The power of a single interaction

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On a recent business trip, I didn’t pay close attention to my boarding pass and realized 30 minutes before departure that my gate was in a different terminal. I asked a customer service person for help. She took it upon her to call the gate, ask them to wait for me and found a vehicle to drive me to the gate.

She could have simply done her job. She could have just told me to try to make a 1-hour transfer in 15 minutes by running and hustling. She could have made the decision that this would be enough to do her job. That this interaction was insignificant in the big scheme of things. She chose otherwise.

In a world that is digitally transforming right in front of our eyes, it’s easy to forget about small change. We focus on scale, on massive changes, on transformative forces. Real change and delight often come in small packages. A butterfly can cause a hurricane. And each of us has the power to change a day or a life through a single interaction. Scale is important but it’s not everything. A single interaction is important and might mean everything.

 

 

Digital Transformation is an erosion process

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We’ve been trained by Hollywood and the Brothers Grimm: Transformation should feel like a combination of Cinderella and Spiderman. A dramatic transformation unfolding in front of our eyes in a very short period of time. Just like the transformation of caterpillars to butterflies or from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan.

We love these dramatic stories, they are part of our upbringing, the way the world should work, an escapist dream. But these stories are like lottery wins. They happen once in a blue moon, but they are a major exception. The rule and reality are different.

99.9% of transformations are akin to an erosion process. According to Wikipedia, erosion is “the action of surface processes (such as water flow or wind) that removes soilrock, or dissolved material from one location on the Earth’s crust, and then transports it to another location[1] (not to be confused with weathering which involves no movement). This natural process is caused by the dynamic activity of erosive agents, that is, water, ice (glaciers), snow, air (wind), plants, animals, and humans.”

Erosion doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not a beautiful Hollywood story. It’s a daily process that might affect changes it desires of a period of months and years. And it occurs when the transformational forces keep at it every day.

Has your Digital Transformation Plan more chances of succeeding if you throw away the Cinderella storyline and focus on the daily erosion process?

What to leave out

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In 5th grade, my history teacher believed the best way to teach was to overwhelm us with facts. We learned everything there is to know about the Gods, the philosophers, important dates, events and encountered more details than a University Student would ever hear about. Two things were accomplished in that year: My short-term memory retained hundreds of pieces of ancient Greek history and forgot them once I aced the test. And, I never wanted to hear about ancient Greece ever again.

A new teacher joined for 6th grade, taught us Roman history and had a different philosophy: He painted a vivid image of life in the Roman empire, piqued our interest enough to find out more information.

And that’s the secret of marketing messaging: We should never tell the customer all the information at once. Marketing is about making them curious to learn more. And that requires a disciplined approach on what part of the story to tell and what part of the story to leave out.

What’s your audience of ten?

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It’s easier than ever for people to watch what you do. They can track where you are, like your images, become a friend of your digital identity and go along for the ride.

Strangers all around the globe make judgments about you, keep score, decide whether you are successful.

Only if you give them the power.

Brené Brown gives this power only to 8 people in her life.

You can choose to communicate with the world or you can choose to communicate to the ones that matter. It might be a large group of people, an audience of ten or just one specific person. The bigger the group, the bigger the feedback. But the only feedback that matters is from the people that love and respect you because of your imperfections and vulnerabilities.

What’s your audience of 10?

The future of work: How much human? How much machine?

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Will machines be doing 52% of the work by 2025?

The idea is as old as the industrial revolution: The fear of machines replacing human labor. And the concept of how to prevent this from happening seem to be evergreen as well: Machine Tax. Nothing is more shocking than the image of a robotic nurse, combined with the prediction that this will be the future, not a real human being.

So, how realistic are the headlines that 47% of all US jobs might be threatened by AI?

Three observations from the 30,000 feet perspective: First, all fearmongering predictions from automated textile production to desktop computing eliminating jobs have been wrong. Second, investment and job growth continue to be aligned. Last but not least, starting in 2020 the whole Western world will enter a Japanese demographic era. The working population in the US and France will stagnate, while the rest of the developed world will see a shrinking workforce. The biggest decline will occur in China starting in 2030, based on their “One-Child-Policy”.

Japan is a good example of how hard it is to grow an economy while the working population shrinks. Important to note, this doesn’t impact a growing standard of living. The per-capita income of Japan is in line with developed countries. Based on this data, it might be desirable to experiment with a new, unknown scenario. Comrade Robot could replace humans, humans that don’t exist anymore. As long as the process is aligned with the shrinking of the working population.

No job killer. No salvation.

An important perspective from the ground level: Technology in the past has not replaced human labor at scale. Still, we have experienced over time the process of creative destruction. A beautiful term for massive, individual tragedies. Old jobs disappear, new evolve, those that can’t adjust will be thrown under the bus. They will lose jobs, income, and their living standard. In the end, automation and digital transformation will not transform our world into a universe without jobs or a landscape of unknown wealth. Japan, as one of the leaders in civilized automation, shows us the way. On an individual basis, we are talking a different game. Change will be massive, dramatic and tragic. Politics better be ready to ease the pain.

The new Digital Divide

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Remember the Digital Divide, often defined as an economic and social inequality to the access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies? With almost everybody now having access to mobile phones, it’s less about hardware and more about bandwidth and skill levels. A decade ago, this was a huge concern: One Laptop per child was of real importance to get any place in the world access to technology.

Due to cheaper technology and widespread use of digital tools, the original gap has largely disappeared. And replaced by a new Digital Divide. Life and work have become more hectic and time-consuming for everyone and many parents are forced and eased into using digital tools as babysitters or ways to keep their children engaged while they are busy with email, work or their social media activity. On the other side of the coin, we have our digital barons setting strict tech-free rules at home. They know better than anyone they designed the tools to capture attention, manipulate technology to keep on clicking.

The digital overlords understand that building connections, interacting with real humans, being outside, being bored, exploring things out of boredom, digging deeper into problems are skills that are necessary to prosper in this new age of technology and humanity convergence. This is the new digital divide that needs to be bridged.