As a consequence of the economic globalization and the digitalization (not to confuse with digitization), people are more and more working on line and using collaborative softwares, also named groupwares. This involves changes not only in the way of working as an individual, but also changes in the way of organizing the work processes and the way to manage work collectives. The explosion of the volume of digital contents (e-mail, digital documents (text/ calculation sheets), etc.), web applications (portals, intranets, extranets), technical documentations on the cloud, have put new forms of psychological pressure: collaborative tools can be time wasting and everybody feels the acceleration of time in our communication through digital communication, sometimes not for the best… The new digital technologies, based on high frequency wifi and big data management set the data at the core of value creation. It implies great changes in the skills demanded to the workers and a paradigm change in the relationship between “the client” and “the provider”, as we knew it before.
We are more and more learning AND working in collaboration with others and not all the time co-located with colleagues, management or factory.
As knowledge becomes more specialized and that solutions require interdependent experts, work requires more collaboration between co-workers. Nature and function of management is changing. Structuring the mutual knowledge in order to achieve common goals in a network (or a network of networks as Internet) involves a high degree of symbolic interaction and to master what could be defined as “purposeful communication”. The old way of hierarchical management, such as to give orders and to wait for their execution,or control them a posteriori, is not effective anymore in environments that are more distributed and where a high level of reactivity is expected because of the high speed of changes. This constant “disruption” forces people to adapt themselves constantly, not only to update their softwares, but also their own technical skills and the way they organize their work. This is the reason why adult trainers have to encourage such “soft skills” as creativity, initiative, ability to interpersonal interaction and confrontation of points of view.
For example, real-time collaborative editing allows multiple users to engage in live, simultaneous and reversible editing of a single file. Version control platforms as the one we are using now allow separate users to make parallel edits to a file, while preserving every saved edit by every user as multiple files. The first attempt to develop what was called computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) began in the end of the eighties as the personal computer entered work organisations and former highly centralized computer systems became more and more miniaturized and networked.
Induction, synthesis and dialog are slowly replacing deduction, analysis and one way information transmission. It doesn't mean that there is no need for high technical skills. There are asked and necessary (someone who is not able to send a mail or to attach a file has nowadays very few chances on the labour market), but they are not sufficient. The most important thing when you work in a digital environment is to be able to find the information you need, to transfer it to your colleagues and to be as autonomous as possible in learning and finding solutions to your problems.
What is also very important in the collaborative learning-work environment is the ability to give feed-back about one's own work (intrapersonal aspects, metacognition) and about the group process in itself (interpersonal aspects, collective intelligence - not to confuse with GroupThink). Another very important skill is also to be at ease with the person-machine interaction. The human value added is not in muscle power or perfect knowledge of one's subject, but in learning and exchanging, not only with the machine, but also with other humans.
As a conclusion and as a central ethical rule for our new digital times: you should not take humans for machines and you should not take machines for humans.
Author: Dr. Isabelle Bohnke for COOPETIC