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Why Should OD and HR Care About CES?

Insights from the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the world’s largest Tech Industry trade shows with over 170,000 attendees. It’s where the hottest products are launched, prototypes are shared, and brands are built, all looking to shape the future of technology-based consumer goods. So why should internal roles like leaders of people, OD, HR, Talent Development, and Training care about the show? Sure, we are all consumers and love having the latest tech in our pockets (or our houses, cars…and brains). But what else? What’s the connection between product innovation and people strategy?

The obvious answer might be that the people who are building these products work in these companies and it’s important to engage them. As an attendee of the show, however, I found a few more distinct reasons why you should be in the know. This article is the first in a series of articles, detailing key insights from CES 2020 for those working on people strategy and workplace culture.

Technology Is A Behavior-Changer, Not Just A Product On the Shelf

We say it all the time: every company today is a technology company. At CES, the first-time appearance of Delta as a conference keynote served as evidence, as they launched their innovation ideas for the flying experience of the future. Who would have thought an airline is now a tech company?

There’s a deeper meaning behind every company being a technology company. More and more, we are recognizing that technology doesn’t work in a silo. It touches everything. I often say to my clients that technology isn’t just the next initiative on your list to implement, it’s a behavior-changer.

Technology changes the behavior of consumers, it changes the behavior of employees, and it can even go beyond behavior to rewiring neurology. For those of us concerned with our internal workforce, we can learn what technology is coming down the line and predict the impact on behaviorat the individual level, team level, and organization level. We can then create smarter, forward-looking strategies that maximize human potential, preventing loss and harm.

Look at the article “Digital Innovations That Unleash Human Potential” (coming soon) for specific innovations to consider including in your people strategy over the next few years.

Marketing May Lead, But We Can Learn In The Lag

New product innovation tends to trump innovating internally, which makes sense – it’s good business. The latest technology arrives in the marketplace before the workplace. As a concrete example, consider that there are still organizations who were using Lotus Notes two years ago and still companies today that use manual time sheets to track hours.

The big silver lining is that we get to learn from external marketplace mistakes, if we choose to. If we spend some our time noticing how technology is changing behavior externally, how it’s being received, what negative unseen consequences have occurred, we have an incredibly rich source of data to avoid making the same mistakes internally in the workplace.

One of the hottest topics at CES 2020 was about just this: the mistakes marketers and innovators have made around data privacy. For more on this, see the article in this series coming soon.

We Can Help Influence Intelligent Design That Support Humanity

I’ve talked about internal folks making future predictions and learning from others’ past experience, but what about the present? We can help influence intelligent design that unleashes human potential by bringing our voice to the conversation as the experts on people. We all have a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience on topics like social science, psychology, neuroscience, learning design, change, as well as business strategy.

Yet, we don’t show up (invited or uninvited) in discussions around product innovation or internal innovation. Even when bringing in technology to help the workforce, we often leave the thinking to vendors relying on their expertise. This step back especially occurs more frequently if we don’t sit in Silicon Valley, but are located in the rest of the country where tech companies are not the norm. Learning more about the latest technology helps us feel confident and capable to act as a leader in the conversations. We can and should bring our strengths to complement the deep technical expertise of our counterparts. Whether the problem is cybersecurity or a new collaboration software, people are at the heart of technology.

There were a ton of new innovations shared at CES 2020, highlights of which I share in “Designing Technology for Humanity”. Check it out to go deeper.

We Talk About Tech, But What Would It Look Like If We Showed Up?

In our professional associations for OD, L&D, and HR, I see the trend of technology showing up as something we need to incorporate in our values, our capability set, and otherwise. But while we talk about it within our communities, we don’t often show up where the technology conversation is happening most. Attending CES 2020 was a leap for me too, since my interests center on things like people and nature! But, even if it seems out of our norms, it could be one of the most powerful acts to take to grow our capability and influence our organizations. This series is to help inspire you to show up in these conversations with your point of view.

Why do you think it’s important for roles internal to the workplace to learn about the future of technology? I’d love to hear any comments you have and to learn from you.

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I am a two-time TEDx speaker, author, and organizational development consultant. I focus on helping leaders question the assumptions of the Industrial age and re-imagine their workplace culture for today’s Digital age. Whether it’s a particular challenge in learning, inclusion, productivity, engagement, retention, or otherwise, I am leading dialogue that makes us think about what’s really going on here, what do we want to see, and how will we make that happen. — Crystal Kadakia