Are You a Digital Hunter-Gatherer?

If you’ve ever been to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, you’ve more than likely seen the exhibit on human origins and evolution. Historical artifacts, life-size models and realistic renderings attempt to paint a portrait of the earliest of human civilizations.

From our modern perspective, these first Homo sapiens seem more like animals than the human beings we know today. Most were nomadic and they hunted and scoured the grounds around the clock for food and supplies. There was no separation between work and social life: hunting did not stop at 5pm and pick up the next morning at 9. These humans were wired to be hunter-gatherers every hour of the day.

Are we really that much different than our anthropological ancestors? We can access our work email from home (or anywhere!) and our personal social media accounts from the office. More so, trends like teleworking and bring-your-own-device are further breaking down traditional work-life barriers.

In a Hewlett-Packard white paper titled “Bring Your Own Self,” opinion columnist Ade McCormack argues that the prevalence of technology has caused a reintegration of work and life. We are becoming “digital hunter-gatherers,” if you will.

The bring-your-own-self (BYOS) notion is an extension of the BYOx movement, which invites individuals to bring their own devices, apps, technology, networks and more instead of accepting those provided to them. This gives the employees more freedom to tailor the workplace to their own personal preferences.

BYOS also benefits the employer, if welcomed with open arms and careful management. “It is an opportunity for the employer to acquire greater value from their talent again through their wider personal capabilities as well as their digital connectedness,” McCormack stated.

Embracing our “digital personas” is much like cultivating a comprehensive brand, instead of managing two public images. One of the major benefits of this, McCormack explained, is that an individual’s network expands drastically. Instead of only being able to utilize a corporate or professional network, BYOS allows an individual to incorporate social and indirect contacts into work projects.

McCormack also posited that BYOS puts humans back in the game against technology. More and more, machines and robots are replacing people in the workforce.

Embracing our entire self allows us to incorporate own our unique talents and human insights into our work, something a computer can’t do. “We need to bring our complete self to work including our digital connections if we are to keep ahead of the automation steamroller,” said McCormack

McCormack described the potential implications of further blurring the lines between work and personal life. Organizations must be able to adapt in order to cultivate an environment where employees’ entire selves can flourish. The merging of our “digital personas” has ramifications in five main areas:

  • Technological: private and professional apps should be available when and where required.
  • Data: an integrated model comprising your people’s private, professional and hybrid social networks can be harnessed for the benefit of all.
  • Cultural: perceptions in respect of work and leadership need to be revised to accommodate and capitalize on fully engaged.
  • Professionalism: each individual needs to cultivate a mastery mind set along with a suite of behaviors that support the individual’s intended brand positioning.
  • Behavioral: people view both their professional and personal selves as two elements of their brand and thus do not necessarily try to suppress either.

McCormack indicated that leaders who do not recognize this shift in their workplace would potentially experience a “slow corporate death.” More so, employees who master the broader skillset of their blended self are less likely to be replaced by an automated process.

“We need to prepare for this new organizational model now and gain the advantages of making an early transition to the digital era,” McCormack said.

Our future success as both employers and employees means looking back to our past. Take a note from our biological ancestors and ask yourself, are you a digital hunter-gatherer?

HP’s mission is to invent technologies and services that drive business value, create social benefit and improve the lives of customers — with a focus on affecting the greatest number of people possible. Check out their HP for Gov group on GovLoop.

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