Last month Ray Gallon, someone I’ve known and respected for years, and Neus Lorenzo, a new acquaintance, undertook a study called Probing Our Future. They held a workshop (which I did not attend) to frame the question, and last week they followed it up with a webinar and a Twitter chat (which I did attend).
I found the webinar to be a blur of information and ideas. (Remember, I hadn’t attended the workshop.) Things started coming into focus when I reviewed the webinar slides and when I joined in the Twitter chat. Where the workshop seemed to be full of abstraction (what can we dream of doing?), the chat questions were more practical (how do we do this?).
What “Probing Our Future” is probing
The new project poses the first question — “What’s the future?” — and then poses another: How can we equip ourselves to meet that future?
In the words of Ray Gallon, the project is designed to “provide a glimpse into the realm of the possible in an accelerating future that is rushing up on us faster than we imagine.”
During the workshop Ray, Neus, and their collaborators came up with a list of 7 “superpowers” that’ll enable technical communicators to succeed in the information-rich world of the future. A few examples:
- Flying – quick thinking, creativity, adaptability
- Time Travel – the ability to change, remake things, do more with less
- Mind reading – collaborating, breaking down silos, understanding co-workers and customers
It all sounds pretty fantastic.
Personalized content? Using our mind-reading superpower, we’ll understand our customers and deliver exactly what they need.
Internet of things, with 30 billion machines flinging data at and past each other? We can be the ones who wrangle that data into meaningful content.
Dream meets reality
Yet I wonder: As changing conditions drive us to flex our superpowers, will there be a disconnect between the dream and the reality. Do we really know what we’re getting into? How super are our powers, really?
As I asked two years ago, is our profession entering a world where everyone is a specialist and no one is a generalist? While anyone can master a few technologies, it’s impossible to be proficient in all of them.
Next, even if we’re all superheroes, will anyone pay us to be superheroes? Much of the work we’re paid to do is still old-style content in old-style formats like HTML and PDF. How can we let our employers (and potential employers) know that we have the skills to tackle their new challenges? Or will our community, because of the demands of the marketplace, consist of a few high-flying heroes and a lot of mild-mannered Clark Kents?
Finally, how do we train everyone to develop the new skills — and the new mindset — needed for success?
I look forward to pondering these questions, and many more, as the Probing Our Future project proceeds.
This is a good discussion — well worth having. The more who are involved, the greater the likelihood of the project succeeding.
I’d also like to hear from Ray, Neus, and others who’ve been taking part in the study. I know I didn’t do it justice in this short summary. What are your thoughts on the approach, the methodology, and the overall value of the study?