Find your digital weird

Find Your Digital WeirdThere is much opportunity to show up these days. Social networking platforms are like stages for shining and showing off your personal and professional experiences, quirks and skills. We can connect, debate and create, at scale. It’s true. Technological advancement brings access like never before. New tech helps us to get heard, find opportunities and get things done, not to mention magnify individual good, says futurist Graeme Codrington.

Unsurprisingly, this level of access also applies to personal information about ‘us’. According to digital thought leader Mike Saunders, two years ago the World Economic Forum (WEF) had already named data the new currency. If you are not paying for a product, such as an online social networking platform (most of us are on one at least), then you should understand that you are the product.

So whilst we throw up concerns around privacy, and indeed we are right to question, perhaps we should focus our questions beyond whether we have privacy or not, to whether we are happy with the trades we are making in exchange for our personal information. Good questions to ask are, what information does this platform hold about me, and what are they doing with it? What value does it add for me?

Take Alexa. Alexa is a cloud-based virtual personal assistant that is continually updating its intelligence, something like Apple’s Siri. You ask or command and Alexa responds. You may be searching for information, such as news, weather, traffic or for a new recipe, or asking Alexa to play your ‘tunes’ or the radio. But you can also use Alexa to get things done. You can ask it to create to-do lists, shop, order an Uber and control smart home products (think temperature, alarms). “Keep up with your busy lifestyle and maximise the potential of the smart devices that you own with increased convenience” says this website, with its blog helping you to compare Google Home and Amazon Echo, so that you can make an informed decision on design, features and capabilities. Alexa is a paid service, and it is learning all the time, based on what you feed it, and you benefit. There is your trade.

On LinkedIn, the free version, you get to profile yourself professionally and to tap into the opportunities presented through a global living network. You are the product – just like you are on Facebook and Instagram, if you are not paying for the service. As inspirational speaker and strategy facilitator Siphiwe Moyo reminds us, it is not just millennials, everyone has options and choice and we should be exercising that choice. Exercising choice means becoming aware of what your options are, and understanding them well, so that you can make informed choices or trades, and really take advantage of what a digital age offers.

Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review contributor shows us how we can do this in her work Standout. She grew up in a very small town in North Carolina – pre-Internet era – and felt incredibly frustrated with the lack of opportunities. She argues that too many of us still believe that heads down and hard work hard equals recognition and career success. Clark teaches us how to develop big ideas, leverage affiliations and build a community of followers. The process of finding great ideas and getting them heard makes it possible for us to change the world for the better (previously quite difficult, when we were non-digital). But is also the best form of career insurance. You capitalize on your unique perspective and knowledge and inspire others to listen and take action. Recognize your own value, cultivate your expertise, and put yourself out there, she says. It is no surprise that her examples Seth Godin, who in his book, “We are all weird” notes:

 

“The choice to push all of us toward a universal normal merely to help sell more junk to the masses is both ineffectual and wrong. The opportunity of our time is to support the weird, to sell to the weird, and, if you wish, to become the weird.”

 

In the workplace of tomorrow, robots will perform repetitive, monotonous tasks. They can do them better and faster than we can. That means our human energy is freed up to focus on what we are evolved to do. New tech can actually unlock human potential. Is it unlocking yours? And where are you showcasing that?

#FindYourDigitalWeird 

The article was written for and first published on TalentTalks.

Follow your passion – the worst piece of career advice

In previous blogs I’ve posted about the skills we need for a prosperous digital present and future, and the ones that are likely to be in short supply. I’ve been asking the question of how we drive our own value propositions over time, one, because there is more choice and focus if we do it for ourselves, and two, because we can, thanks to our context of rapid change and technological advancement.

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Today I came across an article written about Andrew Ng, which deepened my insight. Ng is the founder of Google Brain, a deep-learning research project supercharged by Google’s vast stores of computing power and data. Ng also co-founded Coursera, the largest provider of open online courses or what we know as MOOCs, with partners Princeton, Yale and top schools Europe and China. In his interview for the article, he said that ‘follow your passion’ is probably the worst career advice you could ever give or get. His reasoning?

Ng says we are very rarely good at something when we start out, and yet we have to be good at something to be passionate about it. He does believe we can become good at almost anything. In place of following a passion when choosing where to focus your energies, we should look at what opportunity there is to learn and what the possible impact is.

‘The world has an infinite supply of interesting problems. The world also has an infinite supply of important problems. I would love for people to focus on the latter.’

The key in preparing for the future is also moving away from the repetitive and routine. This is where I think his work chimes with Seth Godin. Highly repetitive and routine tasks lend themselves well to eventual automation. That means a loss of jobs. Young people who can identify and make the most of opportunities to learn and have impact – solving real and important problems – and who seek out non-repetitive and non-routine, are on the right path.

What I like about Ng’s approach is that he also believes that innovation and creativity are teachable. They are not ‘unpredictable acts of genius’ so much as processes that are systematic that we can all improve on. Ng runs his own workshop on the strategy of innovation.

‘When you become sufficiently expert in the state of the art, you stop picking ideas at random. You are thoughtful in how to select ideas, and how to combine ideas. You are thoughtful about when you should be generating many ideas versus pruning down ideas’.

Building people for the non-routine, the human, the creative and the innovative – that’s what we’re seeking out. And we need scalable ways of doing that. Ng believes this is possible. We’re just not there, yet.

In your Pocket

How about a job with flexible hours and unlimited vacation?

One that promises ‘your ideal computer setup’, 50% credit towards your purchase of any mobile devices, ergonomic desk setup, wireless stipend, catered lunches and lots of free snacks and drinks.  That’s in addition to 100% Medical, Dental and Vision Coverage, 50% spouse/dependents, and other benefits.

In return, you need to be passionate about what you do.

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That’s what Pocket, offering the app to beat when it comes to bookmarking and managing links, will provide in return for helping to build a company that revolutionises how people consume web content.

Sounds kind of cool, doesn’t it?  Like some people are pushing the box on what we traditionally experience at work (think unlimited holidays).  Something you might want in your pocket?