Yesterday I was in a meeting (surprise). It involved a group of people on the opposite end of the corporate campus. They were scheduled to support a big upcoming event and needed to be brought up to speed. In fact, some of them were defensive and put out, having been volunteered to provide content, personnel, etc., for an event they had little to no knowledge of.
There was nothing to fear, however, the right people were in the room and quickly alleviated the fears of those not up to speed on what was scheduled. While very beneficial, a full hour was needed to bring yet another group into the fold.
So I started thinking about all of the new workflow augmentation and internal collaboration tools beginning to gather steam. We all have email, but that doesn’t do the job. We all have some sort of document-tracking system, but that’s usually very lackluster. There are, however, better ways to collaborate. There are niftier tools that share notes and side conversations, capture questions, provide achievable and searchable video sessions. As we, society or whatever, move toward more robust and more comprehensive content management systems, we will become not just connected, but beyond that…probably into the realm of assimilation.
Assimilation being merging streams of thought into each other, collaborating and correcting points of view way before they even get to an email or a curt comment said to a coworker under his or her breath. I’m talking about the end game of collaboration, the fusing of intent and talent into the natural mechanics of one corporate entity. This is super connectivity, hyper connectivity, more than just cooler email.
Now I’m not saying we’ll go Borg from the onset, but I think we will have augmented reality screens, speech-to-text transcribers, eye-driven GUI glasses and a lot of the sorts of cool building tools seen in “Ironman” or “Star Trek.” It just makes sense to me.
Because, I mean, we’re already pretty immersed in connectivity. How much MORE “connection” can we have? We all have work cell phones, work email, and the ability to call a coworker or subordinate in the dead of night and get some information about such-and-such document. It may be frowned upon (for now), but the possibility of this sort of normal life disruption is there.
Let’s look at the inherent inefficiency of modern communication, “connected” though it may be.
Person A, let’s say Sarah, has an idea. Sarah has to use her communication skills to take her thoughts, select words to those thoughts and form sentences and paragraphs. Then, like some complicated origami project, Sarah has to fold and build her proposal into a series of lines of symbols on paper or a screen.
Sarah then sends off this idea. Others see her words and paragraphs and decrypt it into their own thoughts and feelings. People routinely misread, skim over too quickly, or perhaps vaguely understand the author’s intent. They then react to this new information in their own ways, internalize it, build judgments and responses.
If collaboration is required, these independent agents, each with their own views and opinions, must be brought together over the course of multiple meetings and briefings, to air their specific interpretations of Sarah’s idea. Unfortunately, each response now starts the process again; and the probability for misunderstanding and gap of intent increases exponentially.
We usually muddle through the ineffectiveness of group thought by having multiple meetings, using humor or charisma to persuade or perhaps brushing aside objections through rank structure and hierarchy.
But all of those steps, and there are more, sure, I believe lead to so much of our life drama and inefficiency as an organization. We can look at the alien nature of an ant hive and scoff, sure, but we can’t argue with the results, can we? Now, I’m not talking about slaving of one to the will of many here, but don’t we think there will be a move toward this direction? I mean, as an evolution of the corporate body?
No? What happens when Google or some whiz-bang company develops some basic assimilative tools, where Sarah, from our example, can virtually be standing over the shoulders of everyone who interacts with her information, to correct or at least better explain her intents in word choice or sequence of ideas? Wouldn’t this be more efficient communication? Isn’t that the end goal of all the email programs, scheduling apps and meetings we hold every day?
What if a company was able to connect the relevant people to the relevant projects and share information to minimize misunderstandings or personal differences? What if managers knew of the obstacles as they emerged, without having to interfere or ask to be “back briefed” on situations? I think of all the video games out there, where the human player assumes the role of some omnipresent commander, able to see the workings of each part of his or her army, training and production, with just a few clicks of a button. It’s the way to be an efficient leader, isn’t it?
So, as a man who understands one can only rage against progress for so long before drowning in the rising tides, I wonder if we’ll look back on ourselves in 20-30 years and think how silly we were to think and feel in isolation. There will probably be a good chunk of us who would welcome this assimilation. It would lead to vastly superior profits and performance, wouldn’t it? Just sayin’.
Hey there! I'm a former Army print journalist and DoD social media zealot. I spend my days in the public relations and marketing worlds, chatting about technology and working on fun side projects.
I write, dance and do most things.
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