Technology continues to spark new workplace ideas, trends

Technology is changing the way we work, where we work, and what we work on. And Moore's Law (named after Intel Corporation's former Chairman), that computer power doubles every 18 months for the same price, is going to increase the speed and accessibility of technology in dramatic new ways.

I’m sure most of you are feeling the wicked pace of technological change in your field. And with the next century fast approaching, countless futurists and business analysts are predicting the impact of technology on the way we work. Here are some trends, new inventions and ideas that are being worked on right now.

§      Because we can now work from anywhere, any time of day or night, it is becoming less important where some businesses are located. A number of our clients are virtual companies, who do almost all of their business via pager, fax, Internet, Intranet and cellular phone. Conference calls and teleconferencing is becoming commonplace. Even people who live and work in the same city can often work from home a few days a week. Although telecommuting is becoming a widely accepted practice, people still need face-to-face interaction. In fact, people who spend long periods alone in front of their computer report feeling lonely and isolated, so new ways will be necessary to bring people together.

§      Technology is making it easy for millions of would be entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. And, as corporations downsize to their "core business," they are encouraging the growth of smaller, specialized companies to provide those ancillary services. Bruce Tulgan, author of Managing Generation X, conducted thousands of interviews and found that 80 percent of small businesses are being started by people between the ages of 18 and 34. The loss of job security (some would argue we never really had it) has shaken the loyalty between employee and employer among older workers, too. It has been a wake up call for millions of baby boomers, who would rather make their own "work security" as freelancers, than put their fate in the hands of one company.

§      Futurists are predicting that all business to business sales will be conducted over the Internet by the year 2007. In addition, they believe that at least 25 percent of all retail sales will also be over the net. (A prediction by Glenn Hiemstra, in a Wall Street Journal article, Peering Ahead, Nov. 16, 1998.) This means the end of some jobs as we know them. For example, people who do billing, pricing, selling and buying will likely see their jobs redefined or eliminated. It is also predicted that the supply chain between companies and their suppliers will become tighter. For example, when a customer makes a purchase from ACME Company, customer information would be received simultaneously by ACME's suppliers, so they can begin to produce the parts that are then sent to ACME for the final sale. In addition, as more consumers compare costs on-line, prices are likely to be driven down and some consumer goods will become commodities.

§      Technology will soon allow us to communicate in new ways, many experts predict. Wireless phones with built-in day planners and Internet access will combine technologies to be even more efficient. In addition, video capability will enable us to look at our digital phone and see who we are speaking to, send them a copy of an e-mail message and record a meeting in our calendar- all on our hand held "phone." In addition, it may soon be possible for an incoming call to locate you. It would bounce from work, to home to your digital phone. You will be able to tell your phone to screen out everyone except, say, your family, and send everyone else to your voice mailbox. Experts are also predicting phones in jewelry, rings and watches. (Buck Rodgers was right!)

§      Some of the advanced technology is raising fears about potential violation of employees' privacy. Take for example, the comments made by Microsoft's WebTV President, Steve Perlman, in a recent trade publication. He hinted at the broad potential of its service to monitor its users' surfing habits. WebTV allows consumers to surf the net over devices hooked to their TV sets. In a related Wall Street Journal article, it was pointed out that the computerized medium is capable of tracking all kinds of information about it's users, from what Web sites they surf, to which purchases they make on the Internet. This is great for advertisers but it makes some people nervous. The article mentioned another experiment in a hospital in Chicago. Nurses are wearing digital badges that allow the hospital to know where they are at all times. It helps the hospital learn how to better deploy employees and to find them in an emergency, but it also raises concerns from privacy activists.

§      Many futurists predict that the new source for software won't be the computer store or your local vendor. Instead, they envision the Internet being the source for ever evolving applications. The PC would become a "dumb terminal" that can download any software it needs, rather than storing it on it's own hard drive. In addition, current experiments with certain polymers are likely to reshape the size and form our computers take. For instance, a soft screen might make it possible to roll up your computer and put it in your pocket.

§      While young people take more naturally to new technology, many older Americans, who are not computer literate, will begin to feel out of touch or underemployed. In addition, access to technology will become a political issue, since the poor will be at a huge disadvantage if they don't have access to information. The pressure is already on our educational system to get connected and up to speed. In the future, the Internet holds promise as a new medium for nation-wide education on certain subjects. The best educators could be tapped to teach their specialties in an interactive way. Since the location of the classroom can be on the Internet, the best education could be available to anyone from anywhere.

One thing is for sure; the future isn’t what it used to be. What are you doing now to be a part of it?


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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