A few months ago I was on a flight home from Edinburgh with my Mum, she is a Boomer and I am a Millennial. It was at the start of the #BeastfromtheEast saga and even though we had boarded the plane we were faced with delays as the air traffic control room decided to close the runway. The flight attendant made an announcement telling us we had to wait on the aircraft until further notice. We had the option to disembark but if we did, should the runway re-open, we would not be allowed back on.

My response was ok because my major concern was would the battery on my smart phone run out. My Mum’s response was – Why? If I can get off, why can’t I get back on? Another plane took off two minutes ago, so why can’t we?

And that made me think… Why did I just accept what we had been told and why did my Mother question it? It got me thinking – how would my friends and my mature colleagues react in the same circumstances? And the conclusion was that this is possibly a generational trend. In the case of the runway being closed asking the why question didn’t really cross my mind. And that made me think that maybe my generation is, in some circumstances, becoming less challenging. And that is a worry…

So why now?

The biggest change in today’s world is technology. The internet and endless devices at our fingertips has not only altered the way the world operates but it is also changing our nature, decision making capabilities and reactions to different circumstances.

Now let’s be clear – I am pro the digital revolution. My best friend is my laptop and the iPhone is part of my being, I could not function without it. BUT, how many times have you felt inhibited by technology and have you ever really considered the true impact it is having on both our professional and personal lives?

Sound familiar?

  • You have forgotten the answer to your first pet’s name so now you cannot access your credit card balance.
  • You ring up to speak to your local council about your council tax bill but there is a system glitch and they can’t help you.
  • Wifi is down, so you can’t do any work.
  • Your iPhone has just been stolen, so now you have to lock out your PayPal account for a period of time.

…Computer says no

All of the above situations are examples of how technology is in control of us – yes there are work-arounds, but they are often long winded and highly frustrating. And in some cases, impossible to solve. Whilst technology is enabling us to do so much more, at the same time it can also be a barrier and sometimes human intervention is just not an option.

We all need to look in the mirror and question how this is really affecting us. We have become used to people saying ‘no’ because of the technology. Previously when processes were not so highly automated, you could probably twist someone’s arm to get access to the information you needed and reach a satisfactory conclusion without being at the mercy of the machine.

Another reason why we might have stopped asking ‘Why?’ is that if someone tells us ‘No’ we just Google it and find the answer or an alternative supplier within seconds. The wealth of choice and information available to everybody has meant that really anything is possible – but in most cases at a price.

A further consideration is that communication methods have been dramatically transformed, and now we spend less time talking face to face with each other. We are not as vocal as we once were and many have become keyboard warriors instead. Now we have the ability to resolve problems or locate essential information without ever having to interact with another human being. A sad indictment of modern life.

A little bit scary and specifically in financial services we need to be aware that the boomer generation and their predecessors were ‘high achievers’ due to their no excuses approach and with very little technology, compared to what is available today, at their disposal. There is definitely a place in every workplace for someone to ask ‘Why?’ and we need to be even more conscious than ever before that we encourage the question. Without challenge we stagnate.

‘If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you’.

Written by Hannah Pewter


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