Augmented, Immersive, Alternate: What's YOUR Reality?

Augmented, Immersive, Alternate: What's YOUR Reality?

The emergence of Pokemon Go has drawn a lot of attention to the potential of augmented reality and other technologies that seem to blend the real and virtual worlds. These ideas have been floating around for a while, but it looks like practical uses are being found that will have an impact on all of us, beyond gaming. And they take the market by storm. I was out to dinner with my daughters and when we left the restaurant they started chasing the Pokémon and it ended up that there were over 50 kids running around in virtual world. (Some not even looking for cars when crossing the street!)

Teamwork > Tech


Since I began writing this blog, my primary focus has been the intersection between real estate and technology, with a little bit of my personal philosophies sprinkled in. For this entry, I would like to take a step back and examine what all good business, not just in real estate, really hinges on: interpersonal relationships. Don’t get me wrong. Using modern technology can certainly aid in fostering better relationships between teammates and clients, but good deals were being completed long before computers, and organizations were devising systems to help team members collaborate more efficiently long before smartphones and the cloud. Getting too caught up in the latest buzzwords of the day is the easiest way to lose your perspective.

YES, modern technology is a remarkable testament to human ingenuity and it can make our lives easier if used in the right way. What bothers me, though, is that the newfound importance placed on technology is completely overblown sometimes. Last time I checked, the closest thing we had to true artificial intelligence is the robot they had playing Jeopardy. While that’s relatively impressive (is it, though?) my overall point is that no matter how advanced the technology we are using today is, it still requires people to operate it who recognize the value it offers and use it appropriately.

The true potential of a particular piece of technology or software will NEVER be realized unless its users are well in-tune not only with its functionalities and purpose, but with themselves as well. In the end, you can have the best technology in the world, but without the right work culture, you will fail miserably. For example, what use is the latest cloud-based technology to a fragmented team that is already having communication issues? Do you really think the institution of a new software program is going to make up for the rifts in communication that have already manifested themselves amongst the team?

It’s sort of the equivalent to giving your child a new bicycle after they just got into a fight at school. Shiny new solutions that don’t directly address the underlying problem are nothing but a waste. A waste of money, as well as a wasted opportunity to communicate your true feelings about the situation, instill the necessary discipline, and begin the process of righting the ship.

So, if you want to enjoy the immense benefits offered by the latest technology, the responsibility falls first on you as a leaderto make sure that you have instilled a strong sense of trust in your team members. If you fail to do this, it will result in a work environment with no shared performance goals, no joint work efforts and no mutual accountability. Does that sound like the foundation you want to build on when spending out the nose to outfit your team with the latest and greatest technology? Sounds pretty crazy if you ask me. While I will always be a proponent of the newest gadgets, I will never put that sort of style over the substance that comes from having a completely unified team.

Coaching Using Technology: Help Me Help You

While there are many roles that new technology has assumed in our workplaces today, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing consequences of modern technology is how it has suddenly made everything much more quantifiable. In past blog posts, I have written at length about how technology has helped to improve workflow, collaboration and visibility amongst team members, therefore enhancing the daily operations of any business that is using these new tools effectively. Going one step further, and as a result of all of the improvement in the aforementioned areas, team members are not only able to work more productively, but their managers are also able to do their jobs much better as well. For instance, let’s use the same parameters as the ones I referenced above. Working in the cloud has ushered today’s workforce into a more collaborative, more transparent, more organized, and much more FUN work environment than has ever existed previously. Team members can all work on the same project, at the same time, using the exact same tools, but from completely different locations!!! Finally, we’re deconstructing the real estate silo effect! They have access to all of the same information, can monitor the work that their fellow teammates contribute as soon as it is completed, and can devise strategies on the best way to proceed moving forward; all as a team.

Now, this is all well and good for the members of a team, but it also benefits the managers (coaches) of these teams as well. For example, gone are the days where team members are relegated to their offices and only drudged up on the occasional basis. In the world of the cloud and collaboration, you’re able to produce and track results all the time, even when you’re not in the office. A coach (manager) can pull up the status of a project anywhere on his/her mobile phone and know in an instant how the team is doing, what kind of help the team needs, what kind of progress is being made, etc.

Now, the coach can be way more proficient in assisting his/her team because they’re equipped with the proper information that they need. This new level of visibility enables them to do that. Bill Parcells had game film, real estate operations now has game film, allowing us to see what we need to see as the coaches of the team. Because of the increased transparency technology offers us, we’re actually given the license to coach, instead of just passively “monitoring” our team members. We can effectively coach their workflow, recognize each member’s strengths and weaknesses, and adjust accordingly on the fly (because that’s where the strength of working in the cloud derives from: flexibility)!

So, thanks to technology in the cloud, we can begin to bid farewell to menial, ridiculous tasks and wastes of time. We have tools that have equipped us with the ability to drive our decision making with the aid of real data. The technology has now put the burden on us to coach more effectively.

Technology and Workplace Culture

Fox Business just came out with an interesting piece entitled “The Real Reason Americans Are Quitting Work.” The article was precipitated by an increase in the amount of Americans who quit their jobs this past September, which has risen dramatically to 2 percent of the workforce. It sites workplace culture as one of the main culprits for their disengagement, while begging the question, what can managers do better (or differently) to improve their workplace culture? They came up with four guidelines to keep in mind: Shared Identity, Shared Empathy, Shared Understanding and Connected Leaders. In my opinion, modern technology has provided us with solutions to help enhance all of these aspects of the workplace in the right ways necessary to make team members feel more at home. Let me explain… Shared Identity – Team members don’t want to feel like coming to work everyday is a rat race. That’s obvious. What isn’t as obvious is how to go about making each team member feel more connected. That’s where the technology comes in. Mobile devices and discussion groups allow every single member of an organization to have a direct line of communication with one another. That means more collaboration. That means more socializing. That means more feedback. All of that, in turn, adds up to team members feeling they have a greater say in shaping the common goal, thus forging a shared identity in the workplace.

Shared Empathy – Who wants to feel like a cog in a wheel? As the Fox article states “feelings are contagious,” and so is positive energy, now so more than ever in this age of increased interconnectivity. If you’re a manager, take note of behavior that you feel may have gone unnoticed. So, in turn, BE HUMAN.

Shared Understanding – Updates in real time. Those are the big words here: real time. Through the use of technology, such as Yammer and platform discussion groups, there is no longer an excuse for a substantial time lapse in an organizational setting. Everybody’s on the same page, at the same time, at all times. This provides greater flexibility in the workplace, because team members can communicate and collaborate on the go. It also means that the same information is being made available to everyone. Without this shared understanding, there is simply no chance for a shared identity. Have you ever heard of a successful business without a common identity and purpose?

Connected Leaders – BE AUTHENTIC. Effective leaders need to be connected, meaning that they “embrace the importance of conversation and have the patience to develop a consensus on issues that are important to team members at large.” All of the possibilities brought about by new technology that I’ve mentioned above play a role in helping to foster this. It used to be called an open door policy, but I’d like to rephrase the expression to an “Open Inbox” policy, meaning that your team members should never feel like your closed off from them. Field their concerns, talk things out. Share understanding. Empathize. Create a common identity. That’s what managing effectively is all about: being a CHIEF LISTENER.

Now, bringing this back to the intersection between real estate and technology (real estate is, after all, my business), I think that, despite everything I’ve said above, physical work environments play just as much of a part in shaping your workplace culture as does technology. In the end, they both affect the ways in which we communicate. That’s why we’ve seen such a rise in alternative office spaces, because new technology has allowed us to connect in ways in which physical proximity had only allowed us to do so before.

Regardless of all of the variables at play, management is all people-dependent. As a manager, you need to utilize the resources at your disposal to the best of your ability. Technology can’t fix all of your problems. If it was that simple, why do you think Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned team members from working at home? It’s hard to say whether or not I agree with this move, because it’s completely dependent on her team members and her relationship with them. However, on the whole, I do see technology as a tool that can effectively enhance workplace culture, whether your workplace is the typical office building or your living room.