I’m writing this from the IBM Connect conference in Orlando where one of the big topics of discussion is collaboration and the future of work, both topics I am very passionate about. What I’m about to say might sound harsh but it’s true and it’s something that IBM and
every other vendor and conference producer needs to hear. One of the things that I found most ironic at the IBM event is that a bunch of “old” people were talking about the future of work and the future workforce. It’s ironic because nobody from this future workforce was present at the conference. Now again, I know that might sound a bit harsh but that doesn’t make it any less true. How can we be talking about the future of work and the future workforce and how can we be building products for this so called future workforce when they are not present at the events? It makes no sense. I hate to say it but the future workforce is in their teens and twenties not in their fifties.
It’s not just IBM, I see this time and time again. We keep talking about the future and the “future” is not involved in the conversations, in the designs and development of the products, or in any of the discussions around how the future of work is going to change. Instead we have people who are going to be retiring soon who are leading all of these discussions. This doesn’t mean that the ideas are bad or that the are wrong, it just means that when this workforce retires we are going to be back to square one!
The simple idea is this, if we want to talk about the future of work and the future worker, then guess what, these people need to be present at the discussions. Every company I look at it whether it be IBM, SAP, Salesforce, or anyone else; has an “old” person as the face of the future of work and collaboration (or social business or whatever else you want to cal it), and it’s typically a person that has been at the company for many years (sometimes decades!) Why? What kind of a future is that? Where is the twenty something year old who is actually the future workforce? Sometimes these conferences honestly feel like an older generation of people getting together as a support group letting each other know that everything is going to be “ok.”
It’s just a bit of a mixed message don’t you think?