Collaboration, complex decision making and lifelong learning in tech industries
In 2020 we saw immense transformation in the technology space — from telehealth to Zoom to broader digital adoption. Consequently government, financial, corporate and educational institutions quickly embraced new technologies to maintain competitiveness in a volatile market.
Though COVID-19 expedited the shift towards digital transformation and technological advancement, the reality is we’ve been evolving at an exponential pace for decades now. In fact, the World Economic Forum suggests we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution.
They explain, “the First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”
This exponential shift was made evident in a survey of directors, CEOs and senior executives, who ranked digital transformation risk as their number one concern in 2019. To negate this perceived risk and develop advantage through technological innovation there has been considerable and continued growth of professions in the technological field encompassing work in artificial intelligence, to machine learning, to software engineering and to big data (just to name a few).
We all know the Silicon Valley stereotypes: young innovators, venture capitalists, hybrid vehicles, on-campus cafeterias and open plan spaces with ping pong tables... But beneath the stereotypes we’d like to understand the decision making, collaboration and continuous learning that drives big tech and in turn profoundly affects the behaviours of humankind.
Decision making in the tech industry
Agile, rapid decision making is synonymous in tech, with Mark Zuckerberg famously coining the phrase ‘move fast and break things’. It’s also a core tenant of the ‘prototype’ step in the design thinking methodology which is often employed as an agile tool for innovation and human-centered design solutions.
Though this approach has been employed for years, it seems that with 2020 the era of ‘move fast and break thing’ is slowly coming to an end as companies endeavour to provide a better user experience, product or service and operate with more responsibility. No longer do companies or their users accept the minimum viable product synonymous with Zuckerberg’s earlier sentiment.
Even Amazon CEO and self described ‘chief slowdown office’ Jeff Bezos heralds a more considered way of decision making. In an excerpt from Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos published in Fast Company, he suggests there are two types of decisions: “decisions that are irreversible and highly consequential; we call them one-way doors, or Type 2 decisions. They need to be made slowly and carefully.”
'One-way door' decisions are, according to Bezos, those of such importance that they require time, analysis from multiple angles, deep thought, debate and consensus. They should not be taken lightly because once you step through that door there is no going back.
Conversely, Type 2 (aka 'two-way-door' decisions) require more agility and speed — they are the decisions that are changeable, reversible and relatively inconsequential. On Type 2 decisions Bezos says 'Make the decision. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. You’ll change it.' This echoes Zuckerberg's 'move fast and break things' sentiment.
Though we're experiencing a shift towards more conscious decision making, it is problematic that most decisions are still shallow two-way doors.
With a society so heavily influenced and reliant on tech shouldn't all decision making warrant time, analysis and thorough vetting? Is it possible for tech to maintain agility whilst making more considered decisions to our most complex problems?
We believe this can be done through collaboration.
Collaboration in technology
In his piece for the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, writes about technology, “all of us are responsible for guiding its evolution, in the decisions we make on a daily basis as citizens, consumers, and investors. We should thus grasp the opportunity and power we have to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution and direct it toward a future that reflects our common objectives and values.”
He states however that today’s decision-makers are “often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.”
Vicki Huff Eckert further validates this idea in her article for PwC, “without challenges from outside your domain, it’s too easy to get stuck in the same boxes. Without outsiders to test your preconceptions and push you to defend your more outrageous ideas, it’s hard to develop inspiration into true innovation.”
This is why collaboration - between colleagues, companies, organisations and even machines - is critical to permeate disciplinary silos and linear thinking to create better outcomes.
When asked by Tech and Bloomberg what he loves most about working in tech, BQuant Specialist Akin Mousse replied “I will often think about a complex engineering challenge that I am trying to solve, and will have a candid conversation with a colleague or I will read an article, and then a solution will emerge.”
This anecdote demonstrates simply how collaboration can influence decision making and the pursuit of solutions for our most complex challenges. When it comes to tech creating solutions and more impactful decision making, collaboration is the precursor to innovation.
As discussed in our article The benefits of collaboration and using the right tools for team work, organisations must foster a safe collaborative environment and facilitate teamwork by employing the right tools and strategies.
myhaventime's team functionality was specially developed to allow for cross-discipline and multi-organisational collaboration. No matter one’s department or workplace, a myhaventime team room allows for multiple participants to collate their ideas, findings and resources in one centralised space.
A multi disciplinary tech team can remotely brainstorm and ideate by uploading resources to the room, sharing expertise, and discussing in real-time via the chat functionality. It provides an open and inclusive environment for all colleagues to contribute equally allowing for candid dialogue and the aha moments described by Akin Mousse above.
Importance of lifelong learning in tech
As the speed of change in technology has no historical precedent, it is imperative that all those within the industry are adept lifetime learners.
Schwab writes “the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption are hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these drivers constitute a source of constant surprise, even for the best connected and most well informed.”
Without self-direction and continuous learning, those with the tech space quickly become a laggard, their ideas obsolete. In the Tech and Bloomberg article, Software Engineer Lerena Holloway muses “working in technology forces me to continue learning and embrace my status as a ‘forever’ student. The moment we get too comfortable in this industry is the moment we are in danger of falling behind.”
Though collaboration allows for the sharing of knowledge, it’s important that those involved in the collaboration itself can contribute valuable insight and expertise.
We know that to learn one must delegate time for learning and deep thinking. When schedules become overloaded commitment to regular learning and professional development can be difficult.
Knowing this, we created the Virtual Learning Coach to regularly remind myhaventime users to build upon their knowledge and contribute to their rooms (either collaborative team rooms or personal rooms for their own professional development and personal growth).
Especially for those in tech where lifelong learning is imperative, the Virtual Learning Coach encourages ongoing knowledge acquisition which in turn allows for more informed decision making and deeper contributions in collaborative projects.
Do you work in tech but struggle to collaborate with colleagues across multiple platforms? Does your line of work also require lifelong learning and self-directed professional development?