In late 2010 my personal assistant Sarah-Jane conducted an experiment on me – without my permission or knowledge.
Unknown to me at the time she took my effusive notes from a couple of “Future Service” conferences and sealed them as a private entry in my diary to be opened in 5 years time.
I was pretty surprised to see “READ ME. Has it come true?” pop up in outlook.
Sarah-Jane no longer works for me but she was a bit of an oddity (in a nice way). A millennial who had a deep mistrust of creeping technology and the digitisation of our culture. She’d closed her Facebook account and challenged me about my burgeoning cheerleading for tech and social business.
“Do you honestly believe any of this stuff will actually happen?” she said of my conference notes. “You should keep this – and check if any of it does”.
Let’s look at the main predictions and whether they have come true. (A copy of my report is here. The original was on Microsoft word. We had no work access to Google Docs in 2010)
Not a very good strike rate overall. In fact this is a great illustration of the fallibility of futurology. It has become known as Amara’s Law , that we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
All these things are available , just not evenly distributed. I can buy a robot assistant from Japan but I still can’t get decent wifi at Manchester Airport.
It seems the futurologists may have been more successful in predicting the changing relationship between organisations and their customers.
Although the concept of social business is a slow burn in many organisations I think we’ve largely underestimated the way our work behaviours have changed.
Sarah-Jane has made me realise how far the world of work has progressed in five years.
- I sit next to a 3D printer.
- Except I don’t sit I stand – as I don’t have a desk.
- I don’t use a single work owned device – it’s all my own.
- I don’t use Word anymore. Or Excel. Or Powerpoint. (Yes, I’m still stuck with Outlook)
- We publish everything we are working on online , accessible for anyone.
- We have an Xbox and Wii U in the office.
- We don’t measure what the team do in hours. They work when they want.
- I work on solving problems with people in different time zones.
- I chat with customers in real time, unrestricted by office hours.
- I get fewer emails everyday.
- I hardly ever go to meetings.
- Yesterday I took part in a Google Hangout with people from all over the world.
In our rush to celebrate technology as an end in itself we risk forgetting how simple tools are allowing us to reshape relationships and extend our networks. Five years ago Bromford were still some months away from sending their first tweet. I would have been laughed out of the building for suggesting we need an innovation lab. Our collective network today is light years away from where we were.
When I read my secret message I whatsapped Sarah-Jane to tell her I’d read it (we don’t text anymore). She’d forgotten she posted it and agreed more had come true than had not. I told her I read her return message on my Apple Watch. She said “I knew you’d fall for buying one of those. What a geek. Some things never change”.
Perhaps we all need a little more cynicism when it comes to the big tech trends. It’s the small changes that are going on around us unnoticed that can make the biggest difference to people’s lives.