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In a time in which technology seems to be the driver, are we still capable of being pioneers
As the seasons turn, as we watch the magic of childhood grow into the promise of adulthood, it is hard not to be struck by the fact that in a world in which chaos and change seem to be the norm, there is a seamless thread of continuity which binds us all to past and future. That thread is quite simply the continuation of the human race which subliminally underlies and underpins every action for good or evil which we have taken along the developmental path from cave dweller to modern man.
Looking back along that path we see periods of great development and change, periods when the pioneering spirit was writ large and periods of which we are not so proud. But in a time in which technology seems to be the driver, are we still capable of being pioneers, of stretching the human spirit and reaching out beyond the humdrum and into fresh realms of possibility?
For more than 200,000 of us the answer is an unequivocal yes. These are the people who have put their names forward in the first round of the Mars One Astronaut selection process as willing volunteers who are prepared to take a one-way ticket to build the first Martian colony. In ten years time four of those volunteers will embark for a new life on Mars.
But for the rest of us the challenge is still there. Technology has advanced to a point at which we can all communicate and interact from any point on the globe to any other point so why do so many of us still follow the pathway of our parents and grandparents, trudging the worn path from home to work and back again on a daily basis? How many of us think outside the routine? When we talk about company culture, about engaging the hearts and minds of our employees, about building a healthy work-life balance does it really mean something or is it just talk which looks good on the company statement? Is engaging the human spirit a real ambition or is it subject to a need to control.
Of course, we accept that there are some tasks which have to be undertaken in ‘the office’. Vital work such as building or health care would not get very far if the builders sat at home or if the surgeons didn’t turn up at the operating theatres. But for many of us our desks could be anywhere as long as the communication links are in place. Take NearDesk for example. With a mission to promote flexible working the team are making the most of 4G to enable businesses to cut down on the millions of hours which are wasted every year in travel to a fixed office.
One of the challenges in embracing flexible working is the instinctive assumption that flexible working equals employees turning up at the office when it suits them, leading to problems in planning workflow. The reality is far different. Flexible working means promoting the ideal of employees working from home, office or other locations at times which best suit the business/employee mix. It entails embracing the notion of give and take, of valued and trusted employees giving their best to the organisation and of an organisation which promotes work/life balance and the wellbeing of its employees.
Organisations which plan their employee workflows around a culture of trust and flexibility are already reaping the benefit in increased loyalty and engagement as well as increased productivity and profit. But sadly these are still in the minority and this does raise questions about our future? As every generation steps up to take its place in moving the human spirit forward how will it view the last? As a stagnant, hidebound process follower or as a pioneer which made the most of technology and resources to drive humanity forward towards a better world? We know which we would prefer.