It’s Saturday. The weekend is upon us, and I read wherever the links take me. And I think back over the week, think about what I heard, read, learned… So – here is a Saturday edition of Randy’s “let’s just think about some stuff…”
1. The office is disappearing. That’s the conclusion of Seth Godin, and it was so “big,” and yet, once you read it, you knew he was certainly correct, that it even got picked up by Andrew Sullivan (The Office, RIP: Seth Godin gives the last rites). Sullivan writes about a lot of different topics all the time, but seldom about business issues — so this is notable.
Here’s what Godin wrote (click on the link to understand his #7 comment):
If we were starting this whole office thing today, it’s inconceivable we’d pay the rent/time/commuting cost to get what we get. I think in ten years the TV show ‘the Office’ will be seen as a quaint antique.
When you need to have a meeting, have a meeting. When you need to collaborate, collaborate. The rest of the time, do the work, wherever you like.
The gain in speed, productivity and happiness is massive. What’s missing is #7… someplace to go. Once someone figures that part out, the office is dead.
2. The desktop computer is disappearing. That’s the conclusion of Farhod Manjoo, Slate.com’s technology writer. (I’m a big fan of his writing – I understand it!)
In the last decade, portable computers have erased many of the advantages that desktops once claimed while desktops have been unable to overcome their one glaring deficiency—by definition, these machines are chained to your desk.
Amazingly, by 2015, desktops will constitute just 18 percent of the consumer PC market…
In just three years’ time, tablets are projected to outsell desktops, becoming the second-largest PC category after laptops. This sounds crazy until you consider that Apple alone is already selling 1 million tablets a month.
He’s right, of course. I now read as many articles on my iPhone as I do on my desktop. I suspect I will have an iPad before too long.
But, let me describe how I work. I wonder if any others out there work the same way. I do fine with my portable devices for “input.” I read my e-mail, read articles, find information. I read both the Godin post and the Manjoo post on my iPhone. But for “output” – blog posts, e-mails, preparing handouts to go along with my presentations, I want/need my desktop. (I’m a Mac guy – I’m now on about my 5th Apple over a long period of time; and I love my iMac. I’ve never warmed to the keyboard/mouse in a laptop, and practically refuse to work on one when I “have to.”’ I’ve never owned one).
Recently, I heard Ron Holifield, CEO of Strategic Government Resources, describe two different kinds of workers. Those who work “from the shoulders down,” and those who work “from the shoulders up.” This is a really clear, graphic image. Increasingly, those who work “from the shoulders up,” can work anywhere there is a connection. Which is just about anywhere. They won’t need an office – and they won’t need a desktop. They will just need to be connected.
As for where all of your stuff will be – it will be in the cloud. So it will be available anywhere, anytime… (I’ve got every one of my book handouts, and a whole lot more, available to me on my iPhone and/or from any connected computer anywhere, through my MobileMe account. Yes, I could do the same for free on Google Docs, but MobileMe does a whole lot more, and it is so easy to use with my iMac! It is worth the cost).
And just for fun, let me remind you of a few of the fantasy communication devices we all remember. Dick Tracy had a wristwatch that allowed for live visual face-to-face communication (you know – where you could talk and see each other at the same time). The new iPhone will now actually have capability. Captain Kirk had this hand-held device that he could flip open and say “Beam me up, Scotty.” By the time Captain Picard arrived, he just tapped a spot on his uniform. No more clumsy, too large, inconvenient flip-open communication device.
The communication devices/reading devices/working devices are getting stronger, faster, smaller, less obtrusive, easier to use, seemingly by the week. Tomorrow is arriving faster by the minute.
Like you, I read and listen and try to pay attention. Here are three trends/developments that are looking more and more permanent, and the changes they will bring are really significant.
Trend #1 – practically everywhere, the average age is going straight up. We are living longer, and having fewer children.
What does this mean? Well, rather obviously, there will be fewer workers to “provide” for the retirement needs of the older folks. So, one major need is that people will keep working, and postponing and postponing retirement. (Note: IRS employee Vernon Hunter, the man who was killed in the suicide plane attack in Austin, was actively working at age 67. In the past, retirement was preferred at age 62, practically mandatory at age 65).
Andrew Sullivan blogged about the “Rise of the Wrinkled,” quoting the Times on-line “The silver haired revolution: Youth is old hat — the elderly are slowly taking over the planet, dance, art, even youthful plays such as Romeo and Juliet.”
Here’s a telling excerpt:
The average citizen of the world is currently less than 30; yet, when he dies, that average age will have risen to 50… Thanks to a crash in its birth rate, in the space of 30 years Italy has gone from being Europe’s youngest country to its oldest; after Japan, it is now the second oldest country in the world. There are only 1.3 Italian taxpayers to each pensioner.
I make this observation: I interact with a large group of folks who in a prior era would have been close to retirement. They are hard at work, making future work plans. It energizes them, but I suspect that it is partly driven by economic necessity (and a little bit of fear).
Trend #2 – Women are on the rise, and men are in less good shape.
I have blogged before about this fact: women are now receiving a majority of degrees in every level of higher education. Men are simply not keeping up in their college and graduate pursuits, and this will ultimately dramatically reshape the entire work force.
There are way too many articles/stories about this to list them all, but here is an excerpt from one recent article, Women earn the freedom to opt out by Karen Mazurkewich:
This year, American women will pass a major milestone: They will surpass men in the workplace. Canadian women passed the 50% threshold last year. The gender revolution has quietly overtaken us.
But there is some good news: Women may be better suited than men to have and hold jobs in the future…
First, more women than men graduate from university, making the female workforce more educated. Now, a study from Harvard University suggests that in a world where job uncertainty is increasing, women can better adapt to career change…
The message to companies: “You should be hiring women [because] women may bring a lot more of their performance to your company than men…”
Trend #3 – The joblessness in the “recovery” is deepening.
As I have blogged about before, I believe this is the key issue facing American business: how do we build companies that build the work force? A nation without jobs is a nation without a middle-class. This is a trend that is absolutely frightening.
Here are the opening paragraphs of this article: THE NEW POOR — Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs.
Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.
Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.
Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.
These are the three trends/developments. They are all affecting business, success, the workplace, and our personal lives.