Shel Gets it on Work-Life Integration

One of the points I was trying to make in my series about knowledge workers was about the way the world has changed, that it’s no longer a world where you put in your 40 hours at work, and then you go home, and never the two shall meet. Today, I see that Shel Holtz described it by talking about his daughter better than I did!

In fact, Rachel is baffled by my obsession with emerging technologies. But if I told her she had to go on vacation without her phone, she’d look at me like I had just landed here from somewhere in the Adromeda system. For Rachel, it’s not a question of whether she’s plugged into a machine 24/7. It’s a question of being in or out of touch with her network of friends and colleagues. In her paradigm, 24/7 connectivity is just the way things are. And the connectivity is with people, not with platforms, algorithms or systems configurations.

Work connections are just part of the mix. Work and social contacts get mooshed together. Sprint and Palm recognized this phenomenon and incorporated it into the design of the Palm Pre. When I got my Pre, I identified my various email accounts and calendars, and the Pre aggregates them into a single view. Is it work or personal? Color codes differentiate it, but all activities are combined into a single calendar and emails into a single email stream. The Pre recognizes the shift from a clear boundary between work and life into a world where it’s all the same.

It also serves as an interesting look at how the tools don’t really matter beyond a certain point, another favorite subject of mine, especially when it comes to social networking. It matters very little if you prefer Facebook to Twitter, of Friendfeed, what matters is how you’re connecting with other people. It’s what you use the tools for that matters, not which tool you choose!

That brings me to another discussion I had on Twitter just yesterday, with @cherylharrison and @jimbrochowski. Cheryl was complaining that every social media presentation includes the same statements about Twitter or “fill in the blank” tool, that get tweeted as if they are brand new and revolutionary ideas, when really, we sort of get “Twitter as tool”, what can we do with it? My response, and perhaps the most (only?) brilliant thing I’ve ever said on Twitter was that to many people Twitter=Networking, because they don’t get networking in the first place.

It’s a bit like the underpants gnomes in South Park. Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn are the new “big” idea tools. If I am on them, I can connect with lots of people, and then ??????, which leads to more business or professional opportunities! Yay Twitter!

If you don’t figure out what ?????? is for you, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed in what being on social networking sites does for you.

So what is your idea of ?????? I’d love to hear it!

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