Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Next Step

When I was ten years old, I opened my first savings account. Well, my mother opened it for me, but I got to go to the bank with her and the teller told me what to do if I wanted to put money in my account on my own. She gave me a little book that was filled with blank pages, and she explained that every time I put money in my account someone would write the information down so I would have a running tally of deposits, and I would be able to use that information to find out how much money I had in my bank account. I’m pretty sure I still have that passbook somewhere. I might keep it to show my grandchildren how I used to do my banking back in the old days. Can you believe that we actually wrote it all down? On paper!

In the last twenty  years, we’ve gone from manual entry on a passbook to computer updates on the passbook to the ATM card that gives you twenty-four/seven access to any bank from any store. I can’t even remember the last time I used an ATM to get money, now that I can go to the grocery store and get a litre of milk and take cash from my account at the same time. But did you really think that technology would stop there?

Say hello to the EnStream Mobile Wallet Project.

EnStream is a joint mobile commerce venture between some of the biggest cellular carriers in Canada. For the last couple of years, EnStream has been looking at different ways to make banking more convenient for cellphone users, primarily through apps and online banking. Now EnStream is in talks with Canada’s big banks to take the next step and make your ATM card completely obsolete. The Mobile Wallet would allow the telecom companies to embed credit and debit card information on your SIM Card – that ridiculously small piece of plastic that locks into your phone and works as the key to your personal life. Currently, where your SIM card goes, your phone information follows. Soon, your banking info will tie in as well. There are signs that the project could even be taken a step further. Think of how thin your wallet will become when your driver’s license, ATM card, and credit cards have all been replaced by your Smartphone.

Of course, as with everything in life, there is a catch. And this catch could prove to be quite inconvenient. If I go to a restaurant tonight and misplace my Blackberry, it’s a major pain in the you-know-where and I have to go looking for the phone and then call the cellular carrier and get a new phone number and buy a new phone.  If I go to a restaurant five years from now and misplace my Blackberry, my entire life is now up for grabs to whoever picks up the phone. And we’re not talking about them being able to read my emails to my mum. We’re talking about identity theft made quick and convenient.

Security and technology have been advancing side-by-side with each other for years. All those years ago, when I got that first bank account, anti-virus meant taking vitamins to avoid getting the flu and firewalls were found only in cars and buildings. It will be interesting to see what comes first – the creation of a SIM Card that will allow for banking and personal information to be stored on a phone, or the construction of security systems that will need to be put into place within a Smartphones’ operating system to safeguard that information. Should we allow for the former without the latter, or can we trust that security will catch up with technology before things go wrong?

 

Would you use the mobile wallet service if it was available? Would you be worried about the security of that information?

Edit/Undone – Part 2

This week’s post is a continuation of last week’s post Edit/Undone Part 1.  

“I don’t remember how to do long division”.  The other day, while in the lunchroom, a co-worker’s innocent comment incited a challenge.  Casting our minds back to our elementary school days, those of us who had gathered for lunch set out to re-discover a lost skill.  Slowly, almost painfully, we worked through it together, writing out the solution on paper.  A minute later, we arrived at our answer.  “We did it!” was quickly followed by “Why did we ever learn this?  It’s so pointless”.  A smartphone was quickly produced. “My teacher always said we’d never walk around with calculators in our pockets.  Hah.”

Does this story give you pause?  When I look at youth just 10-15 years younger than me, I see even more differences.  Teenagers seem to have abandoned the English language entirely, preferring “textese” to coherent sentences (can nybody srsly read dis stuff?).  The generational change that has occurred from my generation to the next, when compared to my parent’s generation to mine, is staggering.  In a few short years, these kids will be entering the workforce.  Does that scare you?  As an employer, how do you feel about hiring someone whose idea of a conversation exists in 144 character increments?  I’ll admit, at first, the idea makes me cringe.  But after thinking more deeply about the topic, I realized that this is a typical generation gap, just different; and while scary, I take comfort in the fact that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Why is this change happening so suddenly?  Technology.  Throughout my lifetime, I’ve watched technology steadily replace the skills of yesterday.  No need to read a map, plug in your GPS and it will tell you when to turn.  Have trouble spelling?  Spell checker to the rescue!  Barely passed your road test?  Not to worry; cars now park themselves, avoid collisions, and apply proper braking pressure (what could go wrong?).

Technology has enabled us to do things easier, and faster.  It’s like steroids for generational change.  As we accomplish more in less time, we have more time to do more things, so we add more to our plates.  But then we feel a time crunch, and once again try to make everything more efficient.  We are always looking for a way to do more.   But it means we also have to know how to do more as well.

It’s simply not possible to know everything these days.  It’s been said that a single edition of the Sunday times has more information than the average villager would get in a lifetime during the Middle Ages.  How do we cope?  We abandon knowledge in exchange for knowing how to find it.  We don’t need to know how to do long division; all we need to know is to use a calculator (or a smartphone) to find the answer.   The emergence of the “open book test” in the last 10 years is a perfect example of this trend.  We prioritize “searching” over “knowing”, and traditional skills are thrown to the wayside.

Because of this, business owners may be wary of the young employee, regarding them as undisciplined, clueless, or distracted.  In reality, they are just differently adapted, just as you are differently adapted than your grandparents were.  Try to challenge assumptions when evaluating the newest generation.  Is it true that youth have worse customer service skills due to less face-to-face interaction?  Or are they more socially attuned thanks to social media?  Is it true that they not able to focus on details in an information-overloaded world?   Or are they free thinkers, able to make new connections in a sea of data?  Younger people bring new skills and priorities to the workplace; employers need to recognize what they bring to the table, and then support them in areas where they may lack – just like everyone else.  They may just be your best chance of success in this quickly evolving world.

Like it or not, there is no CTRL-Z for change.  Srsly.

What are your thoughts on how technology has changed society?  Are you apprehensive about the younger generation?  Or do you see their unique skills as an opportunity?

Edit/Undone – Part 1

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Disclaimer:  This week’s topic proved to be more complicated (and perhaps, contentious), than it first seemed, so we are trying something different; we are adopting a multi-post format, soliciting different perspectives on this issue.  Read, comment, and check back next week for Edit/Undone, part two. 

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Where most of my entries have revolved around the retail or marketing side of technology, I wanted to offer some insight into how I believe the younger generation has been affected by what is now a simplified, easily corrected world.  The Edit/Undo phenomenon applies (I believe) to life, work, and the retail environment.

I’ll go back a few years first, explaining the way things were when baby boomers were growing up.

If you had an essay due for school, you had multiple pieces of fools cap at the ready.  You first wrote out a plan of the opening, body and closing, and the arguments or points that you would be covering.  Then you drafted your piece on piles of paper, getting a pretty good sense of the wording.  Then you would take a red pen, and make notes all over it.  Then you rewrite it, hoping not to make an error.  Then you write it again; recognizing that you made errors.  Then you write it again, because your mother recognized that you used an arrow to insert a missing word.

And so – more often than not – you ended up with a stunning four page, hand-written essay that took only four days to create.  And there were a couple of errors.

And you wrote it again.

That same piece today would take half an hour to construct.  And therein lies the cultural shift as it relates to communications, life, retail, and all things everything.

The fact that every refined piece of work had attached to it an attention to detail and a show of caution ultimately translated into more caution and concentration in daily life.  If you make a mistake, you pay for it with a consequence that required reapplying the same effort to get back to where you needed to be.  Because of the entrenched notion in the back of our heads that reminded us that we can’t just erase something, everyone worked more diligently.  On everything.  For school.  At work.  In our social lives.

There was no such thing as erasing.  No option to simply delete the parts we didn’t like.

Today’s younger generation grew up with the mighty “Edit/Undo”.  You start smashing words on paper, highlighting, erasing, cutting and pasting, inserting things into a downloaded template that auto-corrects your format.  It fixes your spelling errors and grammar.  And if – out of a lapse in concentration – you accidentally erase entire sections on which you have worked incredibly hard… you have an endless supply of Get Out of Jail Free cards.

Edit… Undo.

And it’s fixed.

There is no such thing as a true mistake for this generation.  There are only temporary problems to which there are very quick fixes.

This has carried over, it seems, to every aspect of their lives, including their careers.

Next week, Meagan will continue the discussion in Edit/Undone part two.

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