In the past decade we’ve seen technology evolve to be more personable, more natural and in essence, more human. Computers have transformed from bricks to hand-held mobile devices. Software has shifted from native programs to cloud-based apps. User interfaces have evolved from static pages to include social streams, extending the boundaries of our thoughts, knowledge and communication.
We’re starting to see this transformation in our work lives as well. Employees are no longer chained to their desks and computers, but can work from their mobile devices. They can approve purchase orders, find new slide decks and relevant conversations, without logging into yet another website or application.
Quentin Hardy wrote an excellent op-ed piece about this called “Business Social Media: Rise of the Machines.” It’s about how much of our workday is spent accessing information stored in machines, but enterprise social technology is bringing it out in a way that we can interact with it more easily.
But, it’s more than that. It’s about making machines essentially behind the scenes and the human interface more prominent. The real emphasis shouldn’t be on the word “machine.” It should be on the word social, because at the end of the day, it’s not business or technology that matters; it’s people.
That’s the whole reason technology is evolving, to make it easier for human beings to use. It’s becoming closer to our reality, closer to the way we talk, touch, communicate—all of our natural senses. And at the same time, technology is becoming more insensate with fewer wires, keys, codes, buttons, and dial tones. While still in its infancy, we’re starting to see cars that drive themselves, augmented reality glasses and gesture interfaces (Nintendo wii). Perhaps the next step in enterprise social technology will go even further, transcending the human-computer interaction, to an “interface that essentially has no interface.” But, this is digressing from the point.
Many years of innovation are converging on a constant theme: social—of or relating to society. The theme reveals itself in marketing as “user choice”, “personalization” and “empowerment.” It shows up in the technology through “natural human interfaces” and “mobility; and it is reinforced through software, with “social” being the latest permutation of the promise.
The fact that “social” is becoming prominent in our personal lives and our work lives is not a reflection on the evolution of technology. It’s a reflection on society, a glimpse of people, business and technology evolving to a more ideal state. Whether it’s sharing ideas, critiquing, asking questions—either in person or through enterprise social technology—organizations, people cannot progress without social.
In a world where muscle power has been replaced by machines and computers are in some ways replacing our brainpower, we have to ask ourselves, how will this affect business and our future? Enterprise social is where the next inspiration, the next solution, the next hint at utopia will be shared.