Paper - a Whymsical View

Piles of PaperWatching the BBC News recently, I saw a family discussion about homework and how parents 'can no longer help their children' because they don't understand the teaching method now used for maths being taught to infants. A young girl, maybe a five year old, playing at a computer screen, stated whimsically that 'in the olden days, people used to work things out on paper'.

Well, I can resonate with a number of issues there! In the not-so-olden-days, only some 16 years ago, I well remember presenting the first version of ToolKit to the co-writer of the CDM regulations (known as the Condam Regs at that stage). The HSE policy maker was George Ventris; a bright chap. When he spotted my shiny and brand-new-for-the-occasion laptop, he said: 'I don't really understand the new technology. What you have to remember is to give the users a blank piece of paper and make them think.' Wise words indeed. The context was making risk assessments. George's point was that contractors in particular (in his experience) preferred marking check boxes on a list rather than having to think through from first principles the answer to each risk assessment. This way, they would save time and be able to get on with their other tasks in the shortest possible time.

I have said many times over the intervening years, that the current generation of senior managers are going to have a problem. When the college graduates reach their mid thirties and discover the power of IT and how that power can help them manage their working environment, there will be a real problem. They will have the potential to overtake the incumbent managers 'big time' and we are likely to lose a generation of managers because they will be seen to be unnecessary in the management chain.

Which is in fact what is going on. Umpteen layers of 'management' have been stripped from organisations large enough to sustain the shrinking. And construction related accidents are decreasing. Is that entirely because there is less construction in these recessionary times, or is it the younger managers with better IT skills pole vaulting over the 'old guard'? Are trees safer now than they were 15 years ago.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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