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Why the digital revolution is an anthropological correction
The irony of the digital revolution is that it is primarily about people and less so about technology.
This short article makes this case and also provides some suggestions on how your organization can capitalize on this reality.
Why the digital revolution is an anthropological correction
Why the digital revolution is an
A series of white papers by Ade McCormack, Auridian
The irony of the digital revolution is that it is primarily about
people and less so about technology.
This short article makes this case and
also provides some suggestions on
how your organization can capitalize
on this reality.
A brief history of mankind
The path that has led us to where we are today
started some 2.5 million years ago. We first came
down from the trees. Some of us started to pursue
food by raising up on our hind legs and outrunning
it. This activity was conducted with a group of
other people. Pursuing lunch across the savannah
required us to be highly mobile as well as agile.
Those that stuck to the original strategy of running
northwards, despite the fact that the prey was now
heading west, were destined to become extinct.
Pursuing bigger prey resulted in bigger meals. It
required us to hunt in a pack to coordinate the hunt
and, as such, it required us to be highly social. A
miscommunication could possibly lead to us being
eaten by lunch.
We started to develop tools / weapons that could
be used to defend the pack and deal with prey
more efficiently. The development of these tools
required creativity and the ability to share our skill
with subsequent generations so that they could use
the skills we had acquired, to develop them further
down the generations. No other animal does this so
This way of life continued until about 12,000 years
ago with the arrival of the agricultural revolution.
In many respects little changed, other than we
became slightly less mobile.
200 years ago saw the arrival of the industrial
revolution and that delivered massive efficiencies
and wealth. Many people saw a significant
economic improvement in their lives. However,
we stopped being mobile as our job required us
to turn up to the same factory day in day out. As
paid labor we were discouraged from being social
and being creative. Operational efficiency, through
crisp process adherence, turned us into ‘cogs in the
The digital revolution of the last few years in
essence is humanity’s urge to return to its true
nature. The technologies we see today support our
desire to be mobile, social and creative. They also
enable us to make better decisions and, therefore,
be more agile in terms of how we engage with an
Given how recently we were roaming the savannah,
the industrial era can best be described as a blip in
our history when we temporarily became decoupled
from our true humanity.
Let nature be your business partner
Knowing this, organizations that provide an
environment that supports our true nature will, in
effect, turn nature into their business partner. Given
that there is a growing shortage of talent available,
organizations that get this right will attract the talent.
Those that do not will perish.
Most organizations understand that happy
customers are good for business and so there is an
increasing emphasis on the customer experience.
Thus, it would be smart to acknowledge that they
too have natural tendencies to be social—and so
it would be wise to build such features into your
This is all good but I believe that many organizations
have not quite understood the importance of their
staff in the customer experience. Again, if you do
not provide the environment for staff to do great
work, they will leave and that will filter through to
your products and services, and so your customers
will eventually follow them. I would argue that your
people are more important than your customers
and, thus, your working environment and user tools
need to be your priorities.
The augmented enterprise
Staff, who increasingly are turning away from work-life
balance and towards work-life integration, require mobile
technologies that are consistent across every aspect of their
lives. Thus, embracing BYOD is crucial. Of course, mobility
is not confined to user devices. Trusting your people to work
where they need to work needs to be part of your operating
model. Security is, of course, an issue. Though keep in mind
that enabled mobile workers, not locked-down security, is the
The tools need to be in place to enable your people to engage
with their colleagues and friends seamlessly. Increasingly, the
value your people bring to work will include their extended
social networks. The expertise your organization needs will
increasingly lie outside the perimeter wall, so having access
to the social networks of your staff will be of great value.
Your people want to do great work. To do that they need to
have the tools to make great decisions. In order to do so, your
organization needs to develop an infrastructure that enables
the workers to dive into the data, whether it be structured or
unstructured, social or academic, and to extract insights from
this ocean of bits and bytes.
Indentured slavery should be a thing of the past. Forcing
people to follow the process is a mindless and soulless
activity that will, in any case, be done by software and robots
in the fullness of time. To maximize staff engagement
and their output, you are encouraged to evolve your
job specifications such that everyone is in the creative
business, not just a handful of people in your research and
development function. Increasingly, people are demanding
that their work is meaningful.
Our ancestors were judged on animals caught and berries
picked, not on how many hours they spent hunting and
gathering. Similarly, modern organizations must move away
from the ‘paid labor’ model and start to judge their staff
on outputs rather than presenteeism (i.e. the act of being
present at work in order to be perceived by one’s boss as
a committed worker without any focus on actually doing
In essence, smart organizations will capitalize on our anthropological tendencies, rather than try to suppress
them. In any case, it is best to never pick a fight with nature as, over time, it always wins.
So what does the new world of work look like? Of course, it embraces the practices of our ancestors and,
where necessary, augments the outputs using new technologies. Here are some examples:
Ade McCormack is an advisor and columnist for the Financial
Times and CIO magazine. He helps organizations thrive in the digital
economy. Ade’s particular interests lie in the future of work and
humanity. Ade’s perspectives can be found via his Digital Strategist
HP Mobility and Workplace services help you transform your
workplace and empower your employees, while ensuring your
workplace remains enterprise grade, scalable, and secure. We can
advise you on building a road map and implement a managed
environment that is user-focused (rather than device-focused),
protects your data, and delivers relevant information to provide
the employee productivity you and your employees want.
For more information please visit: hp.com/services/workplace.