Mutterings of a consultant

July 31, 2008

Demise of the knowledge worker

Filed under: Uncategorized — grantfrear @ 11:22 pm
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Well maybe not a complete demise but most certainly a geographic shift.  I have recently picked up Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind.  This book presents an argument for the growing importance of right brain dominated activity in the workplace.  Not all workplaces it must be said but those of advanced economies (which seems to be a polite way of saying 1st world or the western countries).

As others have done (see Dream Society) Pink reflects on the past ‘ages’ in our society and the dominant way that we as workers added value and participated in society.  While there is nothing new here he does communicate this analysis very well.  In summary (bullet points of course):

  • Starts with agricultural dominating our lives – physical labour is king
  • Along comes the industrial revolution – people move off the land thanks to machines and technology
  • However the machines need to be produced – off we go into the factories
  • Factories become increasingly automated (thanks again technology) and seek lower wage economies to remain competitive
  • Hello asia – off we go into the offices
  • Logical reasoning dominates, management, organisation, structure, information processing rules – hello accountants, consultants, analysts, lawyers, managers etc etc
  • Along comes technology again in the form of computers – jobs are automated, communications improves and things start to shift again
  • Hello asia (again) – the white collar jobs start moving to India in the form of offshoring

Back to current day.  This is in effect where we are up to in this ongoing and evolving story.  So where to next, we simply can’t fight machines, while our brains are the most complex thing we are aware of they can’t seem to compete with the speed and accuracy of a computer on pure logical tasks.  Furthermore for those logical repeatable tasks that cannot be automated asia beckons with a substantially cheaper workforce.

Enter Daniel Pink and many others.  Pink argues that we are coming near the end of left brain dominated activites (those that are structured, linear, repeatable etc) and we are on the cusp of right brain dominated activities (those that are creative, non-linear, conceptual etc). 

He and others make a compelling argument however one is left wondering how one can take an active role in this transition.  For myself and many others the left brain dominated approach is deeply ingrained, trained and rewarded.  The modern workplace, or at least the one I work in, provides strong signals that this approach is valued and rewarded.  Achievement, structure, progress, delivery, output.  Swimming against the left brain dominated status-quo will indeed be difficult.  If Pink and others are correct we will have little choice.  Perhaps NZ is somewhat more isolated to the affects of offshoring (at least at the moment) however in the globalised world we live in we will have little chance but to follow the crowds to asia for those areas that are left brain dominated and affect our ability to compete.

July 13, 2008

A rant on the use of inner, the word

Filed under: General rambling — grantfrear @ 8:55 pm
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This is from a book titled ‘Is it just me or is everything shit?’

There was once presumably a time when the word ‘inner’ just referred to things that were not ‘outer’.  A bicycle’s ‘inner tube’ was the ring of rubber that nestled snugly inside the outer rubber tyre.  The bicycle never had to discover its inner tube, or nurture its inner tube, or even explore the cosmic dimensions of its inner tube.  It was just an inner tube.

But something happened and the word ‘inner’ started implying a righteous quest towards the glowing centre of ones glorious self.

July 12, 2008

New Zealand’s Future

Filed under: General rambling — grantfrear @ 7:55 am
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I was recently sent an article by Rod Oram that discussed scenarios for New Zealand’s futures.  The format of the presentation which is based on research from Landcare was a little off putting at first however the more I read it seemed to get it’s message across efficiently.  In essence four scenarios were developed against two primary variables (resources and our national identity).  These scenarios are presented in the form of a conversation between two people (a little trite but in the end effective).

I reacted quite strongly toward one of the scenarios, ‘the shire’.  I am unsure if this is due to the way that it has been written and the future that is predicted (i.e. does a bias come through from the researchers).  It seems that in further research with the community at large there is a strong tendency for this scenario.  It either speaks to the mindset of New Zealand or it was presented in such a way to lead most people to the same conclusion (or perhaps the other 3 scenarios lead the reader to back to ‘the shire’).

Possibly of more interest however is the research finding illustrating that: 

1.  Where we think we are now and;

2.  Where we think we should be in the future and;

3.  Where we think we are actually heading.

Are all in different segments of the scenario model.  Now I have heard us as a nation described as being somewhat neurotic, perhaps this is all the evidence needed to prove this observation.

If you are interested check out the scenario and follow on research.  Thanks to cheap storage on the web and Google’s desire to still be around in 100 years we should be able to check back in 50 years time and see how things developed.

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