How Do We Survive the Digital Age?

Image: Microsoft

I just received eagerly awaited news that my MBA diploma is in the mail. For the last two years I have been almost singularly focused on reading hundreds of pages of cases, writing analyses, completing assignments, and finding time to eat and sleep in my “free time.” A t-shirt I saw recently on a USC MBA student summed it up perfectly. “Eat. Sleep. MBA.” As I emerge from this cave of Harvard case studies, Economist articles, and pages and pages of illegible ink scrawled in notebooks, I ask myself what many graduate students do… “What the hell do I do now?”

Part of that answer may come in my decision to attend the Drucker Forum in Vienna this fall. This year’s topic is, “Claiming our humanity – Managing in the Digital Age.” With fifteen years of professional experience and a lifetime of interest in technology, I am excited to explore our relationship with the silicon that surrounds us. How do we maintain our humanity as IT continues to embed itself in our lives? What is the human performance element that can never be replaced as computers and robots take on more and more of our daily tasks? Does social media and interconnectedness over the Internet actually make us or more less connected to each other?

These questions matter. They affect real people and real workplaces.

Some of this may seem highly philosophical or purely academic, but it actually impacts our lives. I recently had the opportunity to take part in a very honest, open discussion about the future of work with some co-workers. The question arose of jobs that would no longer be relevant in the future. A tearful, older woman realized that her administrative job was already becoming irrelevant. Technology has allowed those that she supports to do much of their own administrative work faster than they could relay their instructions to her. She fights to remain relevant. And she is not alone.

These questions matter. They affect real people and real workplaces. The lean, innovative tech companies of Silicon Valley may not care. They already embrace many of the popular 21st century work habits they themselves helped create. But these companies make up only a small percentage of all the organizations and workers in the world. Sexy tech firms get all the press, but their culture cannot be easily transposed onto other organizations, especially larger companies in more regulated industries.

So, given that the vast majority of companies and organizations in the world are not in or anywhere near San Francisco and that, thankfully, we are not all engineers and programmers (I shudder at the thought of a world with even more of them!), what does all this mean for work, technology, and people in the Digital Age?

This is the question I will attempt to address over the next few months. Leading up to, during, and after this year’s Drucker Forum in November, this site will be dedicated to exploring what it means to be human and to be an employee in a world that is constantly changing due to technological innovation. Most importantly, I will try to explore how we can all learn to survive and remain relevant in the Digital Age.