It's always a good day when I can say that I have gained a fresh perspective on the project. This morning, Jessica DeGroot from Third Path granted me such a perspective.
You know it's easy to look at where we are presently and think that we are so much more improved than we ever were. It's our society's predilection for the latest/newest/state-of-the-art that drives this perhaps. I can remember growing up and thinking that somehow my generation and I were somehow innately smarter than previous generations - that we had a handle on technology like no one before us. (That's what a lot of TV marketing, video games and an unhealthy emphasis on youth can do for kids, I suppose.)
And so it stands now that my generation would like to think that we are so much more 'evolved' as parents than our parents had been for us. I mean, forget about childcare and consider what we were eating back then (I remember thinking that 'artificially flavored' was somehow a good thing!) or that it was a good idea to squeeze as many kids into the back of a station wagon as possible (not to mention my sitting on the arm rest in the front seat when driving with my grandparents!) God only knows what our kids will be doing with our future grandkids in the name of leading healthier lives that goes against what we're doing with them right now.
The point I'm trying to make is that it's extremely easy to look at where we are in time and congratulate ourselves too much about what we're doing as parents and all the state-of-art things we're utilizing to do (Organic food and Mozart for babies anyone?) The technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it's hard to see what things will really be like in 20-30 years just as no one in the seventies could have foretold the pervasiveness of the internet. Undoubtedly, these technological advances will have a deep impact on the family unit in ways we can't even imagine now.
Which brings me to my conversation with Jessica DeGroot, who seems to have an insightful grasp as to where we are at in the evolutionary process of balancing work and family and a good hint at how, technologically, things are shaping up. I was asking Jessica about what companies stand out now in regards to better balancing work and family with their employees and she replied that, while there are some companies doing some good things in this regard, it's still very much a pioneer effort, led by a few business leaders who are "at the blackboard, still trying to work the math."
Now, what was really insightful for me was Jessica talking about how these business leaders are learning to "manage technology in a more creative way." In other words, these pioneers are striving to utilize the current technology to help create a more balanced work/family arrangement. Presently, we are at a transitional point between the industrialized age and the informational one. This is having a massive influence on how work is structured as so much more can be done by satellite than ever before. Companies are having a tough time making this transition because they are structurally so entrenched with older models of operation (ie. large headquarters, face time and having flex time be an exception than the rule for employees.) As Jessica sees it, new and innovative models for employees in companies "is the future."
Technology is forever a double edged sword. It can bring us all together in unique and previously unimagined ways (consider this blog - something I would never have conceived doing a year or so back) or it can subsequently be used to further dehumanize and compartmentalize people. It's in what one does with it, of course. Technology can never replace direct human contact, but using it to extend out to more and more people, while also making sure to maintain real physical interactions - aka "managing technology" - that's a good hint as to where everything, in the best of ways, is heading. Thank you, Jessica.