The Future of Communication in the Workplace – Micronisation of Communication
I am a child of the communication era. Which is a good thing, because I like communicating.
The next generation can have their robots, their artificial intelligence and their George Jetson inspired self driving cars.
But this era will be judged to have been the time when communication proliferated so much that anyone in the world could communicate very simply with anyone else in the world at pretty much anytime.
This is the golden age of communication.
Of course, it wasn’t always like this. Communication was slightly different when I was growing up.
When I was in school in America, our teachers gave us mimeographed sheets that reeked of the smell of that purple ink used to make them. In order to get more handouts, a teacher had to go to the school office and get someone to run off more mimeographs by rolling the big drum round and round.
When I was 13, I trained for my high school cross country team by waking up at 4:45 in the morning, getting my morning run in, and delivering this thing called a newspaper to my local neighbourhood in suburban Washington DC.
Back then, everyone read their paper. The morning newspaper was a major source of information to the average American. And all of my customers expected it to be delivered by 6:30 in the morning.
So I had to do a lot of running.
At the time, CNN was only a couple years old. 24hour news was a novel idea and the need for always available news and information still seemed a little odd to most folks.
By the time I’d gone to university in 1986, I was lucky enough to go to a place that was well ahead of its time. We had an internal campuswide email system and networked printers.
98% of the students had one of these bad boys.
Knowledge had begun to be distributed more freely.
Information had begun to fragment.
Communications were already more rapidly sent, distributed and read.
So I guess, nearly 25 years ago when I graduated, would I have found it difficult to predict where we are with communications today? I’m not so sure.
You see, communication has always been changing, evolving and like many things inexorably pulled in the direction of more efficiency.
Let’s go back to the future, to 2015.
Today I live in world where I can share anything with anyone, from an image that caught my eye in London a couple of weeks ago to a brilliant new album I’ve only heard this week.
But this new social world in which we live is not just about expression of one’s self of course, it’s about the interactions with those with whom I choose to be connect. It’s the value and the worth I get from these connections and the things they share.
By way of my connections, my awareness grows, my knowledge grows, my value grows…
All because of the efficiency of the method of communication. Smaller. Faster. More easily distributed. More transient. Communication has become micronised.
What do I mean by “micronisation”?
In the biological or pharmaceutical world’s, micronisation is the process of making solid substances significantly smaller, often to the point of microns. For years micronisation has been an essential part of delivering efficiencies in food and drug preparation.
Today we see market forces and rapid technological change, which have accelerated during Web 2.0 over the last ten years, driving similar micronisation processes within many parts of the business world.
Micronisation has been pulverising big clunky structural processes ever since.
These forces have driven efficiencies throughout business. Eschewing the large and immobile, in favour of the lean, nimble and efficient.
What are the market forces which are “micronising” communications between us all?
The human race is rewiring itself in terms of how we speak to and engage one another.
Increasingly we don’t write letters to people or send these to each other anymore.
We don’t even use email as much these days. Why? Because email’s not efficient.
It’s not just email which is inefficient every day that goes by we are finding our own language and vocabulary is not as efficient as we’d like it to be.
In fact, the very essence of our language and writing is transforming. Our lexicon is changing everyday.
We’re abbreviating words like never before, This is one of my “favs” And we’re generating countless acronyms as well to drive efficiency in language, you know, when things are Too Long To Read.
Sometimes we’re creating entirely new words, and potentially new languages.
This is an example of Leet, which is a way to render words in ASCII character. If you’re not familiar, this is a way to spell out “newbie” or one who is a new at something.
Often we’ll choose not to bother with words at all. We’ll stick to just punctuation.
Or we even use graphical representations like emoticons to express what we’re feeling.
The new, shorter and abbreviated ways of speaking are fundamentally changing how we communicate with one another.
And before we dismiss this as a fad or a trend, may I remind you that “LOL” actually entered the Oxford English Dictionary four years ago back in 2011.
Humans are now doing a better job of exchanging and communicating their emotions, which itself is a basic human need as our brains increasingly crave efficiency.
We are using this evolving language to chat like never before. Tech consultancy Deloitte predicted that last year there would be 300 billion instant messages sent in the UK alone last year versus only 140 billion sent via the more traditional SMS.
Globally, Facebook has more than 500 million active users of its standalone Messenger app.
WhatsApp has 700 million users. Apple doesn’t break out its numbers, but it can be safely assumed that they too have hundreds of millions of users of iMessages.
A huge number of those chats are now grouped together. Group chat is surging in popularity. This trend is growing so much so that in November, Facebook launched a standalone Groups Apps. And Apple launched Group functionality last summer.
Why did these tech giants do this? They were responding to the consumers’ demand for efficiency.
Everyone’s a photographer these days. Every single day people upload more than 350 million photos to Facebook. It’s not just about pretty sunsets on Instagram, either.
We are using our cameras for random shots like note taking & reminders, comparison shopping, self improvement or for some applying their makeup although not in my case!
Video use is more popular than ever. YouTube remains one of the most visited sites in the world.
Two weeks ago Facebook reported that the number of video posts per person has sky-rocketed 75% in the last year. For a company with more than a billion users, I find that to be an amazing data point.
Since June, Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day, with 65% of these being viewed on a mobile device.
And of course, the vast majority of these videos are short. In Ofcom’s recent report on the UK Communications Market, they reported that British adults are squeezing over 11 hours worth of communications and media activity into less than 9 available hours.
In other words, we’re becoming more adept at multitasking and therefore significantly more efficient.
So, what are the repercussions for the enterprise?
Should a large corporate entity embrace micronisation? And in fact, does the modern enterprise have any choice?
Internal communications, like language itself, is being restructured.
Commands from on high are now augmented by communication from below. The chatter from the ground floor is now widely distributed throughout the organisation, and if it’s not supported by the company’s internal communication platforms, then that chatter migrates elsewhere.
Hefty manuals and documents are written but never read and are usually out of date by the time they’re published.
Structured, vertical organisations of old are now being replaced by flattened collaborative dynamic organisations. Ideas, proposals and decisions are being disseminated as quickly as the sender wants them to be.
And feedback by the recipients of these communications are responding, commenting on them and modifying them in lightning speed.
Everyone in the workplace will be connected. What does this look like in today’s enterprise?
Check out this guy: 30 year old, Tyrel Oates of Portland Oregon, who emailed his boss for a raise and copied in 200,000 of his colleagues. Everyone will know everything immediately. Employees are expecting to know good and bad news as quickly as everyone else in an organisation does.
This is driving honesty and transparency throughout the enterprise. Group chat will be the norm, across teams, departments and cross functional units. There will be no barriers to communication. Not physical, geographical, nor hierarchical.
Collaboration will allow for communication throughout the organisation, and especially from the ground up. But one the more important aspects of the micronisation of communications in the workforce is increased engagement.
More rapid and more fragmented communications = more engagement.
Engagement can be measured in transactions. The number of times in which employees interact with one another internally. Be that a comment or chat, or simply a “like”.
More engagement = more commitment and participation in the achievement of a higher goal
More engagement = a happier workforce as they derive more value and meaning from their work
Happines s at work will bring more success to the enterprise. Smaller and smaller communications, notifications and alerts of the future will become ambient and this trend is due to accelerate in the next few years.
This picture was taken last week by one of our colleagues. She was walking around the Louvre and her Nintendo DS and it was helping her navigate around the museum. Certain talks were activated when she walked by various pieces of art.
You’ll see a lot more of this kind of ambient intelligence in the enterprise in the years ahead.
What’s all this mean for the future of the enterprise?
We’re becoming living, breathing, thinking corporate organisations with amplified intelligence.
Through our associations, our connectedness, we are becoming more thought like. We’ll know more than ever before what our colleagues are feeling and how they are reacting to things.
Our corporate actions are resembling the way we think as individuals. As a result, companies will become less structured and stilted. More relaxed and reactive. More nimble and flexible.
Dare I say it, more human. The future enterprise with amplified collective intelligence will have better: Micronised Communications. Speed. Engagement. Problem Solving. Knowledge.
The fusion of micronised communications with massive processing power and big data resources will revolutionise the enterprise in the next few years.
The 750th anniversary of Parliament I thought I’d leave the future and turn the clocks back 750 years.
This week saw the UK celebrate the 750th anniversary of its Parliament at Westminster.
This chap here, Simon De Montford a Frenchman it should be pointed out had seized power from King Henry III at the Battle of Lewes in 1264. In order to consolidate his power SDM as I like to refer to him in his abbreviated and micronised version invited knights, clergyman and burgesses from across the country to what was effectively the very first gathering of “Commons”, the predecessor of the House of Commons.
SDM not only unwittingly ushered in a transformation of government with representative politics, but arguably he also initiated the micronisation of power and communications in the UK by doing so moving it from one leader to many nascent parliamentarians with different points of view.
These micronisation forces are the very ones which are allowing us to work at the speed of change today and, soon enough, thought itself.
Thank you very much!