Thursday, 3 July 2014

Google Glass / Augmented Employment

Yesterday I got to try on Google Glass at their new London Basecamp.  It was an interesting experience but I escaped with my £1000 unspent.

On a personal basis I don't think I was ever likely to buy a Glass at the moment.  I'm not a geek and generally don't buy-in to new technology until it's fairly well established, the bugs have been ironed out and the functionality enhanced.  It's pretty clear that although Glass is a transformational piece of technology, it's still at a very early point in it's development.  I'll probably wait until I can get full augmented reality rather than the tiny little rectangle above my field of vision, more apps ('Glassware' apparently) eg the ability to identify people through Google + as I'm walking down the street, and higher quality sound and pictures.  Or at least until I can get something like the current functionality at say a tenth of the current Explorer price.  As a glasses wearer there's also the additional costs of prescription frames and John Sumser's experience hasn't helped motivate me to go down this route.

On a broader basis I'm still very interested in what this type of technology may be able to do for business and potentially for HR.  I don't think it will have much of a role in recruitment and certainly not in selection interviewing, though if a recruiter wanted to use one, particularly in a technology oriented sector / role, allowing them to scan through a CV or take a video of the interview, I wouldn't see this as a particular problem as long as they explain this is what they're doing too.  Sourcing may provide a much greater opportunity, but only once the functionality has been quite a bit enhanced.

Learning probably provides a more significant opportunity.  Informal learning has taken great strides forward with the development of Google and other search engines, and with the ability to use these tools via mobile devices.  Google Glass is going to take this to another level yet again.  I increasingly see learning as not just putting stuff into my own head but ensuring I can get the information that I need, whether through the right connections and relationships or my 'external brains' (Evernote and this blog.)  The capability Google Glass will provide us to find and store or reference information is going to be profound - remember Neo learning to fly a helicopter? - well that scenario is coming one step closer today.  It's also going to require a major cultural and behavioural challenge to ensure that people are focusing their learning and not just tiring themselves out through massive cognitive overload.  (There are also the difficult policy issues like do you still ban Glass wearers from accessing Facebook! - no, not really, though I'm sure some companies will try.)

Performance management or at least performance support is probably going to be a bigger opportunity again.  Knowledge workers, and others, should be able to do better knowledge work and this includes HR too.  To some extent the ability to get easier access to HR data and analytics is going to continue the development of HR to become more data and evidence based.  More importantly, to me, might be the opportunity to improve relationships with and between other people.  Picture for example a team meeting where all team members are glassed up and can see the agenda and action notes appearing before their ideas.  That might keep things on track and everyone much more focused on what they need to do as well as their own roles in supporting the team in doing it.

I'm sure there'll be more opportunities we'll discover as we progress with using Glass too.  So although I didn't make a purchase yesterday I'm now even more convinced that this as the future of personal technology.  Walking along looking down towards my iphone, whilst still an amazing step forward from what we used to be able to do even ten years ago, is clearly not an optimal was of receiving and exchanging information.  To be able to get the same details whilst looking at what I'm looking at whilst I'm walking, driving or whatever else I'm doing is clearly the way to go.  I can't see putting all of this on my wrist is going to be a massive improvement from carrying a phone around so I don't think the iwatch and its kind is going to be much of a step change development.  Google Glass is, even if this is bound to be superseded by contact lenses or something at some point.

Our employees are going to be using this.  Maybe not this year but certainly within the next five years everyone is going to be wearing Glass or something like it.  Human augmentation is here.  This is the big issue for HR, not what we can use it for within our own function and activities.  If everyone is wearing Glass what does this mean for our organisations and the way they work?

Currently, I'm still not sure I have much of an answer to this question.  But I do know it's an important question to ask.  HR needs to get on top of this technology and start thinking about how things are going to change.  So you might not want to bother checking your bank balance, but if you're in HR, and in the UK, you need to get yourself down to the London Basecamp and try Glass out.  And I'd be interested in how you get on.

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