It is always refreshing when a vendor representative stands on stage and doesn’t push its latest technology but actually talks about a subject that affects human beings who happen to work in the IT industry.
Dave Coplin (pictured), chief envisioning officer (CEO) at Microsoft UK, hit the right note with many of the enthralled audience yesterday and certainly in a further chat with a certain CRN editor later on, after discovering he was not only a motorbiking fan, but also a ukulele player.
“I always said that one day I’d be CEO of Microsoft,” he quipped, as he explained the reasoning for his unusual title at the software giant. “When I took over this role, I wanted a title that sounded as pompous as possible and I think I achieved that. If you want to understand how humans are going to live and play in the future, that is what I do: my job is about the future of humanity. I look at how we all use the technology. At the moment I don’t see it as a release, I see a prison.
“Technology is getting in the way and we need to reclaim some of that gift of technology back,” he said. “We have such a rich experience of technology in our personal life, but not in professional life because we are stuck in the process of work from 200 years ago; we still think of the location of work being important. Work is something that we do; it is not a destination, it is an activity.”
Coplin said we live now in a world of too much information, and the fact that most of us carry mobile devices that give us access to all this information, means we are exposed to too much information all the time.
He added that 50 per cent of the UK workforce will check their phone 15 minutes after waking up – in fact, when asking the audience in a straw poll, more than 50 per cent of people raised their hands.
“We are in a place where technology stresses us out,” he said. “We are busy being busy.” According to Coplin there are three ways humans have evolved into coping with the digital avalanche of information.
Firstly – skimming – never diving too deep into emails, and not reading long emails properly. “While this saves time, there is a danger that no context means you can go wrong – context is crucial,” he said.
Secondly – snacking – where every single nook and cranny of spare time is filled with looking at a small screen to get as much information as possible.
“But we have no idea what this is doing to us mentally," he explained. "It takes us out of where we actually are at the time, be this reading your child a bedtime story, or doing something else, and puts us back into the workplace. You should never need to check screens that often unless you are in the emergency services, or are involved in a project that is about to go live.”
Finally, Coplin said multi-tasking was the biggest error humans make when it comes to technology consumption. “Multi-tasking is not a human trait – we have adapted it as a human trait, but the average human being is a third less efficient when they multi-task, and it results in a time delay between finishing a distraction and switching back to a task in hand, averaging around 23 minutes. That is not a productive use of time.”
And later in a chat with CRN, Coplin said a different approach was needed to dealing with the deluge of email each day. “I used to treat email like a bucket and was always chasing inbox zero – but now I have a different approach and treat it similarly to Twitter."
He said if you compare Twitter with a river, you see the water flowing for that moment in time while you are standing at the edge, but when you walk away, it keeps flowing.
“That is fine. You cannot catch every drop of water in that river, nor can you catch every single tweet or email – you just catch what you can at the time. I now do the same with email: I don’t answer them all, terrible as it may sound. I have a different approach. I spent the morning when I’m travelling into work on the train answering emails, and the same in the evening. But during the day I’m meeting people and using my brain differently – I don’t look at my screen.
“The short-term memory is like a bowl – to process information and to store it into the long-term memory, it needs time. If you imagine there is a hole at the bottom of the bowl where things drip through slowly, you have to give it time to drip through or it will never sink in.”
And it was with that in mind that the conversation then moved away from technology and onto the far more hard-hitting subjects of which motorbike we rode, and whether to invest in a concert or soprano ukulele. The perfect end to any conversation.
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