This past week I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma moving my daughter into her new apartment. The combination of the location and the project work got me thinking about the return to work phenomena. That same week, Deep Analysis started work on a significant survey regarding ‘Work from Home’ for two of our clients.
It may be stating the obvious, but we will not be returning to the old ways of working. We all know there will be less travel, more working from home, and that a seismic shift is underway regarding employee, employer relationships. The new normal will be a significant improvement on the old for some; for others, it will be a setback. But one area that seems to have garnered little attention is the gritty reality of the challenge of finding information, gaining and sharing knowledge, and making informed decisions. Endless Zoom meetings, just don’t cut it. We get by, we do the best we can, but for knowledge workers, in particular, there are serious and often unacknowledged challenges ahead.
Before becoming an Industry Analyst, I trained as an Analytical Psychotherapist. By far, the most challenging part of that training was taking part in two-hour experiential workshops. Six to eight of us would sit in a circle in complete silence; it was, quite frankly, a living hell. But what it did was to teach you how to read and feel the dynamic of the room, of the people in the room, of your own, and their, current state. Until you try it, and I don’t recommend you do so, it’s hard to imagine just how challenging yet enlightening such an experience is. But this room and person reading, is what we all do naturally when we are in meetings and present in the workplace. It cannot be replicated in a Zoom meeting; as 80-90% of our ability to read the room is lost. As a lapsed psychologist, I am fascinated by how this will play out in disconnected, remote, and hybrid working environments. Part of the survey work we are now carrying out touches on this, and both our clients and we are looking forward to seeing the results. We will share them with you as best we can in the next month or two. But at a more prosaic level, how we find relevant knowledge remotely, and come to considered and informed work decisions has and will continue to change. When we were all in the same office, we could ignore the pitiful enterprise search engines and intranets; we could work around the cluttered and chaotic knowledge bases, we could go and ask the right person the right question. The answers that person would give us included much more than the words they used; we naturally read their responses and, in turn, responded through our follow up actions.
Moving forward, we should be rethinking, reinventing, reframing, and reimagining knowledge-gathering, management, and decision making. The current situation of using some combinations of Slack, Box, Dropbox, Teams, and Google is a stop-gap situation. The potential for innovation to improve and to make the best of our changed working conditions is enormous. We are adapting and will continue to adapt, that’s what humans are good at, and the tools and technology we use will also need to adapt. We need much more innovation at the technology level and in truly understanding how we work and think, and so far, there is very little to see in that regard. What the team and I at Deep Analysis, hope to see in the coming year is less focus on the underlying technology and more emphasis on how employees and customers alike can use this technology effectively.
As for Tulsa, it’s now one of my new favorite places. A small and incredibly affordable city, replete with a wealth of stunning Art Deco buildings, increasingly populated by MacBook toting, chai sipping, hipsters. It was for me at least a visceral and visual peek into the ‘new normal’, where ways of working can evolve and be observed. We have had 30 years of Silicon Valley-led thought leadership, but that is changing and fresh thinking out of the ‘bubble’ may be a good thing for us all.