The Disconnect in Connecting the Workplace

  • Business as usual is giving way to connected and collaborative cultures.
  • Using technology for global connectivity and communication can facilitate connectedness.

Most executives are well aware of both the challenges and opportunities offered by the onslaught of new technology. Many, however, are unsure how to use new and emerging technology to solve specific business problems. In particular, disruptive forces like social and mobile have thrown a curve-ball at established practices. That’s not just because the technology overtook the world in a matter of a few short years, but also because social media and mobile apps have changed the behavior of people who use them.

Rethink Everything

The typical command and control approach — where employees use the technology just because it is bestowed upon them — is gone forever. Suddenly businesses have to rethink…everything. Business technology has become a seamless enabler to get work done, individually or collectively, similar to the way people use technology organically in their personal lives. To move toward this organic, connected model, businesses should consider the following:

1. Technology is most effective when it is invisible:

Technology is an enabler, and we must see it for what it unlocks or facilitates. As architects of collaboration, our job is to use technology to do something greater than what we can accomplish today.

2. Technology is part of the solution, but it’s also part of the problem:

Philosophies and systems governing the way we work are traditionally designed using a top-down approach. Yet how we use technology in our real lives is completely different. Traditionally designed, top-down technology needs to enable flatter, less hierarchy-focused activities and processes.

3. Change begins not with technology, but with seeing this challenge differently:

This is a time for leadership…not the conventional management systems as we know them. Today, anyone can assume the role of leader as long as they have vision for what’s possible, the courage to break what isn’t yet fully broken, and the passion to mobilize people to unite in transformation.

Adapt and Adopt

When I study why technology fails to change behavior internally, the reasons often surprise executives, but rarely shock employees. Workflow is imposed rather than designed to emulate how people naturally use technology for communication and global connectivity. Legacy processes and reporting systems actively discourage people to adopt something new. Businesses can turn this around by flattening the organization and more seamlessly connecting their people, processes, and technology. Some strategies that can help facilitate connectedness include:

1. Rewarding cross-team collaboration as part of day-to-day work.

2. Aligning incentives to change with employee goals and aspirations.

3. Leading by example.

4. Encouraging an aging workforce to gain new expertise through learning and collaboration.

5. Focusing on how and why new technology enables business goals and why employees should buy in.

6. Moving toward a less rigid, more adaptive culture that supports innovation.

Making such changes results in a greater sense of conviction, which is contagious. When approached with a human and business focus, executives can’t help but listen, learn, and act. I guess that’s what this is about.

We have to learn to learn again, and that will only help us lead.

Is your organization breaking old processes and adopting new technology to support the connected enterprise? Share your experiences or questions in comments.


Brian Solis is the author of the book, What’s The Future of Business. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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