26/11/2014 07:50 GMT | Updated 23/01/2015 05:59 GMT

Think Outside the Inbox - Keeping Pace With Technology

'The quicker you let go of old cheese, the quicker you find new cheese.'

J. Spencer and K. Blanchard in Who Moved My Cheese?

Technology has always been a hotbed of change. Over 50 years ago Harold Wilson (British Prime Minster) was telling us that we needed a 'new Britain' if the country was to prosper in the face of the 'white heat of the technological revolution'. Furthermore 'there will be no place for restrictive practices or out-dated methods on either side of industry'

In my 40+ years in science and technology, it feels as though the pace of technological change has never been faster and wrought more upheaval than now and especially in my own field of electronic communications. As the major social media players seek to embed themselves at the heart of business communications, there can be little doubt that whilst email will remain central for many years we have to adapt to new ways of reaching out internally (to colleagues) and externally to customers. For many from Generation X and Y and especially senior managers keeping pace with change is a major challenge. Knowing which to adopt early and which to follow and adopt later is an even bigger gamble because being ahead or behind of game changing technology can make or break a business and none more so than disruptive technology.

Is this how our parents felt about the industrial revolution? The science of change management was not around in those days to help them change. However, we are lucky to have a body of material and techniques on which we can draw to enable us and our organisation to adopt to behaviours. What can we learn from the likes of John Kotter and Kenneth Blanchard?

For me four key overarching themes are:

  • change must come from leadership at the top;
  • be open and ready to change as needed;
  • create short term wins;
  • ensure the new behaviors become the norm.

One of the most effective tactics is reverse mentoring whereby a member of Millennial (Generation Y) acts as a technology mentor for an older member of the organisation. I have sat on both sides of the fence in my career. Fifteen years ago it was me mentoring the CEO's of some of the FTSE top 100 companies. Whilst this still is part of my business, at networking meetings I actively cultivate Generation Y in order to learn how they use (or not) email and social media and what is in and out of favour. Many argue that it is not only Baby Boomers and Generation X who need to adapt but that Generation Y and Z also need to change their e-behaviour to suit business need and especially with regards to email.

This is where reverse mentoring is so powerful as both sides can lean from each other. Reverse mentoring also enables you to practice other key tactics for staying ahead of the game namely observing how your customer's are behaving and what they need (as many of your younger mentors typify tomorrow's customers).

Other ways to keep pace with the changing technology landscape are:

  • Subscribe to a few of the leading technology news streams.
  • Be fearless, be bold and play with the latest gadget/app. These days there is little you can do to truly break the technology and crash the systems, unlike the old days when this was one of people's main fears.

As far as email is concerned, keeping pace with how social media is changing the landscape is all about thinking outside the inbox. Next time, before hitting send ask yourself is this the most effective way to communicate my message. Sampling the alternatives will give you the experience to help you decide what is best for you and your business. Then the task is to enable others to change and ensure the change is permanent.

What's your favourite way to keep pace with the new technology?