Collaboration – what next?

Notes from a ‘LIKE’ Meeting, November 2013

Thought provocation is a great thing.  The LIKE meeting I attended offered this, with a title: the Future of Collaboration.  The speaker took the unusual line of asking the audience to provide ideas, so we could not just sit back and passively wait for pearls of wisdom.  The result was a very interactive and delightful session.  Given that there is no ‘story’  to tell about the future, our ideas as they grew  from the speaker’s helpful prompts, made for an interesting evening.

My mind came away focused on one issue that is frequently raised. Can we collaborate well without face to face meetings?  People usually assert that this is the best and most effective way to communicate.  But if we are talking about the future, it is not good enough to consider the matter through the lens of current technology.  What would we need to make ‘Skype’ type communication as good as the real thing?  What currently are the missing ingredients?  Smell?  Touch?  A mysterious sense of how the person is feeling that cannot be read from a screen? Just as ten years ago, it would have been hard to predict the present, with its multiplicity of mobile devices, music downloads, sat navs and the extraordinary range of aps that we now take for granted.

Can we imagine a future where conferencing with people miles away is as complete as meeting them face to face?  Some form of smell infused, touchy-feely holograms!  Future gazing seems in part to depend on the power of our imaginations. Where technology has moved in recent times seems to ensure that even a few years on, the changes will be astounding…

That of course, was my personal preoccupation.  We also considered the impact of ‘milleniums’, the children ‘born digital’ or rather, born when technology changes have become part of their lives from the day they were born.  How will expectations of the workplace change as young people who can’t imagine life without Facebook, Google and Twitter begin to have a significant impact?  As baby boomers leave the management roles they now dominate, how will the workplace change?  The speaker offered us the idea of the workplace with no headquarters and people meeting at ‘co-worker’ spaces as needs arise.

Or a world with no universities because the brightest young people see no need to run up huge debts when all the knowledge they need is available via the web, in terms of courses, documents, and subject experts, accessible through on-line communities.   How much of that will materialise?  What other changes that currently seem so unlikely will come true?

The idea  of self managing work and education are inspiring.  Other ideas point to potential disaster.  Text analysis which allows everything we write or say on line to be monitored.  Potential systems for applying creepy behavioural change.  Will we stay aware and fight back if the ‘powers that be’ start to use technology advance to control and subjugate us?  The current revelations from NSA and the world of espionage, is not encouraging.  So we all need to consider ways of helping build a future that moves in a life enhancing way.  Information and Knowledge professionals will have a pivotal role to play.

All in all, it was a mind-stretching evening, but helped along by food, drink and good company.  Altogether, another successful LIKE evening!

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