“Real Work” and the Post-PC age

iPad Pro
The best work travel device

A former colleague, still working for Microsoft, commented on a tweet about one of my iPad Pro reviews today. He (somewhat predictably) ‘encouraged’ me to get a ‘real’ device. The Microsoft Surface Pro.

I responded with a baited hook about the superiority of the iPP, which (again predictably) he took. Hilarity ensued.

Surface Pro 4
(c) Microsoft – Surface Pro 4

Don’t get me wrong. The Surface Pro, v4, is a good computer. Damned expensive for the model that has any real functionality. Like double the price of the iPad Pro. And don’t compare the ‘speeds and feeds’ on Windows you need more processing power for all the processes that keep running in the background. But it is a good computer nonetheless. A great one even.

But it’s still a PC. And the world has moved on. Period.

One of Jeff’s taunts was for me to speak to him when I had ‘real’ work.

Which is when it hit me…

Quite apart from him being a salaried Microsoft evangelist, i.e. It’s his job to evangelise Microsoft products (easy with something as good as the Surface tbh), his whole perspective, Microsoft’s whole perspective, is that ‘real’ work is something you do on a PC. Something you need a PC to do.

But I don’t. And, actually, I rather consider my work is as ‘real’ as anyones’.

Components of Work?

Much like many ‘Information Workers’ my work entails some routine administrative tasks including expenses and timesheets, travel bookings and the like. All of these have mobile apps for Android and iOS. I don’t even bother with these on the iPad, my iPhone does the job.

Checking in for flights and hotels, including lounge and room access, again on the iPhone.

As you’d expect a lot of my work revolves around messaging, and I average about 60 – 120 emails per day. I deal with these on both the phone and tablet. The large screen, long battery life, constant connectivity, and awesome keyboard of the iPP make this a better device than any laptop, Surface or no. We use Microsoft Office365, so I don’t have any storage issues, and never a need for a USB drive.

Yes my work does entail ‘office productivity’ previously the domain of the PC:

As a Chief Technologist I’m constantly working on large proposals and whitepapers, mostly MS Word documents, sometimes with Excel spreadsheet financial models. Again the MS apps on iOS are great for these. But even before this was true, there were many alternatives that read and write these documents in native format.

Then there’s presentations. Personally, after 20 years of Powerpoint domination, I prefer Keynote on iOS (but not on OSX). Nevertheless, I enjoy Powerpoint on iOS now too. And no amount of animations, full screen pictures, nor embedded video, even online polls, is too much for the iPad. Indeed both the touch and pencil access on the iPP make this an awesome device to create, deliver, and annotate presentations.

There are a bunch of internal websites with sales and delivery collateral that I can’t access with the iPad unless I’m in the office. And some even when I am in the office. That’s a legacy of IE6 websites. Sigh. But as we shift work to the cloud, and O365, these are far and few between.

I also collaborate online. We use Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync) but I prefer both Zoom.us and Join.us. All of them work great on the iPad.

But my ‘real’ work is not about documents, or even presentations. It’s about influence. Interviews. Consulting. Sometimes educating. Definitely innovating. My work isn’t done when my inbox is empty (I wish), and it doesn’t begin with a document to write or edit. Technology is simply a tool. Documents simply a record, or one of many channels of communication. I don’t get paid for producing MS Office files, or even contributing to them. In the same way a pilot doesn’t get paid for filing a flight plan. We both have to do that as part of the job, sure, but that’s not the job.

And even if it were, you simply no longer need a full PC, with expensive processor, weight, fan, that needs LAN connectivity (WiFi rather than LTE) to do that. Not anymore. We live in a Post-PC world.

Other Industries

This week I’m facilitating envisioning workshops with a healthcare agency about the digital hospital and integrated care system of the future. The reality of how PC’s are constraining ‘real’ work is evident. Clinicians are held back by tethered PC’s with peripherals like mice and keyboards that get in the way of capturing information where and when they need it. We need to move beyond this to mobile devices, with natural and intuitive interfaces, to truly enable healthcare.

Recently the headmaster of a Sydney Grammar school published in a national newspaper his opinion that computers were a waste of time in class. Whilst I fervently disagree with him; my position is that education needs to change as technology enables us; I do agree that the architecture of the PC doesn’t lend itself to teaching. It’s not mobile enough, not intuitive enough, not connected enough. Too expensive, with too many barriers to entry. But an iPod (or MP3 player)? A tablet? A light, intuitive, mobile device with natural interfaces like speech and handwriting? These are devices that lend themselves to learning.

Work is not about using computers. Work is about teaching, healing, influencing, building, creating, entertaining, transacting, selling, serving, reporting, and leading. The PC did a great job of automating the paper based processes we used to arbiter knowledge. But it’s day is done.

Windows is not for Post-PC Devices

The <1% marketshare of Windows Phones leading to today’s layoff of the final 1850 Nokia staff is demonstrative that Windows, a brilliant PC platform, indeed PC OS’s have no place in the post-PC world. Google knows this. Apple knows this. Palm knew this a long time ago (sadly).

Or Startups

Even start-ups who’re using the power of the Internet, and programming, i.e. writing code, don’t use Windows PC’s. Even when they’re writing for solutions on Microsoft Azure. Actually that’s not entirely true. Of course many startups use Windows. Just not PC’s. When they need local compute power, Macs are predominent in the startup world. Many of these run Windows in bootcamp, or in a virtual machine. That is those that aren’t running Linux 🙂

Move On

Use the tools that enable, accelerate, and amplify your work. For now this is most likely a mobile device giving you the information you need, where and when you need it, with the processing power and ubiquitous access of the cloud, combined with the collaborative nature of social media.

Tomorrow it will probably be an Augmented Reality device giving you information from IoT sensors instrumenting everything, combined with the real time context from distributed AI & machine learning analytics systems.

I won’t buy a Surface, not even for work, because the iPad Pro is a superior device for my ‘real’ work. (Well that and my employer issues me with an laptop) I will very likely, however, buy the Microsoft Hololens 🙂


Substitute Nuance For Novelty

It’s easy to get caught up in “Innovation Gestalt.” There is a drive to create something new in every endeavour, and even I’ve argued that change for change sake is imperative.

But change doesn’t always have to be about the novel. There is a story of a photographer with albums full of pictures of his front door. A friend paged through the album quizzically. “Why so many identical photographs?” she asked.

“Look again,” the photographer replied, “change is written over time.”

Sure enough, rather than skimming through the album, the friend slowed down and looked at each image in detail. This one showed rain, the other a new flower, clothing of passersby described the seasons.

Sometimes we need to consider the nuance, rather than novelty.

Technology Companies The New Leaders Of The Economy

If the new arbiter of knowledge is digital access to the planetary knowledge base, then whatever industry you’re in, your company needs to become a technology company.

A bank is no longer a physical network of branches to deposit cheques and dispense payroll. A bank is a technology company. The digital platform denizens use to save, invest, share, and access their wealth.

A hospital is no longer just a building with clinical staff. It is a technology company. The digital hub for healthcare across communities, demographies, and specialist cohorts.

If you are not a technology company you simply cannot complete in a digital world. In the same way if you didn’t industrialise you simply couldn’t compete in an industrial world.

This already applies to every industry, and over time will increasingly disrupt every business. Every role. Every job.

What is your company doing about a digital strategy?

What technologies are you learning to ensure a career?

6 Signs You’re A Multipotentialite (aka Versatilist)

The Multipotentialite

Throughout life someone somewhere will encourage, even insist you specialise. To follow your ‘passion.’ To focus.

But what if you have more than one passion? What if you just don’t fit the pigeonhole? Family and teachers may’ve written you off as a generalist. After all even the proverbs in our language deride the ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none.’

You might just be what Emilie Wapnick calls a ‘multipotentialite.’ What in the past, in my frustration at either being asked to deny much of the real value I bring, or being written off, I’ve termed the ‘versatilist.’ A recognition that you can be passionate, and excel in, multiple domains.

Not a generalist but a versatilist. A multipotentialite.

It’s the reason this, my personal blog covers such a gamut of interests: Motorbikes, travel, parenting, leadership, technology, and more. So how can you tell if you’re a multipotentialite?

1. Serial Interests

Growing up the versatilist immerses themself in serial interests. This is not the equivalent of ‘having a hobby.’ More like mastering something as quickly as possible, then seeming to move on entirely. For me this included cycling, motorcycling, waterskiing, camping, hiking, sailing, photography, and computers. It led to leadership roles in Boy Scouts, St John’s Ambulance, and Youth For Christ.

Later this led to professional roles in youth work, sales, instructing scuba, and sailing across oceans, interspersed with my career in IT.

Even in IT I’ve programmed, administered, supported, architected, designed and implemented computer systems. Also worked in sales, marketing, service delivery, people management, and IT evangelism.

Chances are if you become passionate almost to the exclusion of everything (& everyone) else, only to move onto another passion 6 months later…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

2. Gear Snob

One of the side effects of wanting to master your current passion is the drive to get the best gear you can. Again this shows the difference between the generalist and the versatilist. To a generalist, any guitar will do. They’ll make do with the camera on their phone. They’re happy to rent scuba gear. To borrow camping equipment.

You on the other hand may struggle with affording the latest and best gear. Perhaps you spend hours researching holidays, gadgets, and vehicles, to ensure you can get the most (diverse) value you possibly can.

If you can explain the best brands in just about any domain, because you own so much of it…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

3. Versatile Purchaser

Not only are you obsessed with the best gear, but the most versatile as well.

Consider car(s): Do you have a ‘People Mover’ (MPV – Multi-Purpose Vehicle) or 4WD (SUV – Sports Utility Vehicle)? Something you can, and do, take off-road, through city streets, and down to the beach. A car that you can use to help a friend shift furniture, tow a trailer across the country, or reconfigure to take the entire soccer team to ice cream? Or maybe you have more than one car. The idea of ‘Transport-as-a-Service’ where you simply get exactly the vehicle you need when you need it sounds awesome.

For me this extended to my motorbike: A Ducati Multistrada. Multistrada literally means ‘many roads.’ A motorbike as performant on a track, touring over long distances, commuting in city traffic, or heading off-road.

Also to our boat: A Gemini Rigid Inflatable. As comfortable with a dozen divers out to sea, as towing someone on waterski’s. A boat we’d moor in the city for a night out, and beach when camping. Light, tough, comfortable, versatile.

If you ever feel that you’re next house, or car, or [major purchase here] simply doesn’t do all of the things you want, that you simply need something that may not even exist, just maybe…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

4. Participant

This is an interesting one, but you may find that you simply cannot sit in the audience. You become restless. Package tours are too passe. You’d much rather be exploring on your own. The traveller rather than the tourist. Nothing wrong with tourists, it’s just they’re not you.

Concerts are ok, but you’d much rather be on-stage. Even when taking part in participatory activities like diving, you yearn to be the Dive Master. To be on the helm when sailing.

This isn’t a control thing, at least not entirely. More a mastery thing. This is the difference between the generalist and the versatilist.

For the generalist, ‘good enough’ in any domain, ‘is.’ For the specialist, ‘good enough’ in any domain other than their speciality, ‘is.’ For the multipotentialite, ‘good enough’ simply ‘isn’t’ in anything they attempt.

If you prefer to participate yourself, much rather than simply watch others experience the joy of mastery…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

5. Cartographer

Models and maps are how the multipotentialite navigates the world. It’s how they master new skills so quickly. If there isn’t a map or a model, the versatilist will at least conceive of one, if not document them.

If you find you have a model to explain everything from trust (T = (C+R+I)/SO) to the AV and Sound system at church…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

6. Autonomy

Perhaps this one is because it’s hard to follow a single system of command and control when you have such diverse interests. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to be told how and when to do something when you’ve already modeled the most effective path.

If you find that there’s a blur between your professional and personal interests to the point that you thrive in roles where you can dictate when, where, with whom, and how you work…

…you’re a multipotentialite.

Ignore The Madding Crowd

If you are a versatilist, you’re going to have to overcome the existentialist threat of societal norms. Everything from exasperation at the sheds full of expensive, now disused, top notch equipment you still own; to managers, teachers, and investors insisting you focus.

This constant refrain to focus is a demeaning war of attrition. Don’t settle for anything less than the richness of your full diversity, endless energy, and constant curiosity. Be all you are and add colour to the monochrome of life.

And those projects you haven’t completed? That’s ok. You’ll come back to them…

…or something better.