From the archive: February 2012
WORKTECH 11 London | Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department of Transport and Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes
‘If it’s going to rain you take an umbrella’ is a reassuring mantra from the minister who is helping create the Government’s strategy on encouraging businesses to change the way they work. Coming from a transport perspective, Norman obviously has a vested interest in persuading us to reduce our journeys. With the transport system at breaking point and with relatively little capacity left to exploit, the Government needs to do something.
With this in mind Norman took the opportunity to unveil the new Anywhere Working initiative. He stated that a change in psychology was needed and that a lack of confidence in agile working needed to be overcome before we could see real change. Anywhere Working will provide businesses with straightforward guides containing examples and case studies as powerful advocates, which the Minister hopes will encourage companies ‘to see reward where they once saw risk’.
Evidence from Microsoft and Eversheds should convince even the most sceptical. Microsoft has reduced the amount of business travel by 27% and Eversheds has reduced the cost of business travel by £1.3 million.
If concerns about growing carbon emissions are not enough to stimulate business to make a change to our work-associated travel, the economic downturn could be just the incentive needed. Norman has a no-nonsense approach to the issue: ‘Something has got to give. The situation is becoming unsustainable both environmentally and economically’. The Government’s initiative is a move in the right direction and in some instances they are leading by example but are they doing enough to support the new ways of working? It seems that an instructive web site and proactive policy is all we are going to get for the moment, but Norman reminded us that we are all in this together and ‘we all have a role to play in changing psychology’. Better make sure you don’t forget your umbrella.
- Plenty of hard-nosed businesses adopting flexible working
- Department of Transport leading by example
- Large companies need to have the capacity to innovate and have the resources to set an example
- On planning: ‘If it’s going to rain you take an umbrella’
- On changing business psychology: ‘[Companies need] to see reward where they once saw risk’
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WORKTECH 11 London | Brian David Johnson, Chief Futurist, Intel
The ‘most envied man in the room’ – with a job title to make anyone take a second look at his business card – shared a pragmatic vision of the future. The expectation might have been that of a pared-down, urban, minimalist utopia; what he presented was a familiar, cosy scene. A badly-pedicured woman slouching on her bed surrounded by multiple devices which jostle for space amidst her life’s clutter. We can all relate to that, which is the point he is making. Brian’s angle on predicting the future – Intel-style – is that it is based on people: ‘Our vision of the future has to comprehend what it is to be human’. To that end, Intel has teams of anthropologists and ethnographers studying human behaviour and relationships at the local level and on a global scale.
Microchips take at least 5-10 years to research, design and produce; so Intel are looking at what we will be doing in 10-15 years from now. Yet Brian maintained that he was not predicting the future. No one can say with certainty what the future will hold, but Brian did give a few suggestions, including:
- Computing will no longer be confined to computers – it will be everywhere in our lives
- Data will be treated as a new employee, which can be put to work – ask ‘what do you want it to do for you?’
Instead of fearing the future, the science-fiction loving Brian said that everyone should have an opinion on it. People should ‘change the story of the future that we tell ourselves’. Brian has been doing just that with a venture called The Tomorrow Project. Using a disparate selection of writers, scientists and celebrities the project investigates not only the future of computing but the broader implications for humanity and the planet. ‘The future is not a fixed point but is built everyday by the actions of people’. Time to get off the bed and start building it.
- The future will be human-shaped
- Have a view of the future you want to live in
- Make data work for you, not the other way round
- ‘Our vision of the future has to comprehend what it is to be human’
- ‘I am not here to predict the future’
- ‘What do you want [data] to do for you?’
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