For the first few decades of the automobile industry, cars looked like horseless carriages. The infrastructure to support them was ropey. There were restrictions place upon them, like having a man walking ahead with a red flag, that made them fairly useless.

But over time things changed; the infrastructure to support motoring began to expand – petrol stations sprang up. Roads improved. Motorways were introduced. Cities were remodelled (often to the advantage of the car and detriment of people). Our societies were reshaped to take advantage of the new ways in which we could travel. It took decades.

Despite there having been business computing for over half a century, and a PC on most if not every desktop for two decades, I believe that we are still at the horseless carriage phase of information technology and digital. We are still working in pretty much the same ways as we did when typewriters ruled the office. Our organisations have become more global, but that’s probably more to do with the free flow of capital rather than information (after all, empires ran at global scale well before real time communications could). We use mechanisms of management, structure and process born of an era of memos and secretaries and offices to which the door could always be open.

The world outside of work is changing at greater pace than that inside. Think of the future of technology outside of work and many people now will see limitless possibility. Yet in work we are constrained. And we are constrained by management approaches that commission technologies to be capital assets (like machines) to turn human productivity into factory lines (like machines). Meanwhile all the fun stuff is about people talking to other people. Like people do.

Organizations are going to have to start thinking and working very differently if they are going to be able to take advantage of the fun stuff.

 

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