How do we work together and share information in a group setting?  (Keep in mind that, today, a “group setting” no longer means that all of the participants are in the same location.)

When you walk into a conference, meeting or classroom room…

  • How do you share the information that you have collected/created with others?  Do you still hand out printed copies?  Or do you present using a multimedia projector?
  • How do the other participants collect the information you are sharing?  Do they still take notes by hand? Or are they using a laptop or tablet to take notes?
  • How is the information documented and shared?  Do you take a photo of the whiteboard notes for later transcription and distribution?

If you are currently struggling with any of the above questions, you understand the challenges to which I am referring.  As stated in my previous post, it is my view that this obstacle – the fact that we have not yet figured out how to work together, collaborate, and share information in a group setting in our new electronic age – is the last hurdle in the technology revolution and it could be a significant one.

On a personal level, most of us have adapted to working in an electronic environment.  We each have our “own” way of organizing information. The modern version of: “My desk may look cluttered, but I know where everything is!”  However, once we step into a group working environment, it becomes awkward and inefficient for us to share and collaborate with others our individually created electronic content. This hindrance is, I believe, the result of the barrier between the Technology-Biology Interface.

What do I mean by Technology-Biology Interface?  I am describing the discrepancy between the evolutionary paces of technology versus biology.  The evolution of technology is rapid and accelerating, while the evolution of human biology is slow and constant.  This dichotomy, I believe, is now the greatest barrier between what is technically possible and what is physically possible.

Like the technology that we work with, our bodies have their own Input and Output capabilities and limitations.  In order for us to interact with technology, we must be able to do at least one of the following four things; touch it (or gesture to it), see it, speak to it or hear it.

  • We communicate/create information (output) through speech, physical expression, touch and body language.
  • We receive information (input) through hearing, sight and touch.

And, there’s the choke-point, because even though technological advancement has been profound year-over-year, especially in the gaming industry, the primary components that are available for the biology interface in the group meeting space, the keyboard and mouse, for the most part, remain unchanged.  We have reached a point in time where the technology is limited by our ability to interface with it.

As an example, modern military aircraft are referred to as “pilot limited” because the aircraft and its associated technologies possess capabilities that are beyond human biology’s ability to withstand the conditions they are capable of creating.  Literally, the pilot will be injured or rendered unconscious before the aircraft reaches the limits of its potential.

While the technologies in meeting environments are not nearly as extreme, the concept of pilot, or in this case, “user limited” still applies.  There are certainly inefficiencies associated with not being able to interface with the available technology comfortably, accurately and at the level of its potential.  These limitations are further amplified in group and remote conferencing settings because as the number of participants increase, the more difficult the interactions become. The keyboard and mouse were not designed with group use in mind.

So what is the answer?  It is still a work in progress.  A whole industry has developed to address the Technology – Biology Interface and the challenges associated with group communication environments.

But in short, I believe the answer is:

  • Improved user interfaces (software),
  • Improved intra-device communication (standards) and,
  • Improved options for command control (physical interface)

Think of Tom Cruise in the “Minority Report”; the most memorable scene, to me, in the movie is the image of his character moving information around by touch on a clear whiteboard-sized display.  Think of “Star Trek”: the Captain and crew can instruct the elevator to its destination by speaking to it – with a simple command, “Bridge”.  These scenes appeal to us because they appear so natural.  It’s how we work intuitively; we touch and move things with our hands, we communicate with our voice.

While this work scenario is not available at the moment, it is under development and it is the key to improved productivity and reduced stress in group work settings.  In order to work together efficiently, we need to be able to communicate with our technology efficiently.

Manufacturers are working hard to make Hollywood’s imagination become our new reality and solve the Technology-Biology Interface challenge.  However, their successes in innovation may be delayed in practice as a result of our current procurement and implementation practices.  Our legacy approach to the evaluation, acquisition and deployment of technologies will have to change as these tools become increasingly integrated and capable.  In other words, we will have to make sure our processes evolve too.

In my next post, I will discuss how I think we can meet this challenge.

  One Response to “The Last Days of the Technology Revolution (Part 3) – The Technology-Biology Interface”

  1. Rick, Great insights on the technology-biology challenges.
    Thanks, RT

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