I have been in telecommunications for nearly thirty years and it seems that every year I hear yet another ridiculous forecast regarding future behavior or technology. It seems we can always find a way to overstate or overhype just about anything. Here is my Top 5 list.
1. "With video conferencing, air travel will be eliminated as a business expense" 1980s; obviously, this did not occur in the 80s, 90s or 00s. Yet, today, we continue to hear how video conferencing will eliminate the need for face-to-face meetings. The term for the next few years is video presence. A Video presence experience is said to be the "same" as being in the room together. Perhaps that line should be added to the list. When I assumed sales at Broadvox, I proposed the sales team get together twice a year. Our CEO, Andre Temnorod, vetoed that and decided upon once a quarter. Currently, we have a weekly call and that could indeed be enhanced by a video presence solution except that it would really eat into their time and my budget to find and rent video presence rooms for people scattered across the country working from their home offices. Moreover, the team building and camaraderie developed by the quarterly meetings would be lost using video presence technology. Video conferencing has its uses for collaboration, interviewing, meetings, etc. However, it will not eliminate air travel.
2. "With the Internet, people will not need to leave their homes" 1990s; this went hand in hand with the supposed demise of brick and mortar. Why would anyone need to go shopping ever again? Just sit by your computer and purchase whatever you need, communicate with anyone on the planet and eliminate maintaining personal hygiene. Okay, the last is a bit of an overstatement but the point is there was the assumption that because this new technology existed, people would change their entire behavior. I knew this was going to be impossible. First of all, people who love to shop find the activity of going to the mall/store as more of an event than the pursuit of item acquisition. The activity is about research, connecting with family, friends and community, eating and sometimes adding entertainment (going to a movie). No matter how fast we make the internet, no matter how rich the medium becomes, people will still want to shower and leave their homes.
3. "The next wave of employees entering the workforce communicates in 140 characters per session." 2000s; oh really...most studies show that it is the current group of employees that are using Twitter verses teenagers. In speaking to our youngest employees in the office about this statement, they unanimously (two to zip) reacted with a strong no to 140 characters being enough to communicate their varied interests. A more accurate assessment of the next generation is that they will use more forms of communication than any previous generation. They will need more bandwidth, adopt new technologies faster and find more value in communication tools and media than any previous generation. Think about the means used today by the current group of teenagers; texting, email, IM, virtual communities, Facebook, Skype, Google Voice, FileDropper, Picasa, iPhoto, Twitter and this list goes on and on. 140 characters cannot nor will not support the diverse communication requirements for the next generation. Employers should prepare for the introduction of these and future communication means into their IT infrastructures and business practices.
I am running a bit long. I'll hit four and five on Monday along with another new recipe. Have a great weekend!