“Emails are the bane of my existence”
“I don’t feel as though I’m ever heard”
“My ideas never seem to be attributed to me”
“How many reports have I written that have had no positive effect. Is anybody reading them?”
“Nothing ever happens at meetings”
“I’m a human being… not just a payroll number”
I often present these terms to people in local government. They are by know means an outcome of working in the public sector as all of you who work in any organisation will likely relate to at least one of them, maybe even all of them. But, relate to them we do. They are a collection of modern workday frustrations brought about technologies of a time (bureaucracy) and the rapid emergence of new technologies, such as the Internet.
Organisations have maintained the concept of ‘the meeting’ and ‘the committee’, but we also have to deal with an ever-growing influx of email and references to web sites. In many ways, industry is working harder that it has ever done, but do we feel that we are working and communicating in the most effective and resourceful way. Let’s face it, we can easily waste an hour just surfing through You Tube and BBC football pages on the web.
Perhaps most worrying is that another tsunami is about to hit; that of Web 2.0. Attending the SHiFT conference (
) here in Lisbon I am being bombarded by a raft of terms – blogging, podcasting, tagging, emergent, open source, etc that is sometimes difficult to digest in any meaningful way. You can easily drown yourself in a whole host of new web tools and ways to communicate. Don’t get me wrong, many of the presentations and presenters themselves are excellent. They have moved away from bureaucracy and corporate systems, and attached themselves to working in a sphere that builds content and thinking from the ground up. This is where they live their life and do their work.
However, there is a sense that this conference is operating within its own bubble and many are simply preaching to the converted (a point made by colleague Paul Carruthers – hope you don’t mind the quote Paul?). It’s my hunch that this movement can’t just expect the world to follow. These technologies and ideas have to be constructed in a way that has meaning to a variety of people and backgrounds, such as midwives or accountants. We must reduce the burden of busy, on-demand managers and begin to diminish some of those modern workday frustrations.
There is no doubt that Web 2.0 is a more advanced response to how the Internet should work. It has the capability to reengineer our work and lives in a highly efficient and effective way. It might be the end of bureaucracy, and maybe even email. Whatever it is though, the world won’t change just by a group saying how cool this stuff is. We need to think and work harder to interpret the messages.
Alan Cook (Head of ICT, Cumbria County Council) made an interesting account this week. On presenting a range of new IT initiatives to a panel of Cumbrian councillors he was quickly challenged by a member who had lived and worked in Cumbria all his life. He was a Butcher and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to talk to a computer. He didn’t talk to computers, he enjoyed conversations with people. Therein lies the debate.
Credit to Martin Roll whose presentation today got me thinking along those lines.
Martin Roll can be found at: