Chris C’s Week 1 Blog

Globalization refers to the integration of people and individuals across geographic, cultural, economic, and political boundaries (Hoffman, 2002). The internet allows individuals, international corporations, and non-state actors to interact in manners that were traditionally limited to sovereign states. Although globalization is not a new concept, the advent of the internet provides millions of people access to vast amounts of knowledge and the ability to communicate near-instantaneously to various points on the globe. While Florida (2005) is accurate in his assertion that knowledge, wealth, and power are located in specific epicenters like New York, London, and Tokyo, Friedman’s (2013) statement that never before in history has a single person had access to so much data through a hand-held device is astounding.

Bostrom’s (2015) description of Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming self-aware and potentially dangerous to humanity borders more on science fiction than science fact. However, his allusion to power is accurate and relevant, mirroring Florida’s notion that parts of the globe control more access to information, and thus power. The states that have more “spiky” regions have the greater ability to influence global events and affect their futures more than countries or entities that lack the economic or technical means to best take advantage of the flattened world.

Despite the differences in opinion of Friedman (2013) and Florida (2005), both of their salient points remain valid. Globalization is not a new phenomenon, and the internet is just the latest medium for the dispersal of “walls” between states and individuals. Similarly, while the commanding players have changed throughout the centuries, there have always been “spikes” within global players where the traditional “haves” have enjoyed greater economic success and quality of life than the nations described as “have-nots;” the “spiky” regions characteristically have the most influential universities, access to financial backing, and affect information and its dispersal.Globalization(Johndornart.com, 2006)

Social media and the internet are powerful tools at my place of work, Georgia-Pacific. Despite having over 30,000 employees, Georgia-Pacific’s leadership remains in constant communication with its workers via common means like Outlook email and increasingly through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. These latter methods provide employees instantaneous access to senior supervisors that has historically been slowed by traditional mail or pre-read emails. Employees at all levels are allowed to make suggestions to key decision-makers that may lead to long-term value creation.

While instantaneous access to leaders and information within Georgia-Pacific is beneficial to the company’s employees, there are numerous challenges. Many leaders become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available to them in the decision-making process, which often slows the tempo of time-critical operations. Additionally, employees are often frustrated when their requests for information are not immediately answered by the recipient of their queries; as an example, human resources professionals in Georgia-Pacific, despite the aid of computerized systems, receive thousands of daily requests for information through the various electronic means available to workers. Finally, employees not familiar with social media and computer systems often find themselves overwhelmed by new information technology or unable to access data available to their peers.

References

Bostrom, N. (2015, March). What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from http://www.ted.com

Florida, R. (2005, October). The world is spiky. The Atlantic Monthly, 48-51.

Friedman, T. L. (2013, September 18). The world is flat. Retrieved from http://www.wikisummaries.org/The_World_Is_Flat

Hoffman, S. (2002, August). Clash of globalizations. Foreign Affairs, 81(4), 1-4.

Jon Dorn Cartoons, Film, Music. (2006, September 9). Retrieved from jondornart.com

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12 thoughts on “Chris C’s Week 1 Blog

  1. Hi Chris,
    I was particularly drawn to what you mentioned in this post regarding social media and internet resources at your place of work. I am in higher education and the incorporation of social media into the classroom or for classroom-related assignments has had mixed reviews over the last decade. In a literature review by Tess https://navigator.kommit-projekt.de/data/reading/The_role_of_social_media_in_higher_education_classes_(real_and_virtual)_112888.pdf (2013) explains though social media technology has become an essential part to personal life and is widely embraced as a tool for business purposes, the influence and use for educational purposes has been mixed. Many scholars in higher education argue the purposeful integration of social media mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Blogger are a valuable educational tool to enhance instruction and promote active learning (Tess, 2013).

    Friesen and Lowe https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Norm_Friesen/publication/263490296_The_questionable_promise_of_social_media_for_education_Connective_learning_and_the_commercial_imperative/links/54c573f00cf256ed5a9b0a4f.pdf (2011) questioned the ability of social media to foster debate within educational environments. Further, Tess (2013) identified that while over 70% of students report having social networking accounts, they also indicate it is rare to use these accounts for educational purposes. In my personal experience within higher education, I have similar findings as to these authors. Some of the faculty members within our department feel so strongly that due to the non-reviewed/non-scholarly nature of social media posts, it is harmful to bring these into a structured classroom that promotes scholarly research and structured curricula. Additionally I have had debates with faculty members over the appropriateness and timing of allowing students to access social media accounts within a classroom. Many argue that if you allow a student to pull up Facebook, that they will lack the restraint to focus on the classroom assignment rather than getting lost navigating in the site for personal experiences. Since you see social media within your business, my question to you is do you think that the educational environment is truly different and warrants these arguments or do you think that simply the educational environment is behind business trends?

    References:
    Friesen, N., & Lowe, S. (2011). The questionable promise of social media for education: Connective learning and the commercial imperative. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(3), 183–194.

    Tess, P. A. (2013). The role of social media in higher education classes (real and virtual)–A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(5), A60-A68.

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    1. I wish I could tell who I was replying to so I could use your first name!
      You have a valid concern about using social media or access to the internet in a structured, educational environment. As an example, last week I participated in a SharePoint class at work in order to teach employees how to navigate within the SharePoint environment. During the class, I noticed that nearly all students, including myself, at one point were “surfing” the web instead of actively listening to the instructor. Perhaps access to the internet should have been temporarily restricted? The instructor was extraordinarily patient and professionally pulled students from their distractions without incident. While I am not an educator, I think keeping the class size small assisted the teacher in monitoring student behavior and keeping them fairly interested in the lesson.
      Chris

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      1. Interesting point Chris about actively listening to the instructor. One of the things I would have continued with discussions about the schools that were flipping to a blended learning environment was this issue. The main concern is that students with access to the internet would “drift” and no longer be engaged. My argument is and continues to be, those are the students that even without technology in the classroom would still drift. These are the students who would either fall asleep or write notes or make lists of things they need to accomplish rather than sit through the lecture or training. What I do encourage instructors (of all kinds) to do is create presentations that are interactive and get the attention of those drifters to engage with what you are doing. There is a Confucius saying that I 100% stand behind, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and and I understand.”

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      2. Hi Chris. This is Kristin. Adventures in Technology in Leadership is my blog 🙂 Thanks for the reply.

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  2. Chris, nice post. Good to hear examples like Georgia-Pacific’s use of social media. Some, such as Martin Ford in Rise of the Robotshttp://www.amazon.com/Rise-Robots-Technology-Threat-Jobless/dp/1480574775 – suggest that as AI gets better at deep learning, they will crunch that “sheer amount of data” you mentioned and offer solutions quicker – even answering the emails without human intervention. We already see glimpes of this anytime we interact with the computer voices on the phone.

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  3. It seems all organizations are attempting to figure out how to use technology, particularly social media, to facilitate connections with employees and other stakeholders. I work in healthcare and we have had many conversations about managing this phenomenon, monitoring it, and using it with patients, staff, and others. For the most part, I would say that our employees are attentive to boundaries and standards without leadership having to actually set up specific parameters. However, there are those who fail to understand or honor boundaries unless explicit details are given. There is no question that social media has infiltrated the work environment and as leaders we must be aware of this, declare an organizational position, and model the espoused expectations. How do you and other leaders in your organization address use of social media (i.e. is there a policy to communicate expectations)? Do you have an approach to channel the sources of input? It sounds as though Georgia-Pacific has become “flat”, to use Friedman’s (2007) term, as employees have immediate access to leaders (and others). I personally prefer flat organizations but also understand that this requires more engagement of leaders with front line employees. I also have four generations of employees in my organization and thus social media, and technology in general, is experienced, appreciated, and ignored in a multitude of ways. This makes for some interesting leadership challenges in connecting with employees.

    Ultimately I find that the interface (no pun intended) between humans and technology is yet to be understood. We are all looking retrospectively at what has been to try to grasp what is and what is yet to come. I have joked on occasion with others that “if we could only plug in and download information into our brains we could learn so much faster and so much more.” As I consider Bostrom’s TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get_smarter_than_we_are) I wonder what it is I really want to have happen. The human experience involves learning and so, what is the purpose of downloading information? What learning would actually occur, what would I miss out on in my own personal development, and what is important about that learning experience? I typically talk myself back to the importance of “real life” learning experiences. Technology provides whole new vistas of issues to think on.

    References:

    Bostrom, N. (2015, March). What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get_smarter_than_we_are

    Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat. A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York, NY: Picadour.

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    1. Rachelle,
      Georgia-Pacific has a computer-based training class, titled Professional Communication, which all employees must take within ten days of hire. The purpose of the class is to provide employees official company guidance on email and social media expectations and netiquette. The course also instructs employees on what is accepted use of internet surfing during working hours. Of particular interest is Georgia-Pacific’s insistence that once something is posted on a social media site, it is generally very difficult to be deleted or retrieved. While the course only briefly mentions legal ramifications and personal privacy concerning internet usage, both of which are difficult to impart upon students in a 30-minute class, employees should understand they have a legal responsibly of how they use the internet at work and to be mindful of what is posted on social media sties.
      Chris

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  4. Chris-
    The point that you mentioned about the existence of the “have” and “have-nots” is very valid, however do you think that the arguments by Florida and Friedman are enough to convince you that the advent of technology and the flattening or spiking of the world is just a modern version of this or is it an actual shift in the power dynamic between these two groups? Personally, I wonder if Bostrom, despite how speculative it may appear to us now, could predict the great equalizer if AI were to become all that the experts believe it could be (Bostrom, 2015). I cannot help when I think about AI and the advent of technology and its advances how the personal assistant have evolved in such a short time on our personal electronic devices. According to Shahani (2015) http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/07/03/419540367/how-personal-should-a-personal-assistant-get-google-and-apple-disagree, a debate is raging between Apple and Microsoft on how personal the personal assistant should get. This discussion hits home and at the root of power and control and how much each of us is willing to sacrifice in the name of convenience. If Bostrom (2015) is correct the control and power that humans have may be challenged one day in the not so distant future due to our own empowerment in the name of progress, but how far is too far for the technology to go? Are humans becoming so lazy that we want to allow technology to evolve in order to help us make decisions, for example asking Bing where I should eat dinner tonight https://www.bing.com/search?q=where+should+i+eat+dinner+tonight&FORM=AWRE (Bing, n.d.), or is it just a segment of the population that desires this type of assistance thus empowering the programmers and they are just filling a need? Do we all want to get our very own Asimo http://asimo.honda.com/, for example made by Honda to do routine tasks for us (Honda, 2016)? Is technology going to one day make the arguments by Florida and Friedman obsolete because the technology will make global locations irrelevant because it will control everything and it will not matter where it is physically located because we just cannot turn the off switch on it because of our interdependence (Bostrom, 2015). The final thought I have is how does this all play into leadership and an organizations ability to manage itself and lead. Will organizations turn to technology to make decisions for them strategically and in other areas thus rendering human leadership obsolete one day? I know it may sound far fetched but I see this as a real possibility.

    -A

    References

    Bing. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from https://www.bing.com/search?q=where should i eat dinner tonight

    Bostrom, N. (2015, March). What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get_smarter_than_we_are

    Honda. (2016). Asimo, The World’s Most Advanced Humanoid Robot. Retrieved March 06, 2016, from http://asimo.honda.com/

    Shahani, A. (2015). How Personal Should A Personal Assistant Get? Google And Apple Disagree. Retrieved March 06, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/07/03/419540367/how-personal-should-a-personal-assistant-get-google-and-apple-disagree

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    1. You ask many valid questions! Concerning the haves and have-nots, access to technology and the internet may move beyond the “spiky” areas, but power will likely remain in the dominant places due to the convergence of economic, informational, and educational resources in these areas.
      I do not think every person wants an Asimo, as humans, in my opinion, are naturally inventive and creative, not inherently lazy. However, future careers will require employees to have a greater understanding of technology and how to use it to increase long-term value. Education, as always, is the key away from poverty. However, as non-skilled labor opportunities are replaced by computers and robots, the gap between the rich and poor will continue to widen.
      Chris

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    2. “…Will organizations turn to technology to make decisions for them strategically and in other areas thus rendering human leadership obsolete one day?”

      One could suggest that this has already occurred in trading on the Stock Market. Humans can no longer keep up with computers.

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  5. Hi Chris,

    You talked about the have and have nots having access to technology in order to make changes. I am going to paint a better picture of the effects of that. I’m just outside Washington, DC and there are school districts who are struggling with lack of access to technology. We are clearly living within the spiky area but we might as well be residing in the low valleys. Having access to technology doesn’t necessarily mean we should see progress. Right, here in the United States we have thousands of school districts that might not ever reach minds that could soar.

    Now move that same technology into the valley and we see terrorist groups utilizing it to instill fear. Bostrom was heading in a direction that many people worry about. Just because something is different doesn’t make it better just different. when I heard that Google had developed a driverless car I wondered how long before it would cause an accident. It finally happened and now Google is working on a way for the car to determine social road etiquette. It was nice that a driver was in the car but still the accident occurred (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/341014e8-df4d-11e5-b67f-a61732c1d025.html#axzz42AHc4VuC). Now Google will create a program that will enable the car to “think” for lack of a better word for itself. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not far behind. Japan is currently working on a wheelchair that will read the user’s brain waves in deciding where to go. What if the chair feels you shouldn’t go a certain route. It will simply overrule you and head in a safer direction http://www.smh.com.au/world/japan-develops-robot-wheelchairs-to-read-minds-20140831-10aky2.html. What is even more scary is that Japan is looking into putting this into use by 2017 all leading to a way for robots to take care of the elderly. Makes you think how far are we really from AI.

    Sheila

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