Technology has changed the world. From the printing press to Facebook, technology has changed the way we view and interact with the world. As leaders, we must strategically implement technologies that improve our organizations and help our Associates understand and embrace those changes.
In order to select the appropriate technologies for their particular organizations, leaders must filter through tons of information and opinions to find relevant data. They must find trusted advisors that can assist with that daunting task, helping to identify technology that will improve their organizations. As Clay Shirky noted in his book, leaders must pick the right tool for the job. Just because a new technology is flashy or sexy doesn’t mean it will improve an organization. New technologies can be transformational to organizations, but only if they solve a need, can be embraced by the Associates and enhance the organizational culture.
The role of the organization in their Associates’ lives has also changed. In the last 50 years, men and women marry later and have fewer children. Many families live in suburban areas and both spouses work outside the home. Because of these changes, less socialization occurs in the neighborhood and organizations now provide a greater source of social interactions and activities. Because people are naturally social creatures, leaders have an opportunity to provide social opportunities for their Associates, creating a sense of social acceptance and collaboration at work. Gallup research has shown this improves employee engagement with their employers and provides a vital human need for Associates.
Technology can enable social collaboration in organizational environments, allowing leaders to source more input and participation from disparate groups. These interdisciplinary teams were difficult to create before technology enabled easy collaboration among people in different locations, industries and professions and leaders can leverage these advances to improve decision-making. Sustaining such disparate teams can be challenging, so leaders must establish a clear and strong vision that unites the team and sustains the team dynamics through inevitable conflict.
Leaders can learn several lessons from Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system. Torvalds did not set out to create a world-class operating system, he simply wanted to build a new and efficient kernel with online contributors. Incremental improvements over time by a diverse group of people have since made Linux a world-class operating system. Small changes are important and less daunting than huge organizational change. Leaders that make small course corrections immediately will see their changes add up over time as they find the correct path to take. Leaders that expand their pool of talent through the advances of technology and collaboration tools will take advantage of outstanding ability, regardless of location. And leaders that can motivate others to contribute to projects for the greater good instead of individual benefit will change the world.