators, can find an increasingly better way to incorporate societies values and behaviors into business because of it interconnected nature.  This is not because rationality and logic are not longer valid, but because everyone has access to the knowledge that once was the purview of a select few.  This makes hierarchal relationships in our networked environment that much more difficult and begs the question how can leaders keep up with the onslaught of information when new competencies rapidly outpace traditional competencies, and access to technology and information expands exponentially? The implication suggests that leaders must take personal responsibility for understanding changes in technology and its integration in their lives rather than merely relying on IT staff to implement.  As we close out the industrial era and move headlong into our knowledge based economy (Drucker, 2001) leadership in this culture is not about leading the charge from the front, but rather it is about moving the entire organization through into the digital age.  It places a burden on leadership to reassess and reexamine change management and leadership theories that were once grounded in the idea of motivating people to take action, or inspiring others to achieve great feats.  Moving forward its not that I believe technology will create a pluralistic society one defined by egalitarianism and shared responsibility across the business world, but that leadership must find a way to operate in a system ostensibly flattened and without hierarchy. This leads me to the question put to us at the beginning of this course that asked if this technological age was creating a flat or spiky world? The question referred Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat (2013) that insinuated globalization had leveled the playing field and Richard Florida’s (2005) position that technology was consolidating economic activity in a relatively few areas of the world.  I think it would be difficult to argue that globalization had not created significant competition and a concentration of economic activity around the world. Although, it is now my opinion that future technology is creating the potential to reverse this spiky trend.  With access and ability to connect across those spikes, to pursue opportunities within the knowledge economy it means we are stepping into a new age of progress where building diverse networks based on trust allows us to leverage our capabilities, but these networks are not bound by boarders.  As a result I see the development of specialized spikes and as the number and diversity of these spikes grows to where they are working in cooperation with one another, the sheer volume will give the impression of a flat world as Friedman implies.

All of this transformation propagated by technological change leads to greater diversity and will, if it hasn’t already, impacted the career trajectories of those starting out in the workforce.  The trend denotes a non-linear path, one that is multidirectional and flexible in nature dissimilar from the traditional long tenure within one organization over the span of a career (Liu & Kolenda, 2012).  If the public’s romanticism of technology is accurate, and the future is about creating tools making work easier for individuals and the organizations they work for, each must learn and adapt to evolving technology in order to remain competitive. For myself, beyond the discussion about specific technologies and our networked world, this course has reinforced a number of thoughts or forced me to consider the following as action we need to take today in creating an appropriate culture moving forward.
1) The need to develop a clear vision for the implementation and use of technology and why it adds value to your organization. Whether this is to manage an existing problem or to take advantage of an opportunity I believe it is important for personnel to recognize value for themselves and as a result engage in the process. While it is difficult to predict the future implementing a shared vision asks an employee to take ownership of the vision to keep moving in the right direction.  This is a proactive step in any change process, but seems especially prevalent with the implementation of new technology that may be threatening to some.

2) Leaders in a knowledge era are no longer the sole providers of knowledge because the accessibility of information on the Internet. This changes the culture of an organization and asks leaders to be able to connect to their employees’ digital worlds to engage and motivate a new and very different type of employee. To support this digital culture, leadership must assess how much workers have access to, and their comfort level with new technology and be prepared to train their employees if necessary.

3) Leaders must take a systems perspective on technology and attempt to predict the ramifications of decisions. As leaders look within their organizations to identify gaps in their technology it is important to align policies and procedures related to technology with the overall vision.

4) Opportunities for professional growth are important to promote technology. The use and development of creative work and play environments is not always unproductive, but a means to educate and learn more effectively preparing employees for their future. The use of blogs, social media or other platforms provide educational opportunities that traditional learning may find difficult to replicate.

5) One area of consideration often overlooked is the appropriate use of technology and how this means different things to different people.  There are distinctive social and ethical expectations related to the use of technology and this can create discrepancies about how to use technology appropriately.   This requires open discussion about organizational policies related to an individual’s digital identity and how this reflects upon their employer.


References

Beechler, S., & Woddward, I. (2009). The Global "War for Talent". Journal of International Management , 273-285.

Drucker, P. (2001). The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management. New York: Harper Collins.

Florida, R. (2005, October). The world is spiky. The Atlantic Monthly, 48-51.

Friedman, T. L. (2013, September 18). The World is Flat. Retrieved from http://www.wikisummaries.org/The_World_Is_Flat

Liu, C., & Kolenda, R. (2012). Counting and understanding the contingent worker. Urban Studies, 49(5), 1003-1015.





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