The Digital Age, also known as the Age of Information, is the period marked by increasing impacts of knowledge on the general social, economic and political spheres of society. These impacts are evidenced by exponential advancement in science and technology in the last few decades spanning from the development of the computer which was then adopted in wide scale to the emerging trends in wearable technology. Also evident is the transition from traditional methods of learning in schools to the growing acceptance of Open education where one can learn anywhere, at any time and at their own pace. Such is the case with careers where there is a shift from the conventional to freelancing where anyone with special knowledge has leverage.
With all this in mind, it is easy to be swept away by the huge tsunami of change and that explains why it is paramount to manage oneself in the digital age. It is a fact to state that the key to self-development in the digital era is through effective management. How can we survive in the era where knowledge is currency? Where education access is open for all who are interested? How can we manage our selves when we can choose between contemporary jobs and freelancing? When we are constantly distracted by notifications? How do we maintain or even improve productivity when we are faced with increasingly overwhelming choices? How do we deliver on our obligations when we have lots of things to do in what we may call so little time? How do we keep fit when most of our jobs can be done only with the touch of a button and a keyboard? How do we exploit our potential without being overwhelmed by unlimited options made available by technological advancements? How do we become competitive? How do we get the most out of relationships when social media allows us to connect with hundreds of people every day? How do we become effective when we adopt ecommerce as a substitute, and sometimes, a replacement of traditional commerce methods?
There is no doubt that innovative technology brings along many benefits from reducing costs to increasing productivity and by extension, contributing to stronger organizational culture. But we have to appreciate that these benefits are pegged on the training and expertise of the users of these innovations. This means that for the most part, enjoyment of these benefits is ensured by focusing on the human aspect such that with effective management, users are equipped with the knowledge, skills and discipline required for maximum performance.
To be able leverage this power of technology in order to strengthen human capabilities, we first have to appreciate our own uniqueness as humans. We have to seek the distinguishing features such as empathy, creativity, intuition, morality and ability to learn continually. We, then, have to find ways in which we can employ technology in a manner that helps us strengthen these distinguishing human abilities.
For example, to boost creativity, we have to encourage customization in workplace. This affords inventiveness and creativity by allowing each user to decide on the specific methods and technology that helps them to be most productive. This can be the decision to use a specific kind of operating system, software application or even gadget. The use of brainstorming applications can also help users develop their intuitive powers by widening their perspectives. This can be through making it possible to get regularly updated on new methods, practices and developments that are job-specific. This also helps improve, significantly, the competitiveness of each person.
Another way of boosting one’s creativity is by encouraging experimentation. Science and technology has made it possible to quickly learn and creatively experiment. An example of a software application that has been created for designers is AutoCAD which makes it possible for structural engineers to think creatively and design models that they can later use practically. Experimentationalso helps strengthen intuition since it is a deviation from routine.
The other human ability that makes us special is talent. This natural aptitude can be said to be what fuels creativity and intuition. It is what helps us innovate. Among the most impactful human creations so far, most have been a result of talent that has been nurtured and exploited significantly. In the digital age, managing talent is the best way to get the most out of people. In fact, technology has played a major role in the nurturing of talent. It has provided an avenue for experimentation and unbridled creativity which results in serious advancements and achievements.
With technology, learning has never been simpler: A quick search on the internet reveals a whole new world of open education. In this digital age, it has been made possible for anyone with enough motivation to pursue whatever type of education one desires at any time and place one finds most comfortable. Open education technology has made continual learning possible. With huge online libraries and databases, one can get any information they want at the touch of a button. Portable gadgets have such as the tablet makes it easy to watch, read and even write anywhere. The only setback in this case is unavailability of power and reliable internet connections in some areas around the world. This hinders creation, adoption and development of technology and integration to societies.
Jean Ladrier in The Challenge Presented to Culture says that we must consider under what conditions science and technology can be integrated into a culture without destroying its inner harmony. It is true that technology has made it easier to introduce new ideas, values and morals in places that already have diverse cultures. While this might threaten the already existing harmony, management practices focused on people makes it possible to carefully balance this influence science and technology introduces while ensuring that it does not cripple technological advancement and capabilities. This brings about a harmony that allows the satisfaction of needs of individuals while protecting their cultural identities and values and so, avoiding a drift to completely technocratic mindsets.
In the digital world, and in the future, management should start focusing more on the human side since, as has already been established; machines are getting smarter every day. Artificial Intelligence is already past its early stages of development with the emerging technology such as autonomous vehicles and personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri. With further advancement, it is safe to say that management will spend less time managing the technical side and shift focus to cultivating talent, helping people strengthen intuition and creativity. Management’s role will be to provide an environment where people are motivated to work for the general good of organizations, to uphold the organization’s values and to create a culture that provides for more productivity, competitiveness and efficiency. All these lead up to the much needed value creation which result in achievement of organizational goals and objectives.
Management’s role will be to show the destination and the people will find the way. All these will be possible only if the management capitalizes on human aspects which, as earlier mentioned, can pose great threats to technological advancement if not well managed. Management needs to focus on supporting the needs of value-creating employees down the line which in the end, will lead to achievement of organizational goals and objectives. Having in mind that the above will be management’s roles managers will have to be chosen not on the basis of their technical know-how, but based on their leadership skills. These will include those of intuition, clear communication, strategy and integrity. This means that as much as organizations will take advantage of technology and the culture it fosters, we will always have to consciously avoid drifting into technocratic mindsets, or at least, we will still have to be in contact with our human side that is not necessarily the best home for rationalization. We will still have to rely on moral values human intuition, creativity and talent for further innovation for productivity.
This piece was inspired by Peter Drucker’s masterpiece on Managing Oneself