Our changing work is constantly changing

This week my doctoral class is discussing the changing nature of work due to the web and hyperlinked thinking.  I was encouraged to hear the comments of our professor Britt Watwood as he recognized that for some and in many industries, the nature of work has already changed significantly.  I tend to agree as the implication is that great change has already occurred and has embedded itself in what we do in our daily and work lives.  In most cases, we have had to accept significant changes in our workplace and professions, recognizing that there will be more change to come.  While acceptance of change has taken place, Jon Husband wrote that we as professionals will spend the next several decades learning how to function in an interconnected world.

The way our world has changed is treated very differently than we might have imagined just a few short years ago.  Weinberger’s talk on the power of the internet about hackathons stood out to me.  With extremely active Cybersecurity and Computer Science programs at my institution, we not only have clubs of students that participate in such activities, but we teach students how to protect against hacks (by potentially exposing our own security), and host such events on campus!  It’s become something we are proud of, not something we shy away from.  Certainly a shift in thinking from some time ago.

The waters do get muddied with this changing nature of work, however.  It puts a greater onus on the individual to interpret information presented in a number of forums.  In Too Big to Know, Weinberger described the way in which information was shared in the traditional written word, with arguments being directly laid out.  Today, we are using the web to present all information available; allowing the audience to play a role in its interpretation and requiring them to filter.  As Weinberger said, “when in doubt, include it all.”  Doing so creates a direct interaction between information sharer and audience, representative of Wirearchy relationships that operate in an ongoing and constant feedback loop.  Husband’s ideas surrounding Wirearchy were applied to Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) by Chatti, Jarke, and Specht (2010) to achieve performance improvement.  It identifies the need to utilize the Web 2.0 and social software technologies in order to achieve the core elements of the 3P learning model including personalization, participation, and knowledge-pull (the learner navigates toward knowledge).

Gartner described some other significant ways in which work has and will change moving forward.  I frequently see this in my IT department in the form of work swarms and working with the collective.  Each represents a leveraging of collective knowledge, which Dixon described as a way for diverse and knowledgeable individuals to add perspective and value.  I see this in the form of work swarms in the formal department meetings that I attend.  Colleagues are working together to share tips for improvement, or sharing their failures and looking for feedback from colleagues.  They also work together more informally, both within and outside of the organization.  I find that these like-minded individuals can accomplish a great deal, even if the ideas are being shared around the desk of the administrative assistant as opposed to a meeting room.

One topic within the changing nature of work on which I am a bit conflicted is that of the digial business.  Gartner describes the digital business as incorporating technology into the entire business and industry enterprise.  A 2014 article in Forbes by Jorge Lopez describes the digital business as the interaction and negotiations between business, people, and things. His description outlines that the convergence of people, business, and things results in a disruption in the familiar way in which our businesses function.  These new business designs are applicable in higher education.  In my field of institutional research, we are using student attribute data as predictors of success, relying in some cases on demographic information to help students with course selection to tutoring services.  At the MIT Center for Digital Business, professors interact with external businesses and agencies on research projects that provide benefits to the business in the form of economic growth and to the academic enterprise in the form of research.

However, the concepts of the digital business framework can create challenges in IT departments, institutions of higher education, and businesses in general.  Information Age explored what it means for a business to truly be digital and what implications that may have for IT departments.  Difficulties can occur when other departments drive decision-making for technology related purposes.  There are cost and implementation implications that are not always considered and can prove problematic, forcing the IT department into a reactive position.

In a more general sense, I believe there may be hesitation and resistance in the move towards the digital business model within higher education.  A field steeped in tradition, higher education professionals can often be resistant to change.  While most institutions employ both traditional and non-traditional methods for delivering education to students, higher education may find it difficult to keep pace with a changing and digital world.  It will be the imperative of leaders to embrace the changing world and help facilitate the interactions and technology that allow their employees to thrive with that change.

-The Ayes Have It

Reference

Chatti, M. A., Jarke, M., & Specht, M. (2010). The 3P learning model. Journal of Educational

Technology and Society, 13(4), 74-85. Retrieved from

http://www.jstor.org/stable/jeductechsoci.13.4.74

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12 thoughts on “Our changing work is constantly changing

  1. Ayes,

    Great post! Thank you for sharing the Chatti, Jarke, and Specht (2010) paper. A great resource, and it is interesting to read how the authors integrated so many of the ideas we have been discussing in their 3P learning model.

    As you said, higher education is steeped in tradition. Though the University of Bologna dates to 1088 (http://www.unibo.it/en/homepage) most of Europe’s oldest universities started in the 13th century. Two hundred years later Gutenberg invented the Printing Press (https://www.gutenberg.org/), the Renaissance kicked up to full speed, and knowledge was available to anyone with a little money. Rediscovered Greek, Roman and Islamic treatises invigorated European arts and sciences. The modern world was created, in large part, by the influence of Galileo at the University of Pisa, Isaac Newton at Trinity, and Carl Friedrich Guass at Göttingen. Universities have a pretty good track record, probably one reason they resist change.

    The net, however, is changing education, like it changes everything. The net changed the music industry because the economics of scarcity disappeared. We don’t need a record shop to follow a band or find new music, YouTube and Pandora work fine. It appears that the net is enabling an abundance of knowledge more significant than ever before. And yet, the “university as a network” is so new that we don’t really know how it will work. Guiding principles like those proposed by Chatti, Jarke, and Specht (2010) are helpful, and just the beginning!

    -CatOnKB

    References

    Chatti, M. A., Jarke, M., & Specht, M. (2010). The 3P learning model. Journal of Educational Technology and Society, 13(4), 74-85. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/jeductechsoci.13.4.74

    Like

    • CatontheKB,

      I think the university is a slow-mover in adapting to the networked world, because it is so difficult to make it happen in a comprehensive way. As the individual instructor is given freedom to teach her or his own content in their chosen way, institutions cannot unilaterally make changes to the way content is delivered like in other businesses or fields. I will say, some faculty members at my institution have embraced the Web and empower their students to learn in an interconnected world where the instructor is not necessarily the keeper of all knowledge. Others, however, have not adapted in the same way. I witness it in the technology they choose to utilize to deliver their content, but as I also retain my institutional research role I see the differences in syllabi, as well. I believe academic freedom is one of the things that makes a college or university education great, but it definitely keeps the enterprise from becoming standardized in any way towards innovation.

      Best,
      The Ayes Have It

      Like

  2. Nice job laying out how all the readings related to your work place. Really interesting. You mention that we will be taking the next several decades learning how to function in an interconnected world. I imagine that we actually have very little time to learn how to function and that decades from now we will be functioning in a very different scenario altogether. What do you think in reflection? Do we have decades?
    I do love the reality of your purposely exposing your security to hackers. What a brave and brilliant way to strength test your system. Did a little searching around the idea of hackers actually protecting our security and among other items found the following http://www.rollingstone.com/feature/the-geeks-on-the-frontlines which provides an inside and fascinating look at how the same people who could potentially put us at risk are also employed to protect us. Now there’s an interesting employment option.
    A question about your experience with work swarms – do you find that they are composed of different people each time or is there some consistency around who does and does not seem to benefit? Thanks for sharing the Information Age article. I appreciated how they discussed the importance of IT partnering with other departments to ensure an integrated approach. I would like to see more of that because very rarely does IT reach out for input. They overall do a good job anticipating our needs but I believe there are opportunities for much better partnership. And if that happened more in your own situation (higher ed) the adoption curve would likely be much shorter – don’t you think? So much of resistance comes from our having things thrust at us. ~Tricia

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    • Good morning Tricia,

      I actually could not agree more. The reason I included that comment from Husband was that not only do I think the next several decades will look completely different than our world today, the wired world will likely look drastically different even two years from today. If we do not learn to adapt and change with it now, we risk being left far behind with all of the changes to come.

      As it pertains to the work swarms, they do tend to be the same groups of people who collaborate in that way. I think it is human nature, of course, for professionals to go back to those from whom they see value in collaborating, but how do we expand that net? I wrote last week (https://theayeshaveitblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/has-the-web-changed-knowledge-or-is-knowledge-dead/) of an effort to create a more open format in my divisional meetings so that these like-minded IT professionals could open discuss a topic that was likely more applicable to them than to the college as a whole. Unfortunately, I have a few kinks to work out as the most vocal in our group – who already swarm together – ended up doing most of the talking. I need to work on some parameters for the next attempt to ensure that more interaction takes place from those who do not normally come together.

      On your final points, you have provided me with a bit of a sigh of relief, knowing that my department is not the only one. One of the biggest frustrations that members of our faculty have had with IT is that changes are simply thrust upon them. New or changed software is rolled out with very little input or notice, and upgrades are deployed without enough notice. We are changing that over the course of the last several months. I now attend the monthly meetings of a faculty senate committee dedicated to academic technology, and speak to the full senate at least once per semester. We are developing faculty testing groups to test new operating systems or software before rolling it out to the larger community. For some IT professionals this is cumbersome and aggravating because it does not meet their desired pace for work, but it has helped improve the relationship our department has with the rest of campus. I hope the IT department at Disney will start to collaborate with all of you in similar ways soon!

      Best,
      The Ayes Have It

      Like

      • I am inspired by how you are working to change the culture of the IT department. You hit every major challenge on the head and I will be so happy when our department begins to function more like yours … and great work! I am sure there are many grateful people in your university ~Tricia

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  3. Ayes:
    I really enjoyed your post this week especially your comments about how being a digital business can put extra strains/expectations on the IT departments. In my new role, I sit on the IT committee with operations although my day-to-day responsibilities are for communications and marketing. I have to admit, I felt nervous about participating, but it is clear that marketers and IT professionals must be on the same page. I think this is becoming more true as we are fully immersed in the Information Age. Have you experienced a situation when IT has worked in tandem with other departments?
    Thanks-Krista

    Like

    • Good morning Krista and thanks for your reply to my post. You’ll see in my response to Tricia above that there has been some effort to collaborate with our faculty in a more comprehensive way. This has involved earlier and increased levels of communication when changes in technology will be taking place or even being considered on campus. One area in which we have already had a strong relationship is with our marketing department. A good example of this is in web development. The web developers who work on our internally facing site work for the IT department, yet those who work on the externally facing site are members of the marketing department. Fortunately, long ago (long before my time) the institution realized that it would be pretty short-sighted to not have those individuals working closely together. The two teams meet weekly to collaborate and make sure that their efforts are coordinated from a programming and development perspective. It is just one example, but it’s always been a positive relationship.

      Best,
      The Ayes Have It

      Like

  4. The Ayes Have it,

    When I read the last paragraph of your post, I had to laugh. Change in higher education sometimes feels so slow and painful. My institution is doing a major overhaul to the way faculty are trained to teach online. In the past faculty were taught to use the learning management system, but little was done to help faculty understand best practices for online learning. This change has caused an uproar among many faculty members. This past week my coworker and I were at a training related to pedagogy shift that goes along with teaching online. I was shocked by the reaction of some my colleague. These folks were resistant and to the saw the training as an attack on their teaching. Armstrong suggested change and innovation are difficult in institutions of higher education because of tenure structures, competing agendas among others. I am sure some of that is true at my institution. To be fair to innovation and change my institution is also dealing with some bad attitudes.

    Shelli

    Armstrong, L. (n.d.) Barriers to innovation and change in higher education. TIAA-CREF Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.tiaainstitute.org/public/pdf/barriers-to-innovation-and-change-in-higher-education.pdf

    Like

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