Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Rethinking normal 7: when my normal is different than yours, and yours than mine 4

This is my seventh installment to a series on change, and more specifically about our understanding of what is normal, and how normal and assumable change (see Reexamining the Fundamentals, Section III for other postings to this series.) And this is my fourth posting within this series to consider how a sufficiently rapid pace of change as it determines and defines normal, can create societal friction that limits itself as if through a self-breaking effect (see Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.)

I have, in Parts 4-6 of this series, discussed several contexts where this friction takes place, and where it has overall, society-affecting impact. And I discussed have and have-not countries and their communities and economies, and cultural and religious differences insofar as they differentially shape change-acceptance, with the impact that brings as to how understandings of normal diverge. I finish my discussion of friction and its role in this larger discussion of normal and how it differs and changes here, with a context that arises very significantly within the most technologically and economically developed countries – and particularly for them:

• The emergence of generational and other divides, and even within more online connected countries and societies, and with this coming from both access barriers and from early versus late adaptor comfort levels – where late enough means never catching up and in fact means falling further and further behind.

There are a number of approaches that I could take here, starting perhaps with my own attempts to convince my own father to use a computer that I bought for him and set up for his ease of use, so he could email with and share photos with his grandchildren. He grew up in an age when no one had a personal computer and when even large corporations did not have them either. He wanted to stay in closer touch with family but he never was able to cross the adaptation barrier separating him from achieving this longed-for goal.

That and similar stories have affected and continue to affect many families, and particularly in countries where younger generations use and expect to use very different technologies than their elders do, and where the children of those younger generations hold very different visions of what is normal and expected than their parents, let alone their grandparents, in accordance with that.

The primary source of working examples that I would explore here, is in how technology change has impacted on employability and particularly for older workers. We live in a world where normal increasingly means being computer literate and with minimal requirements for being computer literate changing rapidly. We live in a world and certainly in more developed countries where normal means ubiquitously connected and comfortable with a wide range of interfaces into this larger emerging cyber-context. And large numbers of older members of society, and for both economic and age-related reasons find themselves on the outside of new job development and employment into the new types of jobs that are emerging. And many even face barriers to entry into newer iterations of the types of work that they have already been doing and even throughout their careers, because they lack the hands-on computer skills needed to compete successfully for job openings or to effectively complete current work requirements as their jobs and job requirements evolve.

• The faster the pace of this technology change, the easier it becomes to fall behind, and certainly for anyone who faces any barriers to access this rapidly emerging New, and on an ongoing basis.
• And as the basic and assumed technology context that we live in changes, so does our understanding of what is normal, and of what we simply assume as basic.
• Following through on my older worker example, consider the increasingly common situation where a hiring manager’s understanding of normal and expected for technology fluency and connectedness differs from that of potential older hires they might interview. When this difference becomes great enough it becomes all but impossible for older workers to even get past the initial screening steps in a candidate search to get to meet this hiring manager. And for some key working age demographics, this is even helping to drive the discrepancy between business recovery and growth, and employment recovery and growth – and with very significant impact.

I explicitly wrote about some of the issues that I raise here in 2011 with my posting Mapping and Understanding Unemployment and the Jobs Market – the US Dept. of Labor JOLTS report 2011 (where JOLTS stands for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Statistics.) I update that here by citing the newest such report to come out of the US Department of Labor at least of this writing: the 2013 JOLTS Report.

• Technological change enables and empowers and connects, but it also divides and disempowers, and for anyone left out and for whatever reason.
• Successful technology development has to be designed and implemented with inclusiveness of access as a core priority.
• And that can only begin with technology and a search for technology solutions per se, as my postings on adaptation resistance and friction, and the consequences of that touch upon.

I am going to continue this discussion looking forward, with thoughts of change to come and both in the information and communications technology that we have and use, and on its impact. And in foretaste to that, I note here that I will at least begin that discussion with the emergence of Google Glass as a disruptive new source of innovation and change. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Reexamining the Fundamentals. I also include this as an supplemental posting to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2


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