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About 12 years ago I remember being in my university library waiting impatiently for Google to load.  I remember how digital cameras could only hold a handful of images at a time and the smallest external hard drive was the size of my laptop and cost a fortune!

Technology was advancing but it was at the clunky stage, where it quite often made you more infuriated than helped a situation. 

12 years on in 2015 and the technological landscape is very different, it’s faster, cheaper, more effective and intuitive.  Most of us couldn’t picture life without it and I certainly couldn’t picture my work life without it!

So what will the landscape look like a decade away? As workspaces become more open plan and built around wellbeing as much as the work (Facebook, BBC, Google, Apple, Amazon) and with new forms of interaction, like holograms and displays that offer "high empathy presence", we’re already seeing a huge shift. Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft UK says “In ten years' time, I hope we will have broken free of many of the physical ties of our current working world.”

In a BBC article “Should we fear the future workplace - or embrace change?”  Dave Coplin shares his view of the future saying:

“My hope remains that technology will increasingly afford greater freedom in where, when and how we work.

The success of the future of work will come down to one thing. People.

It will be the extent to which the people are engaged with the "purpose" of their organisation that will dictate the success or failure of that organisation in the future.

Engaged employees embrace change, they look for growth and learning in all they do and best of all they unleash the full potential of new technology.

They do this by using it to find new ways of working rather than simply making the old ways of working happen a bit quicker.”

We know about the pros of technology in the workplace but we must also be aware of the implications and how to use it wisely. Coplin goes on to say “Only failure awaits those who use the technology to replace what we are capable of - ask any driver who has blindly followed GPS directions only to find themselves confronted with too low a bridge or too narrow a street.”

Another thing to consider is that technology can get in the way of work, take a look at this BBC article about how digital distractions are eroding our ability to concentrate.

Many of our clients are now opting for virtual events over face to face, especially when gathering groups of people from across the globe.  They are embracing technology and adapting with it to suit their needs.  Are you?

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I read a fascinating BBC article last week titled ‘Big Data: Would number geeks make better football managers?’, a look at how crucial data is to maximising potential income by getting the most from football's prized investments - the players.    

I was educated on how sophisticated technology is behind the scenes in football & rugby these days. When I think of these sports, I think of noisy stadiums, stressed managers pacing on the sidelines, player disputes and a very macho atmosphere…not a scene I’d expect to be managed by data geeks…  

The article pointed out the difference in the two worlds, with Football managers leaning more on their instinct, not geeky data to gets results. Whilst a rugby manager would more likely be in the stand for a whole game  - surrounded by data  and video analysis.  "Compare that with football and the manager is still very much in the dugout, trying to affect the players personally, in terms of instructions and shouting - and very much being part of the sometimes chaotic nature of football."  (Dr Paul Neilson from football technology specialists Prozone)

Leading the “Big data” revolution in football is TSG Hoffenheim. The German club has incorporated real-time data measurements into its training schedule, data can be analysed in real-time by experts - and training schedules can be adapted… "The entire training area becomes accessible virtually by putting trackers on everything that's important - on the goals, on the posts.”  (Stefan Lacher, head of technology at SAP). SAP's software is able to crunch that data, and suggest tweaks that each player can make...amazing! 

"It's about better understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the players," Mr Lacher says, "and spending more time working on the weaknesses and making better use of the strengths....It's moving from gut feeling to facts and figures." 

"One of the most important things within elite sport is making sure your players are available for training and matches as much as possible, and that is about mitigating injury risks...if you're doing that you should be able to reduce the risk of physical overload, and reduce the risk of injury." (Dr Paul Neilson from football technology specialists Prozone)

The BBC article begins by describing how the football industry first rejected the idea of putting so much emphasis on data/statistics and did not embrace or initially want to take advantage of technology at hand.  

So the question is, do we want to be like the manager at the sideline pacing up and down getting frustrated at the team or are we embracing the technology that’s at our finger tips and using it to its full potential?  Sometimes due to the speed at which technology advances, it can seem alien to us, but we must be willing to work with it, be flexible and embrace change.  Personally I think there’s room for both – geeky computer data and a human heart though!

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So I found myself working with a group in Birmingham last week. Part of what they are doing is creating business plans for 2020, and so I was helping them consider 4 different perspectives: People, Technology, Innovation and Customers. Aside from some of the interesting trends in each of those 4 areas (see previous blog post), what I especially enjoyed was the venue.

Now when I first heard ‘Birmingham Library’ as the venue, I was imagining some dusty facility with people tiptoeing around and ‘sshhhh-ing’ anyone with the gall to raise their voice. However, I was delighted to discover a fabulous new facility which has been recently opened and has been thoughtfully designed to ‘facilitate learning’ rather than ‘provide information’. I couldn’t help myself but grab a member of staff and quiz them about the layout and the operation and the intention. It is the largest library in the UK, the largest public cultural space in Europe and services 5,000 people a day.    

At the back end of last year, we designed an event around ‘The Future of Learning’ and this facility is a wonderful example of how to embrace peoples’ changing needs and leverage technology and design to inspire people to learn. If you haven’t been – make a side trip next time you’re in the area.    

As we start to plan our client work this year, it’s given me a timely reminder about ensuring the environment / location is carefully selected or modified to make it engaging for the team to learn. This can be an afterthought for many team events, but we have learned it can be critical – and so the search for interesting venues in 2014 commences.....

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