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. 

Tech tool geek love

[Day 28] What travel tools and services are most important to you when taking your business abroad?

My laptop feels like the most essential tool, I love my MPB. Tho if I were to go even partially location independant I’d go MBA. After having a massive 24 inch iMac I am adjusting well to a smaller screen and love being able to take it anywhere!MPB heart

Services wise, I have upgraded my Dropbox account to enable more online storage and file sharing. I’m paying $10/mo for 100GB. I think paying monthly will help remind me to make the most of it! With iCloud you get 5GB free and $42 annually for 25GB, or $105 for 50GB. I like having both for different things but Dropbox is my primary cloud storage, I have been using it for years and recently started using it for my photo backups. I have 53GB of photos alone from photos over the last decade! If you want a preview of your life flashing before your eyes, watch 65,000 photos import to a new machine! WHOA!

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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?