Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chris Port Blog #254. In business and education, innovators and entrepreneurs are being held back...

© Chris Port, May 2011

In business and education, innovators and entrepreneurs are being held back... by unimaginative, paranoid and insecure management. Compare this recent article in BBC News Business with desperate (ignored) pleas for educational use of social media…two and a half years ago…

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Social media and the security risks they pose for business
(Nir Zuk, co-founder and chief technical officer of Palo Alto Networks interviewed by BBC News Business, 28 April 2011)

“… Until a few years ago, when I was talking to other CTOs in the industry, what I heard from them was that they didn't care about this kind of technology.

They didn't care about Facebook, they didn't care about Twitter, they didn't care about applications like Google Docs. They hadn't seen the value of these applications in their business.

However, now that more and more businesses are seeing the value in these things, they have a big dilemma.

Are they going to allow these applications to go through their network, knowing that their current security infrastructure cannot secure these applications?

Or are they going to block these applications, potentially holding their business back from using these kind of technologies, and really losing some competitive edge compared to their peers?”

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

From: Port, Chris
Sent: 10 November 2008
To: *********, *****; *****, *****
Subject: Are we ‘traditionalist’ or ‘progressivist’?

Some thinking on Co-ordination of Learning Initiatives and need to develop internet access.

Are we ‘traditionalist’ or ‘progressivist’?

In many ways, this question is stupid. Why should we be either? A more enlightened approach would be to cherry pick the best from both approaches. The ‘best’ depends on your particular circumstances.

It seems almost facile to suggest that education, in common with the rest of the world, is going through some historic changes at the moment. When was it ever not so? The real question is: where are we going? What is the purpose of education? There are many different answers to this question, but one of them is that schools have some moral duty to prepare their students for the real and competitive world of work.

While skimming the broadsheets with a CLI squint, I came across two very different articles on the ‘new’ curriculum which can broadly be categorised under ‘traditionalist’ and ‘progressivist’ attitudes. The first article is by Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools and now chairman of the private schools group Cognita. Some may think that his words drip with venom about the new curriculum. The second article, by Don Tapscott (writer, consultant and speaker regarding the strategic impact of information technology on innovation, marketing and talent) seems more progressive (or ‘trendy’ if you like to be dismissive of such viewpoints).

My own sympathies lie with the second article and I would make another plea for the school to get to grips with the mostly wasted opportunities offered by the internet, particularly Youtube which is an invaluable (but filtered) learning resource.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

(Article by Chris Woodhead, from The Sunday Times News Review, 02/11/08, p.9)

Answer the question - A new curriculum for learning next to nothing

I understand that a new national curriculum for secondary school pupils was introduced last month. How does it differ from previous versions and will it raise academic standards?

Brenda Tomlinson

Academic standards? What a quaint, anachronistic ideal. This is a curriculum alive with real world topicality. “Cross-curricular dimensions” such as cultural diversity and sustainable development are deemed to be more important than traditional subjects such as history or science.

Indeed, in this curriculum subjects have become vehicles for politically correct values. The programme of study for physical education, for example, requires pupils to spend time organising sporting events in the community in order to demonstrate “active citizenship”. Creative thinking, reflective learning, self-management: these key skills are to be at the heart of 21st-century classroom learning.

The idea seems to be that learning how to learn is more important than learning anything specific. Our children are going to leave school knowing less, even, than they do now.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

(Article by Don Tapscott, from The Guardian Work supplement, 08/11/08, pp 1-2).

Generation expects

They helped propel Barack Obama into power – and now the children of the digital age are about to change the way we work. Don Tapscott explains why the rest of us need to shape up.

Recently a new and very talented employee I had hired three months earlier came into my office and shut the door. She had a question: “What's it going to take for me to be the chief exec?” I had to restrain myself from blurting out the response that was run­ning through my mind: “I’ll have to be run over by a truck.”

She was audacious, to be sure, but I later thought that this young woman was a classic example of her generation, children of the “baby boomers” who are now in their 20s. They’re entering the workforce and challenging and infuriating their employers with new demands about how work should work, and how it should fit into their lives.

It already looks like a generation clash. In the US, a consortium that speaks for employers complained that young people were “woefully ill-prepared for work”, while many Americans say that young people feel entitled to all kinds of perks without working for them.

Yet this is not a clash between in­dividuals of different generations; the kids like their parents and their parents’ music. Some of them even count on their parents to look for a job or negotiate a pay rise. Instead, this is a clash over how work should work.

I’m on the side of the kids. I call them the “net generation” or net-geners because they're the first to grow up digital. This digital immersion, in the internet and all the gadgetry of the digital age, has given them the skills and the reflexes to collaborate online. We've just seen a spectacular example of what they can do. The net-geners propelled Barack Obama to victory by tapping into the organising power of social networks such as Facebook.

They’ve shaken up the game of poli­tics, and now they may do the same in the working world. Their culture of work is challenging, to be sure, but I think it is the way to work in the 21st century.

Net-geners feel that working and having fun can and should be the same thing

They enter the working world with distinctly different attitudes. Nearly seven out of 10 net-geners, for exam­ple, want to choose where and when to work, compared with four in 10 workers from their parents’ generation. Half of them value family over money.

They can be demanding employees too. According to one study, 60% of net-geners in the workforce want to hear from their managers on a daily basis and 35% want to hear from them many times a day. This can be irritat­ing. When I started work, I got an an­nual performance review. Net-geners want a steady stream of it: I find myself thinking, “Didn’t we just discuss this last week? You're doing great!”

What’s more, they’re loyal to their careers, not to any one company. According to one Canadian study of 18- to 34-year-olds, the average net-gener has held five full-time (non-summer) jobs by the time they’re 27. But does that mean that net-geners are not loyal or hard­working? Our research shows, surpris­ingly perhaps, that most net-geners say they want to work for one or two employers over the course of their career - but they usually last only two years.

So why do they keep moving? It’s a case of the irresistible force meet­ing the immovable object. The net-geners arrive at work, eager to use their social networking tools to col­laborate and create and contribute to the organisation. However, they are shocked to find technological tools more primitive than the ones used in school. The organisation still thinks the net is about websites presenting information, rather than a Web 2.0 collaboration platform. Then the or­ganisation bans Facebook at the office because it suspects net-geners are chatting with friends and throwing digital snowballs when they should be working - thus depriving net-geners of their link to friends, to fun, to colleagues. Pretty soon, they head for the exit.

The problem is not just technical. Too many organisations are still stuck in the old unproductive hierarchy, which divides the world into governors and the governed. Most people above the age of 40 accept this. They grew up with hierarchies - at home, at school, at work. The goal in a hierarchy is to move up, and have more people re­porting to you. But as Tamara Erickson, a widely respected expert on organi­sations and the changing workforce, has observed, this generation is not turned on by status or hierarchy. They want to do challenging work, but they don’t necessarily want organisational responsibility. Their dream job, she says, is something like this: a job with a problem or dilemma no one knows how to solve and lots of great people to work with.

Net-geners like to get things done through collaboration. It’s part of their digital upbringing. They like to achieve something with other people and experience power through other people, not by ordering a gaggle of  followers to do their bidding.

They have a different attitude about fun at work too. For my generation, there’s a time for work and a time for fun. For net-geners, work and fun are both rolled into one. At a recent panel discussion, the executive VP of one of the world’s largest companies asked some net-geners what their company could do to make it more attractive to their generation.

“This place should be more fun – it’s just not fun to work here,” said 23-year-old Effie Seidberg.

I could tell from the body language that the executives in the room didn’t get it. You work and then go home to have fun. Or you work and then retire to have fun. That's the old view.

Yet two out of three net-geners feel that “working and having fun can and should be the same thing”. That doesn’t mean they want to play table football all day long. Instead, they want the work itself to be enjoyable.

The debate over banning Facebook is a typical case of employers just not getting it. I remember when employ­ers banned email; they thought it was totally unproductive and that manag­ers shouldn’t be typing. I remember when companies refused to give their employees PCs. Then they banned the internet; employers were apparently worried that employees would look at porn on the company premises or that they would be wasting their time. I took a different approach. When the first web browser appeared, I sent my employees a note: Get on the internet, I told them. You must go and waste your time.

To be sure, organisations need to design proper work processes. They need to compensate people so they’ll be encouraged to work effectively.

Get on the Internet, I told my employees. You must go and waste your time

Then, if they do take a break on Face-book, that’s fine. It’s their way of cool­ing off, before revving up for the next round of work.

The net generation will be chal­lenging, but they’ll ultimately be good for the world of work. Employers, of course, need them. Once the baby boomers retire, they'll need as many net-geners as they can find to fill the gap. But organisations need their new, collaborative ways too. Work has be­come more cognitively complex, more team-based, more dependent on social skills, and more subject to the pres­sures of time. As work becomes more mobile, it depends less on geography and more on technological compe­tence.

The net generation possess the skills to win in this world. Look at how they work, and you’ll see what it takes to succeed in these challenging times.

Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott is published by McGraw-Hill Professional

No comments:

Post a Comment