The Internet of Everything
When looking at the four component pillars of the Internet of Everything, people, process, data, and things, a great deal of focus is placed on the “things,” the tools and toys that demonstrate the tangible change from what “was” to what could be.
But there is progress starting to happen on the human side too, most significantly perhaps, in the shift from uniformity to a more personalized approach in everything from onboarding to individual management and feedback styles, thanks in great part to an evolution of technology that has ultimately led to the Internet of Everything.
The most obvious example of the personalization of work might be seen in the BYOD concept, in which employees are now expecting and even demanding to be able to work from their own devices rather than use a company-issued laptop. Although there remain serious and legitimate concerns regarding security and compliance, the integration of personal machinery into the workplace brings along with it a further blending of personal and professional lives, since the same device that contains a work-related file might also be the one that an employee uses to check the current safety/status of her home using an IoE device such as Canary or Piper.
Onboarding, too, is better empowered to switch from having employees thrown into the deep-end during their first two weeks of work, to a more progressive and productive approach. So many new hires tell me stories about sitting alone at their new desk with only a binder of policy papers to refer to, and with the HR person responsible for their guidance away on leave. With the development of smarter smartcards and the introduction of wearables it is possible now for a smart office to deliver timely advice, guidance and directions through access to Wikis, videos or even maps – all designed to not only get a new employee up to speed faster, but to also get him/her engaged and enthusiastic more quickly.
The processes within the IoE make it possible now for employers to discover the other 90% of an employee’s potential – those hidden abilities and aptitudes that never show up on traditional résumés – innate skills that are seldom discovered due to an archaic and overburdened personnel system that relies in large part on personality tests that date back decades, or in the case of Myers-Briggs, almost a century.
Connecting Through Good Communication
How, for example, could a regional manager identify a great candidate who is both willing and able to take on a new and risky project? How might the skills required – leadership, comfort with risk, diligence, delegation, discipline – be truly demonstrated? Social media sites such as Facebook are natural places to discover such abilities, not through overt verbal job titles, but through actual real-life proof. For example, consider an employee who reveals on her Facebook site that she loves to scuba dive and is certified to teach scuba to others. The connection between the ability to lead people through risky behavior in this way might not show up on a traditional personality assessment or performance review, but it is evident in her real life activities.
How about those individuals who are natural communicators? The ones who, for whatever reason, everyone turns to in order to get things done? Not because they are workaholics, but because they have a natural ability to network, to put people in touch with other people, to move, shake and make things happen? Technology that identify these types of people as well as fostering the same types of connective behavior in others will strongly assist in breaking down silos and enhancing the productivity and profitability potential of a company or department.
Thirdly, what about those people whose skillsets are complementary and whose synergy – if only they could find each other and talk – could create that better mousetrap that their employer has been seeking? There is real-world evidence of this type of matchmaking through sites such as Innocentive, an outsourcing/crowdsourcing/innovation hatchery that has already brought forth improvements in design, manufacture and marketing for a wide range of products and companies. The right combinations of people should never be left to chance. In many cases these people are already working for you. But the deep connection has not yet been made. The trick is not to wait for them to meet by accident in the cafeteria, but to identify and locate complementary skillsets through the soft data available online, found by building databases of actions and aptitudes that stretch beyond traditional black and white job descriptions.
Flagship Tools – Internet of Everything
To illustrate this point, consider one of the flagship tools of the Internet of Everything: Nest, the intelligent thermostat and the intelligent smoke alarm, both of which learn the particulars of the house in which they reside and speak both to the human occupants and to other appliances in order to best carry out their duties in a tailored fashion. This type of intelligent data gathering occurs in people’s homes. It can be available in-office also. A single example might be in an analyzing the propensity of certain people to choose texting, email or face-to-face communications as their preferred method of interaction. By building profiles based on preferred actions, a new age of team-building and internal cohesion could be engineered.
The final point to be made here is that of the full integration of work and life. As opposed to balance, it is now becoming a blend. Old-school attitudes that expect total focus for hours at a time (something that never really happens) are slowly being replaced by a more practical notion that if people are allowed to work in-line with their own specific attention spans, punctuated by 2 or three minute “databreaks” to check personal email, check the status of the house, and obtain a snack as proscribed by a nutrition app, the quality of output actually increases. In other words the Internet of Everything allows human beings to work, interact and produce in a fashion that actually fits their personal and physiological abilities, while better serving the objectives of the company.
These changes are happening slowly, but the pace of progress is being hamstrung not by the scarcity of available technology anymore, but by long-held approaches to work, discipline and loyalty that existed for the age of the typewriter. When a CEO wonders why his/her company has not made the list of the best places to work for, or why the churn rate of employees or customers is so high, s/he might do well to observe just how this elegant blending of people, processes, data and things could attain a new level of excellence simply by leveraging and embracing the human talent and dedication that already exists, but has been hitherto so very hard to pinpoint.
By Steve Prentice