In the future, we will use smart devices and even implants to monitor our every move, maybe even our thoughts too. How will we use this data? It could be for Big Brother style management of our lives, or it could be for our benefit and wellbeing. That will be up to us.

This is actually not a prediction about the future, but rather a scenario to help us think about what we should be doing in our world and our workplaces now.


In the future, we’ll be able to track everything about you using smart devices or even implants. We’ll be able to know not just how many steps you walk and how fast your heart is beating. We’ll be able to know how well you’re sleeping, how well you are feeling. We’ll be able to know who you met, what you said, and maybe even get a summary and some insights into that afterwards.

Yes, with smart technologies and AI-assisted interventions in our lives, we’ll get a lot of information and be able to do something with it. Huh. I wonder what that future feels like to you.

My name is Graeme Codrington. This is ThrowForward Thursday, and if you know anything about the work that I do, you’ll know that I am an optimistic futurist. Maybe some would even call me idealistic. I like to imagine that the best of worlds is possible and that all of the new technologies and advances that we develop will all be used for good. And I do think that largely, we do improve the world as we go along in history.

But I cannot deny that any advance which has a positive upside also has a negative, dark side, at least a possibility, of that happening. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about ways in which we can improve our wellbeing and our workplaces by using data and smart technologies and tracking devices, and so on. And I think that we will be able to do that.

But I keep getting messages from people, many of them may have worked for really bad employers in the past, because they keep reminding me that what they don’t want is to have a big brother boss looking over their shoulder, tracking their keystrokes, checking in on their sleeping, to make sure that they’re doing it all properly, overseeing their mental health in a way that is designed to squeeze more productivity out of them. And I hear you, I hear that that is possible, and I pity people who, unfortunately, have to work in environments like that.

So, as we look into the future, then, is there a way for us to think about where that dividing line is? Where the dividing line is between gathering data and monitoring whatever information can be monitored, in order to improve our lives. Where does that line come, where it starts to actually be a problem? And I think that the answer is, is it for my benefit?

Is it for my benefit if we have an employer who makes tracking software available to check how many hours I’m working, to check how hard I’m working, and then uses that information to make sure that my wellbeing is both protected and enhanced, well, then we’re in a situation where it’s to my benefit? And I think in that situation, we’d probably accept it.

If we have health tracking data that is not there for our bosses to be able to say, “Hey, I see you took a longer lunch break than you should have, or why are you sleeping in on a Tuesday morning?” But rather for our companies, for our bosses to be able to track where and when we can give our best to the business and when it’s time to take a break. And we even get invitations and messages from our bosses saying, take the morning off, I think you need it. You’re going to be a better person and therefore a better employee if you do.

So, for me, it’s not about limiting the technology or regulating the data that is captured, but it is about ensuring that we use all of that for the benefit of other people. When you build an organisation, when you build a team, when you yourself are a leader or a boss that shows totally consistent commitment to improving the overall wellbeing of the people in your team and in your business, those people begin to trust you to be able to build an environment in which they can not only give you their best, but they can actually be their best and live their best lives.

This is so far beyond the work-life balance conversation that I don’t even want to mention that label because this is about optimising people’s lives and making sure that working for you is just part of what makes their lives worth living. Yeah, this is not really a message for the future, is it? This is a message for now, and I hope you take it seriously.

Thanks, as always for joining me in the ThrowForward Thursday studio. I’ll see you next week in the future again.



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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.

For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.


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