Dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies’ ef­fects will be sub­tle, not ex­plo­sive

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - REPORT ON BUSINESS | CAREERS - Vice-pres­i­dent, Box Canada IAN PHILLPOT

There’s been a lot of spec­u­la­tion and anx­i­ety about the im­pact that dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies will have on the fu­ture of the work force. The spec­u­la­tion is fair – tech­nol­ogy will have a dra­matic im­pact on the way we work, even 20 to 30 years from now, and no­body knows for cer­tain what the fu­ture might look like. How­ever, the anx­i­ety around the im­pact, and rhetoric that goes along with it, is un­war­ranted.

The im­pact of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, the cloud and other dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies will be much sub­tler than naysay­ers sug­gest. Tech­nol­ogy will be­come our co-worker, not our over­lord – sup­ple­ment­ing our cur­rent work force and re­fo­cus­ing ex­ist­ing jobs. In­stead of spend­ing count­less hours do­ing man­ual jobs such as data en­try, peo­ple will be able to fo­cus on think­ing more crit­i­cally and cre­atively. Canada, in par­tic­u­lar, is reap­ing the ben­e­fits of the grow­ing adop­tion of tech­nol­ogy and is at the fore­front of this gen­er­a­tional shift. A 2016 re­port from the Brook­field In­sti­tute found that the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try con­trib­uted more than $117-bil­lion to the Cana­dian econ­omy. De­mand for AI jobs alone has in­creased by 500 per cent in Canada, ac­cord­ing to In­deed.com. With all this ex­cit­ing ac­tiv­ity hap­pen­ing in Canada, now is the time to em­brace tech­nol­ogy rather than fear it.

It’s no se­cret that a work­place cul­ture that fos­ters open­ness leads to em­ploy­ees who are not only more en­gaged, but also more ca­pa­ble of work­ing closely to­gether – bring­ing down si­los and lead­ing to great ideas.

The fu­ture of work is al­ready here – and it is built on col­lab­o­ra­tion.


When we talk about dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy, we of­ten talk in mas­sive terms, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on the in­cre­men­tal and sub­tle changes that af­fect the work force. Rather than a dra­matic up­heaval, this tech­nol­ogy is in­tro­duc­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of tools that’s chang­ing the way em­ploy­ees are con­nect­ing with one an­other by en­hanc­ing their di­a­logue and sim­pli­fy­ing their com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods. We are al­ready see­ing how these tools are chang­ing the way em­ploy­ees con­duct their day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties.

Whether its doc­u­ment shar­ing, co-cre­ation or en­hanced search through com­puter-vi­sion tech­nol­ogy, we are see­ing how seem­ingly nor­mal tools are be­ing im­proved by com­bin­ing cloud and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. En­ter­prises gen­er­ate vast amounts of data, and these tools can make it eas­ier to view and an­a­lyze this con­tent. Em­ploy­ees will be­come more ef­fi­cient by spend­ing less time search­ing for files and be­come more pro­duc­tive by stream­lin­ing the edit­ing process to cut down on count­less rounds of re­vi­sions.

Hav­ing greater ac­cess and con­trol over con­tent will em­power em­ploy­ees and keep them mo­ti­vated, es­pe­cially when their or­ga­ni­za­tions are will­ing to com­mit to a sys­tem of in­no­va­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion. These are ex­cit­ing and pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments for any busi­ness, yet it’s not what comes to mind when most peo­ple think about dis­cussing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy. These in­no­va­tions are far less fo­cused on tak­ing away jobs, and much more so about im­prov­ing peo­ple’s abil­ity to get the job done.


The ben­e­fits of col­lab­o­ra­tive tech­nol­ogy don’t sim­ply end at in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency, but ex­tend to im­prove the over­all well-be­ing of the work force. A study by Deloitte re­cently found that col­lab­o­ra­tion tools, com­bined with a cul­ture of in­no­va­tion, led to em­ploy­ees who are 34 per cent hap­pier than those work­ing in an en­vi­ron­ment that does not sup­port col­lab­o­ra­tion. They were also 17 per cent more sat­is­fied when they had ac­cess to dig­i­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion tools.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, dig­i­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion tools are a key fac­tor in im­prov­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity, trans­parency with a busi­ness, com­mu­ni­ca­tion among em­ploy­ees and morale within an or­ga­ni­za­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, more col­lab­o­ra­tive tools mean less back-and­forth, fewer face-to-face meet­ings and less travel for work. In­stead, em­ploy­ees can col­lab­o­rate di­rectly within the con­tent. The re­sult? More fo­cus on the task at hand and more time for the things that mat­ter to them.

In ad­di­tion, en­cour­age­ment of col­lab­o­ra­tive tools and an in­no­va­tive cul­ture makes em­ploy­ees feel val­ued and happy, per­pet­u­at­ing a be­lief that the busi­ness sup­ports their pro­fes­sional development. Many em­ploy­ees work­ing with col­lab­o­ra­tive tools also see their or­ga­ni­za­tions as more trans­par­ent and sup­port­ive of a cul­ture of open­ness.

The trans­for­ma­tion we’re see­ing as a re­sult of this dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy is an ex­cit­ing development for our fu­ture work force. We need to put aside the neg­a­tive rhetoric around the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy on our en­ter­prises. The fu­ture should not be feared. There are many op­por­tu­ni­ties for our work force, lead­ing us to be bet­ter at our jobs, not los­ing them al­to­gether. We must em­brace change, look at how this tech­nol­ogy can be used, and en­cour­age a more in­no­va­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive work­place.

Ex­ec­u­tives and hu­man-re­sources ex­perts share their views and ad­vice about lead­er­ship and man­age­ment in the con­tin­u­ing Lead­er­ship Lab se­ries. Find more sto­ries at tgam.ca/ca­reers.

Tech­nol­ogy will be­come our co-worker, not our over­lord – sup­ple­ment­ing our cur­rent work force and re­fo­cus­ing ex­ist­ing jobs.

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