To stay current and adapt as technology changes, leaders must embrace new capabilities, become comfortable with new ideas, and support change and innovation. Anecdotally, it appears that technological implementation related to the web is generational, with younger consumers more willing to use new sites and services and older consumers less supportive. While social applications are changing this paradigm, web utilization still largely mirrors larger trends in cultural change, with younger generations accepting changes and approaches not fully supported or used by their elders. In Kevin Kelly’s conception of the future web, this generational gap has less space to exist due to the ubiquitous nature of screens, information sharing, and information flow; in Kelly’s projection, people will be ‘in’ the web, not ‘on’ it. This distinction is critical for leaders attempting to stay current – in today’s web environment, staying current requires active participation in the web environment and purposeful use of particular web tools. As the web transitions and begins to, in Kelly’s words, “surround us,” web use will become a more passive activity because consumers will no longer need to search out new sites and participate in new technologies. Instead, consumers will continuously receive information from a host of connected devices, interact with computers that can adapt to users’ needs, and work in a cloud-based environment where everything is shared.
For leaders, the transition to a ubiquitous web suggests it will be more important to generally support change and innovation than it will be to actively search out and use specific technologies or resources. Instead of becoming familiar with and using every new and popular application, leaders will have to recognize technology and culture evolve at such a rapid pace that they are unable to learn and use all of the resources their employees do. In this type of environment, the best leaders will understand that leadership in a period of rapid change must be thematic, not technical. In other words, leaders who become bogged down in the minutiae of every new web tool will not be as effective as leaders who understand the web’s power at a strategic level and leverage that power through their employees’ use of tools. As the web becomes everywhere, leaders who recognize they themselves cannot be everywhere will be better able to manage in the dynamic, flowing new online world.
In today’s web environment, leaders stay current and adapt as technology changes by involving themselves with new technologies and incorporating those technologies into their professional and personal lives. As we transition to the ‘everywhere web’ and increase the type, size, and frequency of web interaction, this strategy will cease to be effective, and leaders will be better served by becoming cognizant of large-scale culture and web trends and then strategically managing employees who possess specific technical skills. While it seems counter-intuitive, the new web paradigm will force leaders to become less interested in specific programs and capabilities and more interested in large-scale trends. This will help leaders to succeed in a period of great change and great choice, and will ensure they remain supportive of new technologies without being overwhelmed by the ever-present nature of the new web.
Kelly, K. (2011, March 29). Web Expo 2.0 Keynote Address. Retrieved from http://www.web2expo.com/webexsf2011/public/schedule/detail/19292