• Teri Christian

Digital Era = Diverse Collaboration

“The Digital Era can be seen as the development of an evolutionary system in which knowledge turnover is not only very high, but also increasingly out of the control of humans, making it a time in which our lives become more difficult to manage… The social and economic implications of the Digital Era are huge and will increase as technological functionality becomes more knowledge-based, our everyday lives and understanding of ourselves become more linked to it, and it takes on a ‘life’ of its own…”Jill Shepherd

(University of Strathclyde, UK),  Social and Economic Transformation in the Digital Era

When I mention the ‘Digital Era’ discussions tend to move towards Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing and the like. This is an element, the machine, that is driving the changes we are dealing with, but only a piece of what we are experiencing during this Global Digital Transformation.

Change is inevitable and part of human history, if it wasn’t we would still be enjoying the opulent life of our Paleolithic ancestors.  During the Paleolithic era (Stone Age) people lived in clans/tribes and instituted the way they needed to operate based on their emergent needs.

During this time the change was swift, made by people closest to the ground and understood by all. In a nutshell, the whole population of the world existed within that tribe who had local and global knowledge and authority. Every decision made was to protect the tribe and everything outside of the tribe was danger. They had to have a sense of community to exist.

We have come a long way since the Paleolithic era, or have we? Since the birth of the Digital Era we are seeing more flexibility in how we live, similar to our ancient forefathers.

Why do we delight in ordering online? Because it removes a burden. Why do we love to work remotely and now consider it inhumane if we cannot? Because we want to be home, safe. What is the sustainability, buy local movement about? We can now decide to support our local community, protect our turf.

My belief is that our true desire is to return the freedom of not living for work, but rather to live in community. I also believe the Digital Era is enabling this at record speed. It is conceivable that the entire world can be connected again as it was in the ancient tribes.

Now, with the internet and constant connection with people all over the world, we cannot deny diversity exists and we need to embrace it. Unfortunately the world is much larger than our ancestors understood. If there was a dissenter within the tribe that person was simply shunned. For that reason people learned to keep some things to themselves because without the tribe you were dead.

Our need to discriminate is deeply wired in our DNA as a survival instinct.  

With the internet and virtual communities we can no longer carry this bias. We have seen the truth. There are all kinds of different people and whether we like it or not discrimination will destroy the global tribe. After watching movies like “Get Out” and “Transcendence” and TV shows like “Black Mirror” I have to admit that we discriminate constantly. It is core to our being.

What does this have to do with the Digital Era and the Industry 4.0 economy? My firm belief is that Artificial Intelligence is simple compared to valuing other human beings, regardless of our bias. Embracing others, not being scared, bringing out the best in others because they will then be able to help support the tribe, is the mindset needed for us to survive and thrive.  

Instead of shutting people down, causing everyone to live in fear, hold people accountable to be honest, open and bring their best to the global tribe.

This is the heart and soul of Diverse Collaboration that is being unleashed by our digital advances. We can begin to embrace this at work and it will flow into our lives and communities. Unlike the damage done by management systems in eras past, where ownership, fear and control reigned, the Digital Era requires collaboration across diverse groups.

Agile, Innovation, Lean, Design Thinking all the buzz words and frameworks we experience at work REQUIRE Diverse Collaboration. Age, gender, socio-economic standing, ethnicity, fat, thin, tall short, sexual identification, they just are not valid reasons to shun co-workers and are anti-patterns to success. As an agent of change, this is the biggest hurdle to overcome because it is so deeply rooted in humanity.

What are your thoughts? Can the Digital Era move us towards embracing diversity or is it just about digitizing our world. Maybe somewhere in between? 

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