Thursday, September 18, 2014

Changing with technology: the example of collaborating with slack

I find it fascinating to see how our habits change (or don't change at all!) driven by new technologies.

In the Dutch cartoon Fokke and Sukke are making bookcovers for their ipads on the Steve Jobs school

Yesterday Patricia called and because she is in my phone contacts I took the phone with a "Hi Patricia, this is Joitske, how are you?" the answer was "Hi this is Patricia" What a weird start of the conversation... Apparently you can not easily change your default phrase which which you start a phone conversation. The starting phrase "hi, this is Patricia" comes from the time when there was no contact name on the screen of your phone. A phrase or habit which is apparently quite deeply ingrained in our minds. I think it's a funny example of the influence of technology on our communication and how our habits are sometimes matching older technologies ..

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you had (until about 6 months ago) to pass a scanner as a visitor, so you had to walk counterclockwise. Three months after the scanner was removed I kept the same route walking to the escalator. Until I noticed that everyone in front of me walked to the right to go straight to the escalator which is faster! I felt pretty stupid that I had not noticed this before.

I have blogged earlier about my grandma from the North speaking dialect but who couldn't speak dialect on the phone. On the phone she would speak official Dutch which sounds very formal. One older manager I met did not want to read from the screen and had everything printed. He said he simply couldn't read from screens. It is like some of our habits are one step behind the new technology and can not catch up.

Sometimes it works the other way, and you can also use technology to stimulate a change in habits. In team of five people, we noticed that we mainly seek advice from those you work closely together with on a project and that the threshold for quickly asking advice from the others is quite high. My answer was actually consciously assigning a new role of  'advisor'. However, a colleague suggested to use slack as a teamtool. With slack you can create channels, ask questions and call somebody into a conversation by tagging his name.  We've been slacking a month now and it works! Interestingly, another team had a look at slack and thought it was too chaotic. The reason why it works so well for us is that this colleague already uses it in another project and helped us to get into the tool. Which is not too hard, but there are many small things you need to explore.

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