Key Course Takeaways

The Internet provides nearly limitless possibilities for enhancing work productivity and our personal lives; the only limitation is our own creative thinking, patience, and imagination. Therefore, it is humbling to realize that my own lack of technical knowledge concerning the possibilities available in the digital world may have hindered my ability to lead and develop my employees. Fortunately, this course provided an understanding of the value that can be created, both at work and at home, by using the vast knowledge stored on the Net and interacting with its millions of users to share ideas. Listed below are my three key takeaways from Technology and Leadership:

a) Excel in connecting talented and creative employees: entrepreneurs, innovators, and intellectuals, when in persistent contact with each another, are able to share thoughts, motivate one another, and brainstorm problem-solving ideas more efficiently than any individual(Florida, 2005). The leader in the digital age must empower innovative thought through the recruitment of individuals familiar with sharing ideas across the Web. This also requires the leader to have an understanding of technological means to connect remotely, constraining the leader to seek new methods to share and manage knowledge and to establish the technical means for effective communication on the Net. Networking, according to Weinberger (2011), is the new strategy of connecting and knowing.

b) Be able to filter and manage knowledge for relevance and accuracy without reducing the amount of information available: leaders must filter data so as to not overwhelm employees already over-saturated with information(Weinberger, 2011). However, this does not mean that leaders choose what information employees see or limit them to certain media. Rather, it suggests leaders empower employees by encouraging the sharing of knowledge; providing access to data that may require subscription fees; encourage employees to be creative innovators and knowledge seekers; and create shared data sites that are not burdened by dated information or ineffective search engines (Davenport, 2015).

c) Remain open-minded and forward-thinking concerning how the Internet is changing leadership, business, and personal lives: as employees are exposed to more sources of knowledge and interact nearly instantaneously with peers around the globe, leaders must remain authentic and transparent while increasing active listening skills(Husband, 2016). As Jarche (2013) points out, supervisors not familiar with working in the networked world will likely cause friction and bottlenecks by decreasing the tempo of networked employees sharing knowledge and brainstorming ideas.

The internet provides businesses and their employees the capability to conduct work 24-hours a day, communicate across vast distances and time zones, and frees knowledge from traditional physical confines, such as libraries and universities (Weinberger, 2011). The amount of information available to any employee connected to the Net provides seemingly endless opportunities for creative and free thinking. Therefore, leaders must create, or host, work environments that welcome individuals to meet, share ideas, and create solutions (Martin, 2015). Despite all of their other myriad duties, leaders in the digital age must be familiar with the capabilities of the Internet and constantly seek technical means to remain relevant in the interconnected world.

References

Davenport, T. H. (2015, June 24). Whatever happend to knowledge management. The Wall Street Journal.

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

Husband, J. (2016). What is Wirearchy? Retrieved from http://www.wirearchy.com

Jarche, H. (2013, November 5). Networks are the new companies. Retrieved from http://www.jarche.com

Martin, M. (2015, December 4). A deep dive into thinking about 21st century leadership. Retrieved from http://www.michelemartin.com

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know. New York: Basic Books.

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15 thoughts on “Key Course Takeaways

  1. Chris-
    You thoughts on feeling humbled as a leader due to the technological knowledge that this class offered and how it may have been impacting your leadership opportunities before it are thoughts that I share as well. Despite the introduction to the technological advancements that I have and have not been taking advantage of as a leader because of the exposure I received in this class I believe that I am in a much better position as a leader to lead with technology. Before this class I did not spend much time thinking about technology and the advantages and opportunities it affords leaders and employees. Now I can no longer sit passively by and claim ignorance as to the advantages that technology brings. The biggest benefit that I see that embracing technology will give me as a leader is the understanding how I can use it to be connected to my staff and bridge the distance gaps that plague me in my territory. It will be interesting to see if I can try and make some inroads with my employer to begin to bring some of the technology that I have learned about in this class to my organization. It has been great learning with you and from your thought intriguing posts.
    -A

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    1. A,

      While it is difficult to introduce new technology into a large organization like Georgia-Pacific, this does not mean that I should ignore existing methods to improve the company’s use of the Net. In particular, the company does not utilize technological methods to teach required courses through distance learning. While it would be beneficial and productive to have supervisors attend leadership classes via live Web courses, Georgia-Pacific requires training to be conducted in-person. There are, of course, advantages to attending a period of instruction in-person, but travel costs, travel time, and loss of work productivity reduce the positives. There are multiple distance education methods I may introduce to take advantage of digital connectivity.

      Chris

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  2. Chris, I have enjoyed your posts this term. As a fellow vet, I appreciate your past service…and hope this course facilitates your future service as a leader. I agree with you that networking will be critical to adding value to an organization.

    Best of luck as you move forward academically and as a leader!

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    1. Thank-you, Dr. Watwood! My knowledge has increased tremendously during this course, and I will be able to seek methods to enhance employee engagement utilizing the capabilities of the Web.

      Chris

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  3. Chris

    You mentioned something in your second point that I think might be absolutely effective for this group and others. As we have discussed throughout the course the ability to filter vast quantities of information, to find those nuggets of truth, is a difficult task. In a sense I wonder if its the responsibility of leadership to teach critical thinking about the use of information and where to find it. Take our cohort for example; we have all spent years developing an understanding of worthy information and how it was developed. Maybe we have an ethical obligation to pass along this knowledge, as we would expect of our employees in a connected world. After all, there must be some value to this many years of education even if the iPhone can dig up information faster than we can recall.

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    1. Cam,

      You are correct, and I will use my 12-year old daughter as an example. Like many children her age, she is familiar with using the Internet to research data for school projects. I have taught her to be very critical of where she searches and to look for scholarly material, such as using .gov or .edu sites for her initial search. She even cites sources, something her school teachers have found entertaining and enlightening for a sixth-grader.

      Weinberger (2011) profoundly states that the Web is an unedited collection of innuendo, contradicting data, rumors, and falsifications. My intent is for her to be able to sort through the endless knowledge available for her to discover what is reliable and meaningful. Conversely, my mother-in-law believes everything she reads on the Internet, and there is rarely a week that passes where she thinks she has a new sickness due to an article she found on the Web.

      Chris

      Reference

      Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know. New York: Basic Books.

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      1. I can appreciate the mother in law comment; mine will find five different answers online to her question about medication and then call around to poll which one we think is correct. My standard answer is to consult the doctors who prescribed them because the answer she likes might be coming from a person who read the newspaper to get their expertise.

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  4. Hi Chris,
    I have enjoyed so much working with you throughout this course. Through the classes we have taken together, I have found that I seem to connect well to how you analyze different theories and lessons. This final blog is no exception.
    I really liked how you focused on a main lesson of this course is the importance of the leader connecting individuals and providing opportunities for collaboration. I did some research into collaborative leadership and like how George Ambler (http://www.georgeambler.com/11-practices-of-collaborative-leaders/) described several practices of this leadership style. He explains that when we work towards a more collaborative style of leadership, the word leadership becomes more a verb and not a noun. In collaborative leadership, the philosophy changes from a state of authority and position to a more flattened structure where leadership is based on cross-functional relationships and the leader works to provide collaborative environments and to engage with others (http://www.georgeambler.com/11-practices-of-collaborative-leaders/). The internet can be such a powerful tool to support collaborative leadership. I have found that when using the internet and this leadership theory, I feel more like a coach on the side. I definitely take a step back and my role becomes empowering individuals to explore and reach their potentials gaining new knowledge in groups.
    Do you think that this type of leadership is the best to embrace the internet or are there several ways for leaders to approach this tool?
    Kristin

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    1. Good points, Kristen. As you might surmise, I am a fan of collaborative leadership. Yet I also think that it takes a strong leader to implement collaborative leadership. A hands-off leader cannot assume collaboration! So there is an interesting balance that is required!

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      1. Very true, Dr. Watwood. I have observed some leaders who boast of being a “hands-off” supervisor. Unfortunately, this usually resulted in these individuals not supervising any of their employees’ tasks or objectives. The end state was work not being completed or done in a poor manner.

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    2. Thank-you Kristin! It seems like ‘forever’ ago that we sat through orientation. I think collaborative leadership, as a style of management/supervision, works well in the digital age. However, I think leadership can be broken into a simpler, basic method no matter the environment: 1) provide the leader’s guidance and intent; 2) empower subordinates by stating basic limits of what they can and cannot do in terms of accomplishing your task; 3) supervise, actively listen, and engender trust. The internet is an invaluable tool for employees to connect with like-minded professionals and as a means of seeking knowledge, but without the proper leader, the Web remains a tool that may be wasted.

      Chris

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      1. Chris,

        My question is. How can we as leaders assist supervisors and managers in becoming comfortable in seeking out information on the web and/or working in the networked world? If these are the people who will be managing others, then it is imperative that they become familiar with the networked world. Our supervisors and managers are probably feeling just as intimidated as we are in working within the digital world.

        Sheila

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    3. Chris and Kristin – your comments regarding collaborative leadership resonate with them. The era of heroic or command and control leadership will have difficulty sustaining in this new world. Particularly if one considers the mobility of a connected workforce. I also like to think of leadership as a process (versus a position). Essentially we are re-affirming the need for strong and effective leadership but the nature of that leadership is evolving. The environmental factors – in particular technology and the web – are presenting a new context for which we will all get to experiment and exercise our leadership skills. That is what makes it exciting and daunting at the same time. Your three takeaways, Chris, are great lessons for such an environment!

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      1. Thank-you, Raven! I have only been retired from the Marine Corps for about 14 months, but I have constantly heard the term “command and control’ associated with poor leadership. In the Marine Corps, leadership was defined as centralized command and decentralized control. This is a significant difference, and one that my civilian peers do not seem to understand. Centralized command referred to unity of command, meaning there was one individual responsible for all which did or did not occur in the unit; decentralized control meant that subordinates were given an objective but were not specifically told how to accomplish the task. This meant that junior service members were free to be creative and innovative when accomplishing tasks, allowing them to make important decisions without having to consult someone of higher rank. In a nutshell, this leadership says, “I will be responsible for what you do, but I will not tell you exactly how to do it.” What do you think?

        Chrsi

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      2. That is a great insight and I appreciate your clarification re: command and control and the military. I can understand the connection due to stereotyping. I actually wanted to take the military leadership elective to learn more because I believe there is a lot to learn from that model. Your comment that it is centralized command and decentralized control is compelling. Here’s another interesting military leadership characteristic I am really intrigued with – the military has to grow its own leaders, whereas private sector or even governmental sector business can recruit for positions. Where does one recruit a general or a sergeant or other admiral, etc? The military must develop its leaders through the ranks. I had never thought of that issue before and it speaks to the challenge of both recruiting in new people, strong leadership development systems, and the need for retention strategies. All very challenging in any environment! I digress – but I have very much appreciated learning from you!

        Like

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