In less than one’s normal lifetime we have experienced computers that filled walls to computers that fills the palm of our hands - a result of a paradigm shift of significant magnitude to mini eruptions.
It actually started about 60 years ago when clunky computers began showing up in workplaces. They were the big machines where numbers were crunched and bits of data were spun out. When Administrators and Systems Directors asked managers what data they wanted, the response was blank looks, or if they did respond the information they required wasn’t available. It was data that was produced where information was required. Computers and their output were a mystery to most office personnel.
In the mid-seventies I traveled to the IBM Research Centre outside of the San Francisco to learn about what might be coming down as we moved forward. That was my first introduction to how computers of the future could assist the business planning process. I was hooked. From that time on I have worked with organizations of all kinds to help them develop business plans, processes and action plans.
Then came the 80s’ when Steve Jobs developed one of the first friendly desktop computers. My first purchase when we opened our consulting and training business in the mid-eighties was a portable Apple IIc computer. By today’s standard it was a small (7.5 lb./3.4 kg) 128kB of Ram computer with basic Excel, Word and drawing capacity. That computer had just as much and often more computing power than the big machines I saw at the IBM research center.
Then society experienced an explosion of computing power. The Internet was starting to get off the ground and we were beginning to work in cyber space. Desktop computers were developed with more capacity, people were linking with other computers, first at the office then at home. The desktops were transforming into laptops. They were heavy but they were portable. And people started connecting back to the office from wherever they were through the internet.
The turn of the century 1999 to 2000 came the big Y2K scare. Computer dates were set to two digits rather than four. Would the computers turn over to the new century or would we witness the greatest crash in all of history? Will financial institutions fail? Will it trigger a world war? Low and behold when we got up on New Year’s day not much had changed except many of us had headaches because of the great parties that we attended the night before.
The next huge shift occurred in 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the first Smart phone – the iPhone. From desktop to laptop to a talking computer in our hand. And for the past 15 years we have witnessed more advancements in the cellphone industry. There are now and estimated over five plus billion cellphone users and for millions of people it has become their computer of choice. People now connect with others all over the world and information is literally at their fingertips.
Along with the advent of the Smart phone came the advancements in social media. Our connections with each other have improved and the way we interact with each other has changed. Some feel for the better and others not so much. Social media has been a blessing and a curse. It has given a platform for people who share information for the ‘good’ of people, while others cater to the underbelly of society and use it as a platform for negativity. Society has yet to come to grips with this new phenomenon to on the one hand to protect people from the harm it causes and on the other to allow people the freedom to speak their truth.
The next paradigm eruption is occurring right before our eyes and has its impetus from the COVID 19 pandemic. Because of COVID 19 offices closed, retail businesses started to fail faster than before the advent of the pandemic, people moved home to work, Google Meet, Zoom, Facetime, WebEx, and other computerized face-to-face platforms came into their own. The cottage industry – or home based business – which started at the turn of the 21rst century with a few courageous individuals now grows at a faster rate than ever before.
People are finding that they can work from home, industry is finding that people can produce from home and business measures work by individual output – the same as before but now different because of distance from the office. Workers are finding that the locus of control has shifted from outside themselves to inside themselves. They are now fully responsible and accountable to get the work done. In the main this too has not changed, but now the minder (read manager) is not hovering over them to motivate, encourage and in some cases prod to get the work done. Workers are now fully responsible and accountable.
Leaders and managers are trying to figure out how the new office will look like. They know that it will not be business as usual once people are called back to work. They know that some of their personnel will want to continue to work from home and that they will need to change the organizational structure, job descriptions, and the way people are organized.
Workers who work from home are also finding they need to meet with co-workers, they miss the socialization and teamwork that an office environment creates, and some just need a break from their home environment. At the same time they like the responsibility, accountability, and flexibility that working from home offers.
So the post pandemic office will change – it will be more people focused, flexible, less top down, more interactive and more loosely structured.
Coupled with the changing nature of the office is a growing homebased business spectrum. People are moving away from being tied to business minders to running their own businesses from home. They are taking their life into their own hands and forging new ways of earning income. Some are creators of digital products, some receive commission by promoting products and services, some are investors in products of services, while still others are finding ways to work part-time out of their home while at the same time work on their own home-based business.
In conclusion what we have experienced in the past sixty years is not one paradigm shift but a series of mini paradigm eruptions. We are now ensconced in the information age where we are conducting ourselves much different than we did in the industrial age. This is the macro paradigm shift. The other shifts that we have and that we are experiencing are micro eruptions within that macro one. We are moving with ever accelerating speed in time. Businesses and work in general needs to adjust with ever increasing flexibility which in turn will demand new ways of coping, responding and respecting each other as we encounter the next waves of change.
Thank you for Reading
Take Care, be safe, and continue becoming the best version of yourself,
Richard P. Fontanie.