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Recently, I had an issue with my phone connection at home – no phone line, no internet access for 10 days. It felt horrible. Even though I have a mobile smart phone, I heavily rely on ‘my internet’ on the laptop/desktop computer. I don’t like to work on the small screen of the mobile phone.

I was not able to:

  • Work from home
  • Search for the cooking time of my roast meal (I am not experienced in roasts)
  • Search for a hotel for the celebration of the upcoming 80th birthday of my mother
  • Stay connected with my (virtual) friends in the beading world forum
  • And so on…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you imagine how happy I was when the phone/internet finally came back?

 

This lack of access made me think about a couple of topics.

When I was a kid (and that is something like 40 years ago) not everybody was having even a landline telephone and people survived – and I feel completely lost without the phone/internet connection.

  • When did that change happen?
  • What is it, that I am really missing?
  • And what does it mean to the business context?

When did that change happen?

Well, I don’t think there is a real answer to that – for some, this change has not yet happened (and will probably not happen anymore – e.g. my 79-year-old mother). And others grew up with it and have never made the experience without internet (like my teenage kid).

I can only answer the question for myself – for me, this change came, when I saw more advantages than disadvantages in the usage of this technology. When I use the analogy of a landline phone – I would miss it at the time, when I enjoy more to be able to call someone or being called be someone that I find it disturbing, that people expect me to call them or I am feeling obliged to answer the ringing phone, even if I am just taking a shower.

Since I am enjoying the benefits of handy access to information more than feeling overwhelmed by the richness of information – I really feel that phone/internet is a good thing for me personally.

 

What is it, that I am really missing?

I was missing the easy access to information mainly. When not being able to use the internet for information – I got aware how often I am doing it on a normal day. Sitting in front of the tv and doing a search on a specific actor (because I thought I have seen him in a recent movie but can’t remember which one it was) – not being sure about the cooking time for the roast (quick search will answer my question) – supporting my mother with information to help her organize the celebration… The list seems to be endless. I could find out most of the things in a different way – but definitely not that easy. So I was mainly missing the easy access (I guess this shows that I am a lazy person).

But the other thing that I missed was definitely the wisdom of the crowd. It feels good to take a look at a couple of recipes and decide based on different experiences, what cooking time to choose. It feels good to take a look at a couple of blogs and ratings to give my mother some hints on where to look for a nice venue…

And the third dimension – I was missing the social interaction with friends that are sharing the same weird hobby (beading). In the weekday evenings, it is challenging to personally interact with my friends – but a chat on the forum or a look at their latest postings with new work is still possible. So I was missing the pleasure of having contact with friends.

 

So far – so good – this made me think about the conclusion I can get out of this personal experiences in a business context.

When did the change in business world towards a digital world take place?

As in the personal context, I guess there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer. Some businesses are born digital and other will not be digital and the next decade. For many businesses, I have made the observation, that they are somewhere between 30 and 70 % digital. Some processes and areas are already – some are not. Some processes start ‘analog’ and continue digital or the other way round. And sometimes there may be very good reasons for exactly this status, but mostly it seems rather accidental, on where the line between the analog and the digital world is.

So I would like to encourage process architects to mentally play the thought of a world without access to our modern information systems and a world fully digitally enabled. What would be missed in the world without? What would be not appreciated in the ‘full-blown’ version?

This would allow to draw conclusions on the next topic – what would we miss (or what could we potentially miss)?

Again taking the analogy of my personal experience – I missed my own convenience most. I wanted to have back the easy access to information. In digitization projects, this could be one of the guiding questions: Where would a digital enablement make the lives of people more convenient? And where would it just add another level of complexity that is not desirable? It is not about adding and adding – it is simplifying. In my eyes, something is perfect, if you can’t take anything else away.

And the information added to the process should be of help, like the ‘wisdom-of-the-crowd’ knowledge I am using in cooking. So this would lead to the next question in a digitization project. What kind of knowledge can we use to improve the information we are having? What are e.g. the sources within our company that we should consider?

And the third area I was missing – the social and fun part of it. You may say – what does this have to do with a business context? I am convinced that people are coming as humans to work and part of being human is being a social creature and to seek pleasure. And it would certainly add a lot of motivation if these aspects of humans could be reflected especially in digitization projects. Digitization projects usually create a lot of fear and sceptics. People are wondering if their work environment will become more and more unhuman and technical. So offering people an answer to these type of concerns will help to implement a digital process where it has not been before.

 

So my conclusion out of this (horrible) experience without phone and internet is, that is worth to re-think the meaning of having access to it – where are the real benefits and where can we add more of these benefits?

And last but not least – where is it time to also re-think what can be cancelled? (In my case it was an online game that eats a lot of time…)

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2 Comments

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  1. Jennifer Scholze

    interesting experience – one you don’t want to repeat!   I find my self telling my kids all the time to find something else to do with their free time other than jumping on some electronic device.  They are one extreme.  But I agree access to information and the community aspects to technology are now so important to all of us.  The key as you point out is finding that balance – using technology for what it is best for and also carving out time for the natural world and face to face contact.

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  2. Stefan Weisenberger

    Interesting and eye-opening indeed.
    On the other hand, in this days of “lent”, this can be also an experience of calmness and clarity – if you plan for it, and intend to get off the grid.

    Sometimes I change workplace, move to the university library (quiet and no phone), or to our own company cafeteria in another floor, to focus on one task. Different surroundings plus off the grid – this has often proven to be a recepy for new ideas & insights, at least for me.

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