Monday, January 26, 2009
Many of you heard about the November 13, 2008 earthquake drill in
Southern California. Five and half million of you participated in some way, including individuals, schools, emergency command and control organizations, and corporations.
Monday, January 19, 2009
You have no doubt been hearing more about Virtual Worlds. In this era when new social networking sites seem to come on line daily Virtual World technology is already migrating into the business arena. Some are skeptical of its usefulness in business, possibly believing that it is more a toy than a real tool. The fact is, however, that the use of Virtual Worlds is expanding in business. This may be partly attributable to the generational shift now occurring in the workforce. For whatever reason, this appears to be yet another technology FM’s will need to understand, adopt, and adapt.
Virtual Worlds offer many advantages. There is an air of anonymity about them which may give users a sense of freedom t0 express themselves more than they might otherwise. Users can imbue their virtual selves with characteristics and quirks that they choose. They design how their avatar looks, choosing to be realistic or take a bit of license with reality. And that, really, is the crux of the Virtual World dilemma for business. Fantasy or reality, or some mix of the two?
Virtual Worlds enhance the collaboration experience, adding a human touch and allowing random interactions which support idea migration. People from all over the globe can “go” to a virtual space and meet together, interacting for purpose while expressing their personality. And that, after all, is what makes meetings so much fun. Right?
There are issues, however. Virtual Worlds present an open playground for the mischievous among us. Indeed, there are plenty of examples where corporate Virtual Worlds have been defaced and otherwise vandalized, and there is opportunity for bad actors to amuse themselves by being disruptive or disingenuous.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Paul Hemp discussed how businesses can encourage appropriate use of the technology. Actions he suggests include creating policies that require the Virtual World to mirror reality exclusively, not allowing elements of fantasy to be present. Hemp makes the point that, in the business context, Virtual Worlds should be used to replicate reality, not escape it.
Some companies are creating their virtual environments using one of the existing palettes, such as Second Life. Others, however, are investing in their own Virtual World space to better control access, content, and behavior.
Many FM’s are responsible for conference support functions and technologies. These folks, especially, should be on the learning curve now. Virtual Worlds may seem to be the playground of the big companies, but as more adapt the technology the cost will come down. For those who choose to use one of the existing systems the cost is already low enough to encourage wide adoption.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
With increased collaboration comes increasing transparency and faster innovation. Workers in and out of the company are requiring more visibility into the detailed workings of the organization. Global companies once focused on a “best-in-market” alliance partner business model are shifting to a “best provider” model. That means fewer alliances and increased opportunity for those who are participating. One result is that providers are acting much less tactically and much more strategically. Instead of being task resources only they are now also thinking and acting strategically on behalf of their clients. As a result, they have the opportunity to leverage their entire business chain to the client’s advantage, providing technologies and innovation that the client would not have thought of or be able to execute on its own.
And now we see that the search for innovation is not limited to formal business partners. Sites like www.Innocentive.com bring seekers and solvers together. You have a problem, someone out there has an idea. Companies are asking for and getting innovations on new manufacturing techniques, scientific support, energy efficiency, design, and operational models and technologies from people and sources with which they have no previous connection or pathway. In other words, our resources are no longer limited to those we know or have business relationships with. The world is your workforce!
The pace of innovation is driven by the pace of knowledge. It is one thing to talk about computing power and efficiency doubling every two years while the price of same is halved. There is knowledge in these continuing changes, but it is the incremental knowledge of increasing efficiencies. There are areas of research, however, where knowledge gains are large, coming at us very quickly, and which have the potential to transform our lives. The biotechnology revolution now occurring is driven by the intersection of bio-science and the expansion of information technology; and the promulgation of nanosystems has scientists designing new machines at the cellular level. If you really want something to catch your attention, think about this – Ray Kurzweil stated in 2006 that scientists are within two decades of having reverse engineered the human brain. What does this convergence of affordable high capacity computing, bio-intelligence, miniaturization, and brain intelligence foretell? The futurists among us see a world that includes high bandwidth Net access all the time, electronics that are embedded in our clothes, nanotechnology brain implants, and virtual reality (VR) technology that augments real reality to speed the transfer of knowledge and intelligence.
Is that “out there?” Of course it is. Will it all come true as currently envisioned? Unlikely. Will our world, the way we learn, and how we work remain static and unchanged? Absolutely not.
These emerging technologies will have real life implications to our every day world, including work processes and environments. We will be able to actually experience new buildings before they are built, test system interdependencies to identify errors and opportunities by actually operating systems in VR, discovering and avoiding mistakes that could be catastrophic. We will be able to replace brain function lost to accident or disease and do a thousand other things that will improve the human condition – and FM’s will have a role to play in all of it.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Younger generations are altering the face of the workplace, exercising their right to choose and often times using different priorities to make their decisions. Where older workers may have opted for a career path based on title, compensation, and prestige, younger workers are much more concerned with a prospective employer’s social responsibility index, openness to alternative workplace strategies, and the opportunity to contribute to meaningful change.