1st Aug 2023
3 Min Read

Head-to-head. Mind the information gap

Richard Bibby
Richard Bibby
Digital Transformation

Are our increasingly digital ways of working making it harder to share knowledge and skills? Two of our team throw down their proverbial gauntlets to put the transfer of occupational knowledge to the debate …

The digital age has done away with physical storage (begone, clunky filing cabinets!) but by sending everything to the cloud and shifting to hybrid working, could we be threatening the legacy of peer-to-peer learning and losing institutional knowledge?

It’s a question worth debating. So Richard Bibby, AKA Bibs, – our procurements and partnerships manager with more than 30 years’ experience in the workplace – and Gen Z-er Brandon Campbell – one of our project managers in the early years of his career – sat down to thrash it out.

Bibs: Everything is instant now: that’s a behaviour shift that comes with a price. For example, a little while ago we had to review some proofs – you don’t often see physical proofs these days except for printed materials. Even though we were up against it we took the time to step back and we spotted a mistake. I’m not sure anyone would think to do that in 10 years’ time. Are we so busy rushing that skills will be lost?

Brandon: I agree that the digital age has encouraged people to be ‘first’. Sometimes a story will run before all the details are fact-checked because it’s as important to be the one to break it, as it is to be right. But I try to stay away from that. There’s value in taking a strategic pause. But when it comes to adopting older working patterns, such as printed proofs, I’ll need to be shown the value of it – what does it do that the modern approach doesn’t accomplish?

Bibs: Interesting … what about hybrid working: Brandon, do you feel working remotely hinders your ability to learn from your peers?

Brandon: Not particularly. Being able to access a pool of information, irrespective of your location, is widely beneficial. And whereas before you had to wait to be in the same room as certain people to interact with them – and at an entry level you perhaps didn’t get many opportunities to do that – now you can just be dialled into a conversation with senior leaders. There’s more democratisation.

Bibs: Conversely, I think work education is harder because of hybrid. You pick up a lot more if everyone’s physically together, rather than individually at home. Without that sort of on-the-job training, you end up making a lot of assumptions and it can then come as a shock when you have problems or mistakes pointed out to you.

Brandon: That’s the Dunning-Kruger effect, right, when people overestimate their skills?

Bibs: Yeah, that might reinforce the ‘know-it-all’ badge some people are given. There’s the quick way and there’s the right way. I like to see the facts and make an informed decision, which doesn’t happen when we don’t collaborate. It comes back to the modern behaviour of rushing: thinking you’ve got to react to things straight away – that’s when people can have knee-jerk reactions and start to accuse each other when things go bad. I hold my hands up if I make a mistake as it’s a constant learning process. And if you don’t learn from history, it repeats itself.

Brandon: There are a few misconceptions around the younger generation, that we don’t want to work or that we know it all: both are wrong. I think it’s that the younger generation are a lot more vocal and that can come across as argumentative, but sometimes that’s the way to drive change. And we’re certainly not discrediting the wisdom that comes from the older generation and our peers; like you say Bibs, it’s about continually looking to improve on what came before.

Bibs: The only way you learn is through mistakes. Building on that, I think people need to listen harder – take in what peers are telling you. If you miss that mentoring, you can go rogue.

Brandon: I’d take that a step further. There’s nothing stopping millennials or Gen Z-ers adopting more traditional ways of working, but likewise, there’s nothing stopping the older generation adopting the tech savviness of someone younger. When we make that divide – old people can only do this and young people this – then we discourage people from learning. It’s about shifting the culture: everyone needs to learn and that way we can help each other.

Bibs: Nicely put.

A perfect way to end the debate, thanks both. Want more insight into how the digital age is impacting the world of work and – crucially – how you can stop it affecting your comms?

Read our World Changers report and tune into the podcast.

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