One day a few months ago, my family was relaxing together and connecting with each other in our comfortable circle of three, cat and dog in close proximity. It was an idyllic scene, with a modern twist: instead of sitting around a rustic table with a crackling fireplace at hand, we were Skyping each other! If this sounds odd to you, consider this: my daughter, and generations both older and younger, only know an online environment. It’s how they communicate, and that’s the world they are in. If we want to be in that world, too, we need to join it when they leave the door open for us.
I think we all have one of these pivotal moments in our memory bank. Maybe it was when you realized you could text your work-at-home spouse to look up a stat for you to share in the meeting you were attending, or used your phone to change flights at the airport when everyone else was jamming the counters, or tweeted the news from an event you’d just witnessed. Maybe it was noticing the way technology has profoundly and forever skewed traditional economic models, like music delivery and print media. Just last week I tweeted on one such landmark: Amazon reported that sales of electronic books for its Kindle reader outsold hardbacks on the site. What astonishing speed: Kindle has only been on the scene since late 2007. Amazon saw an unanticipated need and served it…and the public responded.
Our best way to communicate is to go beyond the way we individually process information, and to look at how others are receiving and using it. As parents, we are relentlessly negotiating about the time our kids spend with their eyes on a phone or computer screen, and at the same time using that technology to interface in a space that is most familiar to them. In business, as communicators and marketers to the entire world, and as managers of both new and more experienced talent, we are constantly learning how to match and leverage the habits of our audiences, in order to be heard and seen, and to achieve the outcome we want and need.
These days we are either digital natives, who emerged at birth with tiny hands already poised to tap out their first words (“mama?” “hungry?”) or digital immigrants, who likely were adopters first at work, then home. We are living in a world with a total convergence of work and life, and much of the new technology that we use and see today is prompted by the natives. Digital natives crave interactivity. That’s why we have so many different push mechanisms to communicate when we can’t be in physical touch with someone in our lives.
Even this blog, as young as it is (this is only the fifth entry) has reflected our members’ experiences. FIDI’s Boris Populoh
wrote in June about watching a World Cup game with family members via Skype as they waited together but apart (in different countries) for the birth of a new little one, and being able to share the joyful occasion. And Janet Olkowski
, Cornerstone Relocation Group, observed that media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Skype help make the emotional turmoil a little easier on our transferring families, and in keeping the bond with those who were left behind.
Technology is both a tremendous equalizer, allowing smaller companies and free agents to be more competitive and impactful; and providing edge competencies for larger companies who can leverage economies of scale. For all of us, it has delivered a way for us to communicate with the range of generations in the workplace, and across continents with the assignees we serve and the partners we value. It will push our work/life boundaries more vigorously, but it will also continue to have a much bigger role in the success of our business.
There are tremendous gains inherent in the brilliant use of technology for global workforce mobility, for best practice and processes, for profitability and relevance. So let’s mastermind this opportunity.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, my work and life has converged. It’s time to fire off a few e-mails, and then text my daughter to come in for dinner.