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Rewriting The Rules Of Engagement

How the maturing Internet Age is forcing industries to adapt how it connects and creates.

The Internet Age is all grown up. With social media embedded in the millennial way of life, full-time work becoming both less available and less desirable, and an expectation on organisations of all shapes, sizes and leanings to have smooth, digital services, the world sure has changed since 2006.

At this year’s Web Summit conference in Lisbon, the conversation surrounded what this brave new world means for businesses, governments, consumers and influencers. For a tech conference, the focus was surprisingly skewed away from gadgets, but this resulted in more meaningful — and also more action-orientated — discussions on the state of things to come.

One strong theme across the three days was the question of how the government and the tech industry could better collaborate in building public services and making more scalable change. The conversation was of course heightened following the election of Donald Trump on Day 2 of the summit, but hype aside, the concept of entrepreneurs and public officials working together felt more like a ‘next step’ as opposed to a ‘nice to have’. As technology continues to advance in the private sector, the expectation on public services to follow suit is only getting bigger. Patience is wearing thin, especially among those who have grown up with the Internet, for organisations to make tasks more automated and easier to complete. Filling in paper forms and posting them doesn’t sit well with those under the age of 25.

But it’s not just public services that are expected to move forward. As millennials enter the job market and grow in their careers, there is more of a push towards companies with strong social purpose. There seemed to be a consensus that people talented enough to build apps and services for first world ‘problems’ could be directing their skills in a much more useful manner. As George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece, said in his panel on leadership: “We have the power today to deal with pandemics, climate change, and to create jobs like no other generation before.”

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Another popular subject was the change in the way people are working. We are all so easily connected online that collaboration in the cloud is becoming the chosen route for organisations to create faster and tap into broader expertise. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ has resulted in many younger workers opting for the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle – freelancing, without a geographical base. The Internet is a tool both for managing your own personal business as well as working in global teams, but with so much content being free online, it can be difficult to make a living in the creative industries. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, actor and Founder of hitRECord, an online collaborative production company, spoke about how more solutions are being created to promote this new working movement. “Communities are forming online to be creative—people are getting online to make things they couldn’t have made without each other. We’ve published books, made records, we’ve made a television show that’s won an Emmy. When those projects made money, we paid the contributing artists.”

The benefits of online collaborative production are obvious to the freelancers, but it also suggests a new way of doing business in the creative industries. Offering a faster, more democratised, cheaper service to clients can only be a good thing, especially if better ideas can be sourced from a wider pool – so agencies would do well to jump on board the cloud-based train.

Web Summit is known for its celebrity appearances, and this year was no different. On a panel about the music industry, Ne-Yo and Tinie Tempah opened up about how the maturing Internet Age is forcing the industry to adapt how it connects and creates. The artists spoke about how platforms like YouTube and Twitter have both opened music up to the masses, but equally have made it more difficult to be an active musician, with so much pressure to be continuously pushing out new content. Tinie Tempah is a self-proclaimed ‘Artist of the Internet’, and thanks MySpace for giving him a platform to initially share his music with the masses. Ne-Yo pointed out, however, that always having to be online can detract from your creative energy, due to it being such a time sink.

Both artists spoke about how ‘older’, more established artists don’t have to worry about being online as often. Tinie Tempah commented: “You aspire to reach that level where you don’t have to deal with it all as much”, whilst Ne-Yo lamented: “People want to know everything now. The era of mystique surrounding celebrities is gone.” It seems that the rise of social media platforms has created a new form of luxury: not having to be on them.

The social rules and requirements of engagement have changed. New tools have opened up new avenues, and closed off old ones. The Internet Age has moved beyond its infancy, so excuses for not keeping up are no longer accepted. If organisations want to stay relevant, they must better understand how people are conducting their work, communication and daily lives in this much less mysterious digital world.




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