I'm going to write a book. It won't be a book about technology. It's going to be a book about being a leader or a manager in a technological age and and an exploration of how the realities of the digital world are changing the theory and practice of modern management and leadership.
I am not a digital native. I first learned to type at the age of 16 on a manual typewriter inherited from my grandmother graduating from there to golfball and electric typewriters. I remember the first PC and Mac that I used. I remember my first modem as a thing of wonder and I still miss the wonderful sound that signalled you were connecting with a new frontier of knowledge and yet to be explored experiences. I learned to build my first website using HTML for Dummies and I’ve graduated through MP3 Players, Mini-Discs, Ipods, Ipads, iPhones and Android and 3D printing. I’ve been an advocate of open data and a proponent of its value in transparency, accountability and innovation and I’ve had a fair deal of engagement with technologists and developers at the cutting edge of the digital frontier.
And during those years of my own digital adoption and engagement I’ve worked largely in hierarchies, in managerial and leadership positions in the arts, in the media and in government so I’ve experienced first hand the yawning gap that has been steadily opening up between those mangers and leaders who “get it” and those who don’t. Those in the minority who get it understand that technology and the values that underpin the digital mindset have more than kit and products to offer, tantalisingly they offer a way to finally escape the ever present “triangle of despair” of legacy systems, procurement and PRINCE 2.
We may have started shaping these systems to support our business needs, to protect ourselves from risk and in an attempt to achieve machine like processing and efficiency. But in the end the triangle of despair has ended up shaping us. Many senior people are bound entirely into the dictates of these systems incapable of innovating or changing even when it is abundantly clear that these systems are no longer fit for purpose.
Procurement processes that force organisations and governments to over specify in order to reduce risk will almost certainly result in the acquisition of products or services that are already out of date. Gantt charts intended to create efficiency in project management, setting out step by step approaches to get to a delivery date, force individuals to slavishly follow the boxes missing serendipity and failing to understand that in an age of user need, good beats perfect.
Rational approaches to HR management and control are blind to human nature and the needs and desires that drive the digital native and the wider societal forces that are redrawing their commitment to and contracts with their employers. And the reality that most of us have infinitely better technology kit at home then we have in our workplaces means our lives are full of friction at work that encourage us to “workaround” and “hack” if we are to get our jobs done in the most efficient way possible.
We are now in the era of zero tolerance for digital failure. Our employees of the future will expect that our internal networks and systems are robust and fast 100% of the time. Anything less and they will expect to work from home where their own networks and connectivity speeds beat yours and they will expect their organisations to trust them to work just as hard at home as they would under your watchful eye.
Companies who want to attract and keep the best talent won’t be able to rely on the value of their global brands if graduates who join are forced to use locked down systems that prevent collaboration both within and without the organisation, or use firewalls that cut these digital natives off from the networks that they have grown up with, broken up with and rely on communicating with 100% of the time, all the time. Future company competitiveness will be a combination of culture, connectivity and speed and the mindset of the digital native will be a powerful force for corporate change. The future belongs to managers and leaders who see themselves not as control pilots but chaos pilots and over the course of my book I hope to explore what might be the most useful tools to have in your cockpit.
I'll be exploring leadership theories, the role of MVP in management, the nature of power and influence, the workforce of the future, the value of networks and cognitive outsourcing, rethinking strategy, open data and analytics, growth hackers (vs marketeers) and how you can JFDI since going ugly early is better than sitting around polishing your ideas until you have buffed yourself out of the competition.
Now all I need is an interested publisher....if you're out there ping me.....