Future of Work 2017

For the fourth year in a row, I attended the Future of Work conference, hosted by the Centre for Workplace Leadership. This year was very different, smaller scale, one day and on the University of Melbourne Campus. Last year it was at the picturesque Fed Square, and the two years previous, at the Melbourne Convention Centre, also known as Jeff’s Shed.

The funding for the first three years had come from the federal government as well as generous sponsors. This year, no federal funding, and limited sponsorship. Despite the different funding arrangement, it was a worthwhile experience and I was really glad I went.

A much greater focus on gender and diversity this year than in previous years, less about technology and disruptive innovation. I had several people say hello to me from seeing my tweets about the sessions and presenter quotes. My most active time on Twitter tends to be at conferences like this, and specifically this conference, over the last four years.

I had a few conversations with newbies, volunteers, staff and previous attendees. I also had a good chat with the previous director of the Centre for Workplace leadership, about his extended sabbatical, health and upcoming projects. In the past the events had become like family, this year with so many of the former crew not present, it was a different feel. At times I noticed myself feeling like it was a bit of talkfest, stuff we’d covered previously and not progressed, notably education and HR practices.

One session stood out, the YLAB crew talking about intergenerational workforces. Really walking the talk about how they engage young people and how they bring older and younger workers together. It was certainly the most interactive and interesting session. The final session with Michelle Ryan was also a highlight, debunking the myths about why women don’t get to the top or into leadership positions. Her research really looked beneath the assumptions and the ‘fix women’ approach. She also agreed to a podcast interview which is pretty exciting.

At the end I also got into a great conversation with a woman from BHP who was on the final panel and a guy who had recently taken over from a prominent career transition company, I had seen him approach speakers and felt suss but then when I actually spoke to him and heard that the first thing they check in on with a new client is wellbeing, that impressed me.

So much more to share and that will come, I wrote in my notebook, provided at registration, (yes, so analogue!) on each of the learnings from the sessions, and will share more as the concepts percolate.

 

This is post 28 of 45 posts for 45 years.

The Future of the TAC

Yesterday my partner got her vehicle registration notice. It includes a significant fee for the Traffic Accident Commission, 58% of what she pays goes to TAC. These funds go toward supporting victims of traffic crashes in the costs associated with recovering from traffic-related injury.

She noted that in the future when there are driverless cars, the need for this sort of fund will decrease. That the number of people dying or being injured on the roads will decrease with reduced human error. 

It might be hard to imagine self-driving cars being less accident prone but they are far more equipped to detect and respond to threats than our ability to process information on the road. Our brains only process 40 bits of information per second, computers by definition compute at a far faster rate than we do. Cars and driving them are huge parts of our identity, looking forward to getting your license when you’re young and dreading losing it when you’re old. It’s associated with freedom and independence.

Can you imagine the freedom of your car service picking you up and taking you to your destination like a taxi but without the stress of the potential for human error? Can you imagine having the option to choose a transport service that is social, where people actually talk to each other and want to talk to each other.

Can you imagine the point where the evidence of human error being so great that it starts a debate about if we should stop letting humans operate large machinery like cars? I wonder what will happen to the TAC then.

 

 

This post is day 21 of 45 posts for 45 years.

Review

I’ve been working on the Enterprising Wyndham Project for over a year and had my first performance review today. It was a relatively straightforward process. I was to fill in the sections and my manager adds their comments in discussion, she writes up the outcomes of the discussion and it goes on my file.

I have been working as a consultant and contractor most of the last decade, so it was the first time I’ve experienced a performance review in about as long. Even after working on the performance review cycle of a professional development program as a consultant, I could only speculate about what it was like.

I doubt I have a typical experience but I was glad to go through it. I was able to see the limitations of my thinking and the impact of the lens through which I look at work. Even though the organisation I work for is very progressive and has a strong desire to provide a good experience to their employees, I struggled to think of the professional development opportunity as a loyalty ploy. My manager helped me think about it in a different way.

Tho the work is year to year, and my contract started with a 5-month term, on some level, there’s a recognition that the organisation doesn’t offer a lot of career options. So they can offer development opportunities that will leave them better off than when they started.

She asked me “When we get to the end of year three, and you look back, what will you wish you had learned?” What came to mind was a conference I’ve attended for the last three years and it’s looking unlikely this year. She could see the link to my work in a way that I couldn’t. For me, it was an interest in the Future of Work, and yes, it’s the thing that had me see entrepreneurialism as a key skill in the workforce of the future, but it seemed a stretch to help me develop as a program coordinator of an entrepreneur education program.

The upshot is, she approved it. CMY is paying for me to attend the Future of Work conference! Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked! Not the outcome of the review I expected!

 

 

This post is day 18 of 45 posts for 45 years.

The Future of Lawns

It’s 2029 and the last holdouts are fighting for their right to have a lawn on their property. Their council has committed to being lawn-free by 2030 back in 2019.

Most of the rest of their neighbours took advantage of councils lawn transfer programs. Highly subsidised lawn alternatives such as mondo grass, native grasses and other herbaceous options had overwhelming uptake. 

Those who transferred their lawns to non-mow grasses and plants reported increased levels of satisfaction in not being obligated to spend time repeatedly trimming their grass and the reduced noise pollution (and air pollution) was also welcomed.

Some complaints of muddy yards were reported early on when residents were still learning how to effectively transfer to non-mow yards. Several local celebrities agreed to have their properties highlighted as a collective learning experience in both successful and unsuccessful transfers.

Can you imagine this future? What would it take?

This post is day 13 of 45 posts for 45 years.

The Future of Marriage

Today I’m taking a page out of “Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper” by SARK. She talks about using writing to create the future you want. I’ve been a bit disillusioned recently, and I want to write my way out of it.

I was pretty sure Australia wouldn’t vote for someone as horrible as Tony Abbott, I was wrong. I was pretty sure the US wouldn’t vote for someone as horrible as Donald Trump, I was wrong.

So when I think of how the vote will go to allow same-sex marriage in Australia, I am reserving my optimism. This sucks because I’m usually pretty optimistic. So if I let go of the concern that the vocal opponents, the ‘No voters’ are more numerous than expected, what is the future I want to create?

Marriage doesn’t rate highly for me. Of course I want the right to marry my partner, but actually doing it is up in the air. Family members saying they want us to marry is lovely, and it’s had us reconsider and talk about the possibility. And it gives me an opportunity to be less dismissive of it, to see the value in it.

But really, I’d prefer to see relationships take a different shape. In the future I envision, we don’t seek a mate for life. We may have a companion that’s by our side for long periods, decades even, but not to the exclusion of all others.

Especially if advances in biotech enable us to live longer lives, do we really want to use a principle for relationships that was established when our life expectancy was half what it is now? I imagine a free-flowing model of relationships that is more about mutual enjoyment and growing through connection, one where longevity isn’t a measurement of relationship success.

I imagine having many kinds of relationships, some platonic, some intimate, some sexual, some based on companionship, some on shared interests, some on circumstance and affinity. Can you imagine a deep sense of belonging from a long-held connection being as valued as the excitement of a new paramour? Can you imagine being free to explore, flirt, and connect with people as deeply or frivolously as you like?

In many ways, this is the antithesis of marriage, but maybe it will take on a new meaning. Maybe marriage will morph and change as everything does. Regardless, the first step is making it an equal access opportunity, for those who want it, and to legitimise our relationships instead of being on the fringe.

 

This post is day 19 of 45 posts for 45 years.

5 Learnings and a Reflection from FUTURE OF WORK Conference

I attended the Future of Work Conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre recently. It was a gathering of a diverse array of organisational psychologists, researchers, co-working enthusiasts, tech junkies, futurists, employers of choice, entrepreneurs, educators and students.

There were about 200 people in attendance and took advantage of all the mod cons of events. Several keynote speakers were present, not via satellite but via Cisco’s teleconferencing technology. They were sponsors and as a result were able to see and hear Guy Kawasaki, Lynda Gratton, and Dave Evans the Futurist from the USA and UK.

The hashtag for the conference, #FOW2014 was prominently displayed and tweets posted on screens outside the plenary room. These days it’s normal for people to be at a talk and be paying attention to a glowing screen in their lap rather than the speaker. Tweeting quotes from the presentation, posting pictures of slides, even asking questions and having dialogue with other participants. This was new for me and I got right into it, more on that shortly, but first, my learnings.

FOW Conference – that’s my blonde head in the middle.

Some of the things I learned:

1) With advances in nano technology and medicine we’ll likely start to live even longer. Organs are already being generated using donor tissue and 3D printers. WEIRD! 

What does this mean for human relationships? Perhaps we’ll start to question the validity and modern relevance of monogamy even more, brining my relationship coaching for opening up to multiple relationships even more in demand. How exciting, sort of! 

Note to self: Let go of the last shreds of shame and caginess associated with incorporating this skill into my professional repertoire.

2) Even when there are forward thinking ideas that go beyond divisiveness, once a discussion on collective intelligence gets oriented around the lack of diversity and inequality, discussion can easily get bogged down in the wrongness aspect of right and wrong. 

Note to Organisers: Be clear about the desired outcomes of a session so that session facilitators are empowered and enabled to steer the conversation towards productive discussion before it goes down the rabbit hole. And participants can balance spontaneously generated responses without taking it on a track that goes way off topic and brings down the whole room. 

3) Twitter is a great way to have conversations during plenary sessions. I am generally not a big tweeter but have found events to be the place I seem to engage most and this conference took my tweeting to a whole new level. Initially tweeting quotes or concepts from a talk, then reflections and questions. 

I especially enjoyed watching the person in front of me retweeting me from their iPad mini! The questions and reflections of other participants were fascinating and particularly questions from @JWatersLynch. The dialogue generated from that was rich and provocative. Another pleasant surprise, when I managed to start including the twitter handle of the speakers, I found I got responses and gratitude for my tweets, it sure makes the world feel smaller and more connected when you can engage at that level! 

Note to Organisers: Include speakers twitter handle and hashtags in presentation/session title slides. 

4) Emailing people you met with a personal note about your interaction is an important follow up action. In one interaction I learned that Google Plus is the social media of business, and a place to put a bit more attention to. Sadly I’ve been unable to incorporate it into Hootsuite. Another interaction I mentioned a company doing similar work to the person so I sent him the name of the company and offered to introduce him to my contact there. I love being a connector. Feels good to bring people together and be completely unattached to the outcome! 

5) When presenter doesn’t purport to have all the answers and asks the audience, it beautifully generates interaction and cultivates wisdom from the group. I loved having the opportunity to contribute when the question of how to make it safe for a group to talk about difficult issues. I just finished teaching a course where the unanimous feedback about our ability to create safety in the group was affirming and heartwarming. 

I piped up with ‘creating a group agreement’ and ‘modeling vulnerability’ to give the group permission to be vulnerable. For example to ensure we stick to the timeline and intention I might cut off a conversation, that’s hard to do, and is a courageous and vulnerable act that has potential risk for the group and my credibility as a facilitator.

It’s something I don’t take lightly. In the past I’ve done it quite delicately yet it was not well received. Since then I’ve had that in the back of my mind when I step in to end a discussion. Thankfully it doesn’t stop me but I’m present to the risk and feel vulnerable doing it. In response to the presenter asking the audience, I talked a bit about powerful vulnerability and how it creates space for transformative moments in groups. This is something I’m quite passionate about. I loved the speakers response, wanting to quote what I just said for the book she’s writing! Can you say ‘ego boost’?!?!

At the end of the conference I was approached by someone looking for a facilitator. We had a conversation that felt like a strong lead. I am delighted and will be following that one up on Monday. Update: I have a meeting next week to find out about the scope to form a proposal. Thrilled with this outcome! 

Last thing of note. Women are caught in a fashion trap. Two of the presenters, one keynote, another in a break out session, appeared to be dressing for the perceived opinions of others. It really felt like they wore what they thought would be acceptable or expected rather than something that expressed their style and personality. This was disappointing on a number of levels. I felt sad for them and wondered what they’d wear if they felt more free to be themselves. I found the attire distracting, noting ill fitting pants or what appeared to be an intentionally let down hem line that was trimmed with lace, antithetical to the stark lines of the styling. 

Why? Why do women who are clearly in positions of power, being asked to speak at a leading conference, why do they still think they have to please someone else? 

I was also disappointed in the feeling that I didn’t have more allies in my recent decision to let go of other expectations and wear what feels right to me. I want more women to express themselves for their own sake, for what has them feeling great, rather than stuff themselves into some preconceived notion of what they should look like. Really, if that’s not the future, I don’t want to go there. Let’s create a future of acceptance, of personal leadership, of pushing the boundaries, respectfully while expressing who we are. It’s our own uniqueness that is a critical part of what we have to offer the world. Let’s step into that fully. If that’s not powerful vulnerability, I don’t know what is!! I admire the people who can wear clothes that augment their individuality and remain stylish. I want more of that in the workplace! 

In essence what I learned is that the future is coming at us, and fast! And that its up to us to create our future, both in terms of how we as a society, relate to technology or integrate it in a way that advances our social development and in terms of getting clear about what we want to do with ourselves and finding ways to make that work. My own entrepreneurial journey has been a profound learning journey and I continue to try new things and learn from them and come up against my own perceived limits and clash against my beliefs about being able to earn a living doing what I love. But ultimately the conference affirmed for me that as the future hurtles toward us, it’s up to me to find my way, and make my way into the world of work, doing what I love and loving what I do. 

Grandma is from Axedale

We’re sitting at a big table in the garden out back of an old antique shop/cafe in Heathcote. Three generations of women, my grandmother, and her daughter, my aunt, and her daughter, my cousin. The four of us had set out to explore the area my grandma grew up, Axedale, Victoria, toward Bendigo, about an hour and half north of Melbourne. When Grandma travelled from Axedale to Melbourne when she was young it took about three hours. This was in the 1930s during the depression.

She talked about traveling to Melbourne, one trip stood out in her mind. She was in Moonee Ponds, saw a man with a hat, begging for money to feed his family. Speaking with a wavering voice describing what it was like to see this man in tears, his desperation was still palpable for her. It even choked me up, transported so many years after, to the pain he must have felt.

After lunch in Heathcote we drove further north toward Axedale, taking Grandma on a trip down memory lane and learning about her life. To the east is the old railway line, can see the raised land, but the tracks are gone. Alot had changed since she spent time here. She told us of dancing waltzes, to piano and drums, and sometimes accordion. The whole community used to come out, for any reason to celebrate. It’s where her parents met, at a community dance in Strathfieldsaye Hall. Bill and Mabel formed a strong courtship and my grandmother came from this union, she loves to dance… My cousin says its a bit like her life now, going to dances, her dance style preference is swing blues. Sally shared about a weekend dance workshop with dance teachers from the US and a blues piano player from NYC. Perhaps dance is a thread that weaves through each of our lives.

Next to where grandma lived when she was 5As we arrived in Axedale, Grandma could see that the place she used to live when she was 5 no longer exists, but it’s now a reserve next to the Campapse River where she used to swim. The river once flooded as high as the bridge rails near Ingham’s Hill. Her great uncle died in a flash flood in one of the many local tributaries to the Camaspe River, he defiantly went after a ball he’d thrown and was swept away as his sisters watched in horror. The formidable force of mother nature was not lost on them, living on the land, born and raised in a house built by their father from materials found on the family property. This primitive lifestyle is hard for me to imagine. Growing up at a time when technology has made our lives so much easier than they had it, and perhaps far more complex.

Just off the main highway, from the dirt road we could see the land described in the story of old John’s life, he had come over from Ireland after the Great Potato Famine. He was in Melbourne for a couple of years before heading inland to the region being opened up for pioneer settlement. He wanted some of that land to build a life and family. He met his bride to be in the first year and was married in Melbourne before heading to Axedale. 

The story, written by my great uncle 20 years ago, had no mention of aboriginals and scarce mention of the women as much beyond wife and mother.

I have mixed feelings about John’s dream being realised by having land to work. He cleared the land on his own with an axe, took him years. It is what enabled him to create the family that lead to my existence but it also contributed to the deforestation and ecological disturbance that is synonymous with pioneer agriculture. It breaks my heart thinking what the land might have been like if farming practices we’re less devastating for existing ecosystems, not to mention the traditional custodians of the land.

Juxtaposed with this heartbreak is a kind of pride and curiosity. It was a hard life for the pioneers. I can only imagine what strength and endurance they had or developed to live that way not to mention the sense of adventure to leave their homeland. For them, it was revolutionary and they danced with it. Is this where my strength of conviction and adventurous spirit come from? Are these traits passed on through a blend of nature and nurture? My journey was a bit the opposite, leaving Canada where I grew up, spent 25 years of my life to come back to my homeland.

We sat in the Axedale Tavern, working out where the washing lines would have been. Grandma’s first job was here. After nearly 7 years of school she went to work at age 13. Doing the hotel laundry and helping serve meals when the pub was full of hungry workers. At this point she lived across the road in a blue-stone cottage. She described boiling the clothes and linens in a copper pot and ‘bluing’ them. I asked, “what’s that?” She said to keep the clothes white they “blued” them with a pellet containing a chemical whitener. I’d always wondered how country living and white clothes coexisted. Seemed completely incongruent with my experiences working the land, it was never clean work. Mystery solved!

The publican at the time was Felix Drake, he was twice my grandmothers age. Today there are photos of him in front of the pub with some servicemen in the 1940s during the war. And another picture from the 1950s where Felix is surrounded by his wife and 9 children, mostly daughters. When my grandma was working for him he took quite a liking to her and said that if she was older, he’d marry her.

Sitting back to reflect on how life was for my grandma, Avice Street (b 1920), growing up in the early part of the 20th century, my great great grandfather John O’Donoghue, living his life in the last half of the 19th century (1831-1919), it feels remarkable. So much change has happened since then. As I sit in the 21st century with my iPad, writing my blog reflecting on the past, I begin to wonder what the future holds. Are we in the precipice of economic and ecological disaster? Will we see mass migration to escape devastation, like John O’Donoghue escaped Ireland’s Great Potato Famine but on an grander scale?

Humans are exceptional at adapting when the options are few. I wonder if we’ll be smart about it this time, seeing the writing on the wall, the unsustainable nature of most aspects of modern life, and make the changes while we still have lots of options. I have faith that it’s possible but like my great great grandfather John and my grandma Avice, I can’t imagine what the future holds. All I know is what I can do and who I can be, carrying the conviction for a better life and a sense of adventure along the way as my ancestors did, dancing the revolution.

 

 

Sent from my iPad

Technology Futures, Microsoft & Apple

Over the last few years I have fully converted from Windows to Mac. My mom bought me an Apple IIe when i was in college. Untill now, every computer I’ve had since 1992 has been Windows. Now I have an iMac and and iPhone and share an iPad with Emma. She has been discovering amazing ways to learn and teach Indonesian to her students at school. And though she’s been pretty focused on what’s available from the App Store, a few days ago she was sent by her school to a Professional Development session run by Microsoft. When she got home she showed me (a version of) this video: Microsoft’s Future Vision 2019.

I was pretty impressed. I looked through some of the comments, one said, “Apple will do it first!” and of course the regular verbose sparing about Microsoft vs Apple. I started to think, and wondered what it would take to create this future. Emma said they were told that much of this technology has already been developed by Microsoft but it currently too expensive to mass produce.

What would it take? What if Microsoft and Apple teamed up? Collaborated on making it happen? That kind of partnership would certainly make it a reality faster than in competition. So I put it to you, what do you think it would take for Microsoft and Apple to work together to create this future?