For Business Coach Heli Alén, unleashing human potential requires a change in the mindset and the ways of working. For an individual, change requires openness, flexibility and courage. The right attitude brings you forward – do not exclude yourself by selecting to remain in the past.
Picture this: An elderly gentleman surfing the net on his smartphone, young kids learning with the help of technology, a researcher group making a breakthrough with the help of artificial intelligence assisted medical research, people working in virtual networks independent of place and time.
As articulated in the introduction, Heli Alén sees business technology development and digitalisation not only as a way of working but as a mindset and an attitude that concerns every one of us. Business technology is an everyday thing, nothing fancy. New technologies and information emerge all the time – looking at the development pace of for example science and knowledge in general.
According to Heli, the human factor in digital can be looked at from three angles or stages:
- personal level
- professional level and
- visionary level.
For each person, whether an employee, senior citizen, or a school kid, digitalisation means different things. It could be online banking services, finding information on the Internet, or using collaboration tools such as Sharepoint or Skype. Professionals in different areas have varying needs for technology, depending on the area they work in. Human resources have their own tools to support HR processes, manufacturing industries use automation and robots in production and warehousing. Visionaries anticipate change and foresee the impact of different phenomena and often set goals for business. The same kind of long term planning is necessary as with any other changes: does this require transformation within the organisation or in the company’s strategy?
The right attitude brings you forward
For Heli, unleashing human potential requires a change in the mindset and the ways of working. For an individual, change requires openness, flexibility and courage. Heli illustrates the difference in human nature between being curious or careful with an example from her family. Her 84-year-old father is interested in technology and uses his laptop and smartphone eagerly. He makes small mistakes occasionally, but his curiosity overcomes the fear of new technology. Her mother-in-law has also become a proud user of a computer, however prefers having support and guidance close by when performing new tasks.
The same is true for all of us, says Heli. The right attitude brings you forward – do not exclude yourself by selecting to remain in the past. The requirement of learning new things can be a hindrance in a professional environment. It could potentially create setbacks for the whole organisation by making one’s colleagues’ work difficult as well when one person is not capable of using the new technology at all or to its full potential. Making sure that everyone is kept onboard is the responsibility and in the interest of the organisation or society. In Heli’s experience, people are more motivated and willing to adapt to change and use new tools when the meaning and the objective – the WHY – are clearly articulated. Learning should be made easy, the positive aspect and approachability should be considered. This can be done, for example, with gamification. Feeling that you are not alone, making sure that support is in place, lowers the step to start using the new technology, Heli adds. Heli encourages people to take their private life attitude to work when thinking of technology. Finally, if you simply cannot perform a task unless you take part in the change is a hard motivator.
From a professional perspective, technology can assist releasing capacity. Heli highlights that removing limitations for working can be done by making the latest research accessible, providing necessary and smarter tools and much needed education. Technology development as such is a motivator according to her. Technology at work is becoming more and more accessible and more widely used. Robotics in the household and in industrial use are getting increasingly interesting – ‘the fun’ can open doors to the next level. Even professionals can be sceptical about new developments if they threaten their jobs. Heli Alén highlights the need for the right attitude and references a Hollywood film that illustrates this point: The film ‘Hidden figures’ (2016) tells the story of three African-American female mathematicians in the 1960’s Nasa, and how they manage change when computing comes and takes over the manual calculations. Heli summarises and connects the storyline to the present: technology gives and takes jobs; but what counts is your attitude towards being ready to adopt change and updating your capabilities and knowledge. Stay alert all the time and go forward.
See the positive in the development. Don’t get stuck in your fear, be a visionary instead!
What do the visionaries do then? Heli Alén sees an opportunity to bring in a philosophical tone to the discussion. Visionaries discuss the ethics of development: For what purpose do we develop technology? Is it destructive or protecting life? Can it be used against its original purpose? Whose responsibility is it to think about the development on a deeper level? How justified is the fear of technology? How can technology make the world a better place? Heli names interesting phenomena that reflect the ethics in personal choices: Downshifting and ‘back to basics’ can be seen as a response to consumerism.
Technology can be used to release potential when there are limited possibilities, but the will and the capability exist. Heli points that the Third World has huge potential. With the help of technology, a lot of potential can be released. Technology can assist in providing clean water and releasing time for school, therefore increasing literacy. Technology can be used in education, sharing information and knowledge, thus taking more people into the development sphere. This increases equality and enables including more brains in the global game.
Finding solutions needs to be quicker than producing problems.
Knowledge sharing is something that lights up Heli – collective intelligence is one of the areas she is following closely right now. Heli talks about research where a group of highly intelligent people and a group of regular people were set a task to resolve a problem as a group. The research showed the group’s performance depends on how well the people interact and communicate. Smart people who do not communicate do not achieve better results when the interaction does not work. Digitalisation can enable communication. You should use the right tools, devices and platforms to communicate. Think about how to stay connected and contact people. In addition to collective intelligence, artificial intelligence will change the world according to Heli. She names Maria Ritola and Iris AI as an example of an intelligent network that indexes research information and therefore increases the potential of a single researcher by enabling data to be better found and connected. IBM Watson is another good example, too.
What will be different in 2020?
Heli is convinced that the way of working and working models will change. Work will be more independent of time and place, and flexibility will increase. Remote work will be more common. Hopefully work will be less time-dependent, and Heli adds that we need to ensure we take care of people. Housing and living will be more digitalised, we will have smart devices and IoT will get stronger and grow. Manufacturing processes will require less people, and the work people do now will change. Production facilities will change, and robots will take over monotonous tasks and tasks that include safety risks. People will be released to do other kind of jobs; jobs of higher value where humans are needed and where they bring in the most value. Heli reminds us that we need to think of the balance between new jobs and robotics – how long can we keep the society rolling with work?
Heli stresses that the need for meeting people, interaction, and contact will definitely remain. Networks, virtual networks and workspaces will become more common. AI, connectivity and connectivity tools will be more common as well. When virtual connectivity gets easier, physical meetings will be valued higher. Heli reminds us that the human side of a human being needs to be taken into account yet the human does not need to be taken into a specific place to do the work.
As the work will change, the income logic needs to change as well, says Heli. In the future, will we get our living solely from work? How do we keep people in meaningful jobs? The technology development, digitalisation and its impacts need to be taken into account in our educational system. Heli calls for a dialogue to ensure overall development, and to ensure that we are being visionary enough and keeping the big picture in mind instead of developing different areas in silos.
- Keep everyone informed about change within the organisation by explaining why it’s necessary and the outcome will more likely be a success.
- To allow your staff to learn, make it as easy as possible!
- Grab a positive and flexible attitude towards change and technology!
- Help your people to collaborate better by using every and any tool that helps.
The author is Niina Volotinen.