I was in conversation this week with a senior IT chap from a big, global industrial conglomerate. It’s a world away from most of the organisations I’ve worked for over the years- namby-pamby creative or professional services businesses who wouldn’t know one end of a monkey wrench from the other.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that all work is centered around a desk, and a computer sitting on that desk, of that’s your only experience. It’s the only experience of most IT people.

But that model for working is one that is very far from universal. From factory to shop floors, field to social workers, hospitality to health care, millions of people spend their days in scenarios where a PC is not only unusual, but also probably pretty much impractical.

The conversation focused around opportunities for improving collaboration- a pet subject of mine in recent years. What struck me, and also in light of my recent thinking about the design of the no-PC organisation, was that it’s this huge cross section of the desk-free workforce for whom the no-PC workplace is going to have the biggest impact. Massive communities of employees who, to date, have been relegated to at best a kiosk device in the corner of a workplace.

The last few years have seen not only the growth of the smartphone in developed economies where the PC ruled the roost, but also the emergence of mobile as a platform that skipped the desktop generation entirely in countries whose economies are developing.

Similarly, the untethered-to-a-desk workforce have an opportunity to become connected, empowered and heard without having to balance a laptop on the edge of a lathe. They’ve mostly got the necessary device in their pockets already.

Why’s this important? Well because, as my industrial friend put it, the good ideas are going to come from the people actually doing the work…

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