I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective lately and I realized I’ve been witness to an interesting cultural shift in the professional realm. This was evident at the Nonprofit Technology and Communications Conference yesterday, sponsored by Propel Nonprofits and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. You see, I’m no longer surprised by the overwhelming number of attendees who carry their laptops, phones, and tablets from session to session. You might be thinking “well, duh.” And you’re right – of course, more technology will be visible at a tech conference than at any other conference.
But on the other side of the scene, at my favorite local finance workshops, no one has their phone or tablet out. And I mean no one. It’s the kind of environment where you pretend to look for a tissue in your bag and as you lean down, you surreptitiously look at your phone to check for texts or tweets. Yet, and here’s where you may not have noticed the change–just last month, there were several of us finance geeks with phones out, live-tweeting the presentation. No sneak peeking at phones required!
How great is it when the keynote speaker at a technology conference confirms your own observations? I felt so on top of things. The culture is changing. As the ladies from Geek Girls Guide, Meghan Wilker (@irishgirl) Nancy Lyons (@nylons), so humorously and intelligently conveyed, we are no longer in an industrial age where we need to be at the office from 9-5 to get our jobs done. The tools are with us everywhere we go, and while sometimes we might not want them buzzing and beeping as we sit in the quiet of our backyards, they are there when we need them.
My favorite quote from the Geek Girls was “technology offers the ‘hyperlink’ override of hierarchy.” Anyone can have a voice in your organization. Our choice now is to learn to embrace it or try to force a false hierarchy. As individuals, we have the opportunity to move forward into the new world of blending our personal and professional lives. And as organizations, we have the chance to blend the organizational voice with those unique individuals’ voices. As Lyons said, “Organizations need to learn how to let people do things instead of how to make them do things.”
At the Council, we began the blending several years ago. It has been a bumpy and uncomfortable road, but we’ve all survived and are grateful for the journey. We can now say that we have a social media friendly culture – it’s in each employee’s job description and everyone from our executive director to program staff is eager to share their social media adventures with colleagues.
So here’s to hoping for more bumps. Technology is changing rapidly and it will continue to be uncomfortable—humans are the ones using it after all.
P.S. Don’t forget to save the date for our Annual Forum on June 11, where we’ll be talking more about change and the little bumps and failures along the way!