Friday, 4 January 2013

x-y coordination

It's that time of year when I try to get bit organised, and have grand plans and aspirations. Inspired by  the Weekly Blog Club celebrated in a recent great post by Dan Slee I'm going to try to write more here. And as part of the process of getting organised I'll start by finishing and publishing a number of half written posts lurking in various spaces across the chaotic system that serves as places I shove electronic files. (I'm in the process of bringing order to that chaos, and starting to understand the beauty of Evernote.) So here's a post I drafted in August having read an article called The Millenials by Tamara Erickson in the Summer 2012 RSA journal

It is about ways that members of Generation Y are transforming the way we work, with their technological proficiency, aptitude for teamwork and willingness to embrace multiple perspectives.

Having been born in 1975, I think I pretty much have to accept that I am one of Generation X, not one of the Millenials. However I was struck by how much I think I'm struggling with the same things that Tamara suggests the Millenials, or Generation Y, are changing. She suggested that: 

They are redrawing the line between what is institutional and what is personal, raising questions about which applications can be used during traditional work hours and what access to external sites will be allowed from internal machines. Over time, they will push us to remove the barriers; the boundaries will disappear. At some point, corporations will no longer provide employees with computers and mobile phones; their employees will simply plug in the ones that they already own.

Working at Brewsmiths coffee shop today
Thankfully I work in an organisation without daft restrictions to social networking sites and other web 2.0 platforms, so I can use them powerfully to benefit my work. However I still face the question 'when do you have time to do this?' from colleagues who don't use online to enhance offline, and haven't blurred that boundary between what is work and what is personal. 

I am already plugging in the devices I already own. I'm a year into having an iPad and wouldn't like to go to a meeting or event without it (you never know what you might want to look up). And increasingly my PC sits on my desk with the power off as I plug in my MacBook to work more quickly and easily than I can using cumbersome Windows programmes, and to produce more beautiful documents. I tried using Word once this week for 30 minutes. It crashed. I save my work to Dropbox, I forget to back up to the server (it feels archaic, and exclusive - how can my colleagues in the council or in other places and organisations access stuff I save on our server?). 

I think (hope) that I also have this characteristic of folk younger than me: Ys select and use technology to make their lives easier, both inside and outside the workplace. They manage technology – and its role in their lives – in ways that are helpful and productive, whereas for many adults, it can seem intrusive or anxiety-producing.
And I now share this way of working with Generation Y folk: Using new technology to support them, Ys have become highly accomplished at ‘time shifting’: doing things when it is most convenient, rather than when they are scheduled to occur. As a result, fixed work hours will eventually disappear, replaced by a focus on achieving a specified result by a particular date, regardless of how time is managed within that span. I can't wait for this day - hurry up Millenials!
Tamara got me thinking with this: Ys are expert at multitasking and are quick to make the most of the rapid-fire information that characterises today’s world. They also tend to be good at coordinating, as opposed to planning or scheduling. They will bring this practice to the workplace and, for a number of activities, it will prove more efficient and agile.
I'm definitely don't rely on or stick rigidly to schedules or plans, rather I use them loosely to give some structure, which enables others to have sense of a what and a rough when. And then as new learning emerges, and context and focus changes my rough plans evolve. I think I'd rather have co-ordinating as a strength if it's OK to have that and be less good at planning. And if these things are the case then - brilliant:

Ys perform tasks collaboratively, sharing information openly and solving problems through communal wisdom. Bringing ideas together is an essential component of the innovation required for today’s competitive environment, and Ys tend to do it well.
... Ys tend to play by network rules. As the cost of communication decreases, businesses are becoming part of a complex network. The rule of network economics is that open systems – those that allow others to play – are the ones that win. Ys will encourage us to develop strategies based on the principle of allowing all participants to benefit from the transaction.
Tamara states that Ys are heavily dependent on peer networks to identify the best, most trusted sources of information. I think I'm in this place now, the people I follow on twitter are amazing filters for me.
And I hope that I can be part of a group of people who know how to build their own reputations as both knowledgeable sources and insightful reviewers. I think there are a lot of people out there who are a bit older who have pioneered some of the changes described in the RSA article, I wonder if they too feel impatient and want these new, younger, thinkers to start to occupy more spaces so that traditional ways of working really shift. In the meantime, I might just try to turn 30 again!

Image credit: by Merlin2525 from Open Clip Art Library
This post is written with a huge amount of appreciation to the many brilliant people (perhaps mostly Generation Xers) who have encouraged, inspired and supported me to learn how work in these different ways over the last three years. They include Sophie Ballinger, Toby Blume, Nick BoothDavid Wilcox, Paul WebsterSal Hampson, Dan SleeAndy Mabbett and John Popham.


  1. Thanks Lorna for demonstrating even more brilliantly how to take new tools and ways of working and blending them with hard-learned lessons of community development

  2. Good work, Lorna. Think 2013 is going to be a big year for you -and digital - in Dudley...

  3. Hi David, Andy and Dan

    Thanks for your comments. It does keep occurring to me, David, that lots of things which are a bit obvious in community development seem to be popping up in different areas. Sometimes community development feels so dated, and at others ahead of it's time - now that other things are catching up and applying new frameworks and thinking.

    Dan, ooh, I like your confidence. Do you know something about digital in Dudley that I don't? You are probably right about me - so many exciting and interesting things going on and good news arriving in just the first 5 working days of 2013. I am so excited I may well pop!

  4. Love this post and will definitely be including it in my post about the benefits of Weekly Blog Club. I think that age doesn't have to define how we respond to changes - although it often can - and perhaps technology will help diminish those barriers (Kindle has been a godsend for my grandma, who can't normally read print.

    Also, big thanks for reminding me about Evernote. I'll be using it soon :)