Just when you thought you simply could not be any busier at work, Tom Austin, Vice President and Gartner fellow, proclaims that our jobs will soon “become less routine, characterized by increased volatility, hyperconnectedness and swarming” (2010). Swarming? Really?
According to Austin (2010), by 2015 “people will swarm more often and work solo less. They’ll work with others with whom they have few links, and teams will include people outside the control of the organization.”
Given the impact of technology and globalization on our work, perhaps it isn’t difficult to imagine a world in which we’re all ‘swarming.” Competition is increasingly at a global level and the expanding availability of technology has truly flattened our world (Friedman, 2007). The growing worldwide use of social media has had a particularly significant impact. As Shirky (2008) wrote, “A million times a day someone tries some new social tool” (p. 295).
At my workplace, the use of social media tools most certainly continues to grow and expand. We have Facebook and Twitter accounts for our school, for most of the academic programs within our school and for many of our social clubs and student organizations, as well. We have an internal Wiki for our faculty and staff, LinkedIn pages for our alumni and websites in Chinese and Russian to market our programs to an expanding global pool of potential students.
Inside our school, technology abounds. We have classrooms equipped with Echo360 technology, multiple teleconference rooms and a soon-to-be completed digital broadcast studio. We also are home to the smallest physical library within our university. The fact is that you don’t need extra shelf space for digital textbooks and resources.
My typical work assignments also increasingly reflect a pattern of ‘swarming” as both the use of technology and the impact of globalization expand. Just this week, for example, I participated in conference calls with colleagues in Beijing, email exchanges with an academic program sponsor in Tokyo and a streaming guest lecture that included women from Afghanistan participating via Skype. I also traveled to and from New York on Amtrak where almost every single passenger was either online, watching a movie on their mobile device, listening to music or reading on their kindle or tablet.
Technology and our ability to connect, communicate and collaborate on a global scale is revolutionizing the way we work. As Husband (2013) writes, “this impact is growing into massive change in the ways we do things and behave.” As a result, our workplaces are being transformed into a wirearchy as “rapid flows of information erode the pillars of rigid traditional hierarchies” (Husband, 2013).
Husband (2013) predicts that while the last thirty years have been about “the building of the technical infrastructure that provides an interconnected world,” the next fifty years will be focused on our ability to adapt to the “interconnected world and workplace” that will most certainly keep us all ‘swarming’ (Husband, 2013).
Friedman, T. L. (2007). The World is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Picador / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Goasduff, L. (2010, August 4th). Gartner Says the World of Work Will Witness 10 Changes During the Next 10 Years. Retrieved from Gartner: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1416513
Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody – The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press.