Are we addicted to “Digital”?

Posted on : 28-02-2017 | By : john.vincent | In : Cloud, Data, Innovation, IoT, Uncategorized

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There’s no getting away from it. The speed of technology advancement is now a major factor in changing how we interact with the world around us. For the first time, it seems that innovation in technology is being applied across every industry to drive innovation, increase efficiency and open new market possibilities, whilst in our daily lives we rely more and more on a connected existence. This is seen in areas such as the increase in wearable tech and the Internet of Things.

But what is the impact on business and society of this technology revolution regarding human interaction?

Firstly, let’s get the “Digital” word out on the table. Like cloud before it, the industry seems to have adopted a label on which we can pin everything related to advancement in technology. Whilst technically relating to web, mobile, apps etc. it seems every organisation has a “digital agenda”, likely a Chief Digital Officer and often a whole department in which some sort of alchemy takes place to create digital “stuff”. Meanwhile, service providers and consultancies sharpen their marketing pencils to ensure we are all enticed by their “digital capabilities”. Did I miss the big analogue computing cut-over in the last few years?

What “digital” does do (I guess) is position the narrative away from just technology to a business led focus, which is a good thing.

So how is technology changing the way that we interact on a human level? Before we move on to the question of technology dependence, let’s look at some other applications.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a big theme today. We’ve discussed the growth of AI here before and the impact on future jobs. However, one of the areas relating social interaction which is interesting, is the development of emotionally intelligent AI software. This is most evident in call centres where some workers can now receive coaching from software in real-time which analyses their conversations with customers. During the call the software can recommend changes such as with style, pace, warning about the emotional state of the customer etc.

Clever stuff, and whilst replacing call centre agents with robots is still something that many predict is a way off (if at all) it does offer an insight into the way that humans and AI might interact in the future. By developing AI to understand mental states from facial expressions, vocal nuances, body posture and gesture software can make decisions such as adapting the way that navigational systems might work depending on the drivers mental condition (for example, lost or confused) or picking the right moment to sell something based on emotional state. The latter does, however, raise wider ethical issues.

So what about the increase in digital dependency and the social impacts? Anyone who has been in close proximity to “millennial gatherings” will have witnessed the sight of them sitting together, head bowed, thumbs moving at a speed akin to Bradley Coopers character in Limitless punctuated by the odd murmuring, comment or interjection. Seems once we drop in a bit of digital tech and a few apps we stifle the art of conversation.

In 2014 a programmer called Kevin Holesh developed an app called Moment which measures the time that a user is interacting with a screen (it doesn’t count time on phone calls). The results interesting, with 88% of those that downloaded the app using their phone for more than an hour a day, with the average being three hours. Indeed, over a 24 hour period, the average user checked their phone 39 times. By comparison, just 6 years earlier in 2008 (before the widespread use of smartphones) people spent just 18 minutes a day on their phone.

It’s the impact on students and the next generation that has raised a few alarm bells. Patricia Greenfield, distinguished professor of psychology and director of the UCLA Children’s Digital Media Center in a recent study found that college students felt closest (or “bonded”) to their friends when they discussed face to face and most distant from them when they text-messaged. However, the students still most often communicated by text.

“Being able to understand the feelings of other people is extremely important to society,” Greenfield said. “I think we can all see a reduction in that.”

Technology is changing everything about how we interact with each other, how we arrange our lives, what we eat, where and how we travel, how we find a partner, how we exercise etc… It is what makes up the rich fabric of the digitised society and will certainly continue to evolve at a pace. Humans, however, may be going the other way.

High Performing Teams – Preparing for the “Long Haul”

Posted on : 19-10-2011 | By : john.vincent | In : General News

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This month Broadgate Consultants sponsored a car in the Britcar24 race at Silverstone.  Beforehand we knew little about the event but at the very least it seemed a good opportunity to support Adam, one of our associates in the Scuderia Vittoria team.  So we went ahead and with 10 days to go we had a quick look at the logistics and sorted out the admin.  Then back to work…

On the Friday qualifying we enquired how preparation was going.  Adam said it was going well, currently 31st on the grid and 7th in class, although a fire somewhere in the exhaust system was a bit of a set back !  I’m not a car enthusiast, but even to a novice that sounded bad.  Anyway, a new one was fitted ( along with a replacement bumper ) and after night qualifying we retained our overall position.

The race started was due to start at 4:30pm on the Saturday, so we headed up to take in the day’s activities, again not really knowing what to expect.  When we arrived we went to the garage and met the drivers and support team.  A few things struck me immediately.

Firstly, it looked very busy with the car still undergoing extensive tuning and race preparation.  The race planning and strategy had already been developed from the previous days testing, so it was really just about getting the final details correct.  Our car was a Porsche 996 GT3 and Adam ran us through the spec, including some positives compared to the competition, which had faster cars and were positioned further up the grid.

“It doesn’t actually really matter where we are now, it’s where we are this time tomorrow” ( obvious perhaps, but it hadn’t been until then ).

Secondly, the level of teamwork, commitment and endurance required to run any car, let alone a performance one, for a solidly for 24 hours was both impressive and daunting.  Adam explained that every car would likely spend an amount of time off the track dealing with technical problems of some kind.  It was how the team prepared and reacted to the situation that would determine the final outcome.  It was clear that finishing in itself would be a huge success !

These themes are naturally easy to relate to business.  We often see organisations with seemingly faster acceleration that are “quicker off the line” but don’t always come out on top.  In previous economic climates this might have been less obvious as once the race was underway the finish line could just be moved to suit the participants.  Not so now.

Also, in high performing teams the short-term view that may have existed ( driven largely by yearly compensation ) has given way to 1) building long-term capability and 2) delivering sustainable business value.  Looking at return on investment on more of a strategic basis can be difficult to internally sell against the economic backdrop, but it is sensible ( see last month’s blog on Technology Investment ).

Characteristics of High Performing Teams

  • Communication ( Common Goals + Openness + Inclusion )
  • Collectiveness ( Content Intimacy + Empowered Decision Making + Creativity )
  • Contribution ( Flexible Leadership + Personal Growth + Individual Self Esteem )
  • Interaction ( Trust + Respect + Constructive Conflict )

Back to the race….after a quick walk round the grid the race started and we made great progress through the field.  Up from 31st to 19th in the first couple of hours.  Then we had a driveshaft failure and the team went to work.  Now, at my garage I’m sure there would have been copious amounts of breathing in followed by “…it’ll be ready a week Wednesday” ( and of course accompanied by a lightening of the wallet ).  However, we were back on the road and amazingly lost only 9 places.  A brilliant effort under pressure.

We returned home in the evening with the car still running well.  Overnight there was an issue with the brakes ( not good at those speeds ) which was again resolved.  We monitored the race throughout Sunday with updates both via Twitter and from our onsite representative.  At 4:30pm we crossed the line having completed the 24 hours successfully overall in 17th place ( 6th in class ).  A great result.

It was great to see a high performing team working towards a “collective self interest” in order to achieve a long term goal.  Speaking afterwards with Adam there was a recognition within the team of both what went well in preparation and the lessons learnt for future races.  I’m sure next year even more successful.