The Menu has Changed but the Food Remains the Same

Have you ever visited your favorite restaurant and noticed that the menu was new – but when the food came to the table – it was the same food that was offered on the old menu? This is the way I feel about how the web has changed my workplace. I work in an organization that is 100 years old. We deliver research-based information to communities to improve quality of life. Our mission remains the same but the tools that we use to research, develop, and deliver education programs in communities have significantly changed over the last 100 years.

The most significant impact in my workplace is the way we communicate. The web provides the platform for email, webinars, chat rooms, surveys, and social media just to name a few. These platforms are used for various forms of communication including one-on-one communication, one-to-many, and many-to-many (Shirky, 2008). Interactions with stakeholders, employees, and other professionals using the web increase the opportunities for collaboration and decrease former barriers including the financial costs associated with travel, phone calls, and postage. As a leader, this shift in communication requires a shift in the skills of employees. Organizations now need communication specialist and information technology specialist to develop, train, manage, and evaluate communication strategies to meet the needs of internal and external stakeholders. The constant change of the technology requires a flexible workforce that can quickly adapt to the changing environment.

The new tools are often criticized as barriers to getting the job done but I would disagree. They are just new and different distractions. Jason Fried has a great TED Talk about how we all waste time in the office regardless of the influence of the web and makes the point that these various tools on the web are no greater distraction than many of the distractions we had prior to the web. If you manage people and go to lots of meetings, I highly recommend watching his video for some interesting tips about being more productive.

The benefit of increase collaboration through the web leads to higher quality educational products using less staff resources and a greater turnaround time from bench science to the community. The collaborative environment provides an opportunity for learning, sharing and vetting of ideas for research and programs in communities regardless of geographic location and socioeconomic status. In an educational setting this environment can be very productive but it does come with barriers. If my organization collaborates with 50 other professionals from around the world to develop a new educational product and then we turn around and sell the product in our on-line educational store, whom should profit from the product? Shriky (2008) explains that financial context is one barrier to successful collaborations.

Shriky’s TED talk highlights the lack of control that organizations and leaders have to shape the story and messaging of an organization. He also explains that openness is just a new form of debate. As leaders we have a responsibility to use the openness and collaborative nature of the web to move society toward the greater good. “Open” is the new reality. The challenge for leaders is channeling the noise on the web toward positive societal impact.

We have a lot on our plates – enjoy!

Reference:

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. Penguin.

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4 thoughts on “The Menu has Changed but the Food Remains the Same

  1. “Open” is the new reality…with both opportunities and challenges. Nice post!

    I am not sure I totally buy that your mission remains the same. Perhaps the intent does … but given the expectations of your clients, I would suggest that your mission might have morphed some in the past 100 years.

  2. I completely agree with you that technology change demands flexibility and change within the workforce. In another response, I also wrote about the expanding roles individuals must take on as technology changes our behavior in the workforce. Thinking in my own job, I often am researching various topics, policies, or other information. With the web, this can be done extremely quickly, and I am able to access information from all over the world, gaining different perspectives and information.

    As we discussed last week, we have had to learn how to filter the immense amount of information available, figuring out what is relevant and what we are comfortable with bringing into the workforce. My field has seen an increase in roles that monitor specific information. We are able to find out not just a few examples of evidence-based and research-based practice, but often a great number in which we can choose. . For example, I worked for one organization that had an individual on staff who only researched available grants. This person never left the building, but the work was all done from her computer, and the organization expanded its fundraising beyond the local region.

    With this increased productivity comes additional challenges. As Shirky (2012) points out in his video, more ideas means there is more to disagree about. There is an infinite number of perceptions on the web that are presented as “facts.” This can cause great discrepancies and more challenging conversations when trying to reach consensus (although I do think that the broadened perspectives do lead to a better result). Even on a smaller level, there are some setbacks through the use of e-mail, just as context, body language, and inability to know at the time how the reader is interpreting the message.

    You ask a great question around the financial aspect of collaboration. This is very present in my own work as we oversee a collaboration of social service providers. We have done a great job at increasing the collaboration among the providers, but it has been a long, difficult road, and we still experience many set-backs. Much of this is due to money, as each provider is collaborating, but they still want to make sure the own organization will survive outside of the collaboration.

    I have witnessed a lot of resistance to the idea of flexible job responsibilities as it relates to technology. In social services, you often see a “traditional” definition of particular roles, especially as it relates to direct service. The basic argument of putting information in the computer or writing e-mails, takes away from a worker’s role helping people, is one I often hear. Many times I have explained to direct care staff the necessity of these types of tasks, as it is crucial to getting funded in order to help others. I also used to work at an organization that was over 100 years old, and had to often explain to administrators that we could not rely on our past to succeed in the future. I would point out that funders are extremely savvy and with technological advances, they have access to a great deal of information. When looking to “invest” your money, whether it be for personal gain or philanthropy, you want to get the most “bang for your buck” and the web has opened up information in the decision-making process.

    References

    TED Partner Series (2012). Clay Shirky: How the internet will (one day) transform government. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEN4XNth61o&feature=youtu.be.

  3. I love how all of your posts from week to week align with your theme of food/dining, etc.; so creative and configured. I find myself wondering what will be served from week to week. Without fail, I definitely have food for thought to chew on (smile).

    On this week’s menu, you speak to how leaders have to make adjustments in the hiring strategy of employees that are equipped with the technological savvy-ness to help maintain an organization in a competitive market. While the Vets and Baby Boomers have found ways to remain in the workforce, they will, slowly but surely, be forced out of their profession if he/she is unable to remain updated with the changing technological times. As a matter of fact, because of how technology has drastically changed how we complete tasks, the Millenial generation’s confidence and familiarity with technology will continue to transition the Baby Boomers out of the workforce. Gilbert’s (2011) article suggested that the Millenial group has helped to facilitate the non-traditional ways we complete tasks and projects.

    When considering the aforementioned transitions and higher education faculty and admin would certainly need to adjust their teaching/delivery methods in order to entertain the Millenial clientele. As you noted, we do have plenty on our plates. Time to dig in…

  4. Thank you for sharing the additional TEDTalks reference. Jason Fried provided an accurate description of my workday. Fortunately, I have the luxury to work from home. I experience many distractions while onsite, but I am extremely productive during the days I elect to work from home. With cause, the organization has taken a conservative position to working remotely. Some positions are more telework friendly, while other positions have very unique security requirements to avoid jeopardizing intelligence and the integrity of investigations.

    Recently, the organization began drafting policy to pilot additional telework options. I am sure once the organization address the obstacles, increasing the use of technology will become common practice. As you noted, the menu may change, but the food stays the same. So essential, the delivery format receives a facelift and the product remains the same.

    The blog forced me to reflect on the barriers within my organization. I question whether the limited view of the workforce influence the primary barriers through resistances and opposition to change? Does the overall organization hinder the ability for technology advancement?

    I will take this week to determine the actual influence within my organization.

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