Workers fail to make best use of technology, says Dave Coplin

Microsoft chief envisioning officer Dave Coplin cites a YouGov survey of office workers deluged with data despite tools to mitigate the flood of information

Office workers who use technology in their jobs are overloaded by the data they need to get through their work, according to research from YouGov.

Workers' productivity is hampered by the deluge of data despite the availability of technology that could considerably ease their workload, found the survey.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by Microsoft, found 55% of British office workers often experience information overload at work.

Over half (52%) admit to getting easily distracted due to the amount of information they receive. Nearly half (49%) disagreed that being "constantly connected" to information was a motivator.

The research ties in with the launch of The rise of humans, a book by Microsoft's chief envisioning officer, Dave Coplin (pictured).

Coplin said: “We have a natural tendency to snack on information, which is turning us into a ‘head-down’ generation of workers, with our faces constantly buried in technology.”

To overcome this, Microsoft urges individuals and businesses to rethink how they use technology to enhance, rather than constrain, their ability to work. Coplin describes how people limit their use of technology to solve only existing problems.

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Low expectations hamper potential

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Coplin said: "People's expectation are much less than the potential of the technology."

This becomes a barrier preventing people from getting the most from the technology. He said: "There is so much data that we may be lacking an effective approach to manage it." He argues that workers' inability to use technology, in ways they may consider non-intuitive, limits their ability to tackle the data overload problem.

Coplin said: "Data is important. People aren't thinking about data in the right way. Organisations need to raise their aspirations."

He suggested that people need to consider connecting disparate data sets together. "You may have data that is valuable to others," Coplin added.

Commenting on his reason for writing the book Coplin said: "It is really easy to talk about products. But I think it is better to focus on people using the technology."

Exploiting technology to enhance productivity

To regain control, Coplin said people and organisations need to rethink how they use technology, break bad habits and change the role it plays in their lives in order to experience its full potential. 

“We need to learn to use technology differently so that it enhances, rather than constrains, our work and productivity," he said. 

"We need to evolve our working habits and develop new skills so we can think about the things that really matter, and lean on technology to support us with processing information which it what’s it’s designed to do.”

While there is plenty of research showing that skills like data analytics and data science are in high demand, Coplin argues that organisations should empower staff to make their own decisions, based on data. He believes it is not necessary for everyone to become a data expert. Instead, Coplin said: "If you want to provide a transformation experience, your staff need to be transformational."

Such transformation requires a move away from command and control style management. Rather than data being fed up to an executive who makes a decision, which is then fed down the command chain, he said organisations such as Best Buy in the US run in a results-orientated manner.

The rise of humans is available in paperback for £9.99, or as a free download.

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