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Old dogs need mouse skills to survive

In the context of the digital revolution, if you were born before 1975-80 you are an old dog and need to learn new tricks.

If you are much more than thirty years of age, chances are that you graduated from a formal education system that was not really digital.

The Internet wasn’t heard of, the PMG was THE telephone company and computers were main frames in special air conditioned rooms.

For the chronologically advantaged amongst us, maybe main frames didn’t even exist.

The generation most challenged at the present is the cohort of managers aged between forty and sixty-five.

In an ideal world, federal, state and local governments would be part of a national reskilling initiative.

Regrettably, many Australian companies have a poor attitude towards training and skill development programs and governments are also found wanting in this respect.

Consequently, it is up to individuals to recognise their inadequacies in the digital sense and do something about it.

I often find myself reminding senior managers that if they are not web savvy within the next two or three years they will survive, BUT they will be disadvantaged – about as disadvantaged as a manager in 1970 who could not read and write.

Here are some basic observations and survival tips that may assist.

• Develop an Internet strategy for your organisation. It doesn’t need to be War and Peace. Two pages will suffice in many instances

• Spend time learning the basics of how to drive the net for your purposes. There is a plethora of books, CDs and courses available for people who want their Internet driver’s licence. Private one on one briefings for senior executives are also available

• Don’t be hung up on keyboarding skills. It is ideal, but not at all essential, if you can master the art of touch-typing. Most of us are surviving quite well by picking and plucking at a rate of thirty words per minute with only four fingers. Most web surfing is mouse driven. Voice recognition technology has arrived but it is a bit clumsy and not all that user-friendly in the early stages

• Be prepared to admit your ignorance and share your knowledge and learning experiences. Colla-borative learning is an essential part of reskilling for mature adults

• Don’t allow the Internet initiative in your organisation to be run as an IT program. Harnessing the power of the net is about managing information not technology. IT people have an important role to play but information management strategies must come from, and involve, the top.

• Accept that content on the net is highly variable. Time needs to be invested to identify good quality sources of information and work out strategies for sharing the best resources once discovered.

• Remember that websites and home pages are just the beginning. While some organisations make do with ‘in-house’ efforts, others have been known to pay for websites which they can’t manage and maintain after delivery. Many organisations develop a website and expect the world to discover them by some mystical process. A marketing strategy for the website is as important as the site itself.

• Master the implications of email. Apart from the simple technical tricks of making email work, this new method of communications has become a serious time management challenge. Staff use of email for the corporate good involves a fascinating range of new tactics if productivity is to be preserved and enhanced.

The good news is that old dogs can learn new tricks and frequently do. Fortunately, many of the new tricks needed to survive are getting easier and easier.

• Mal Bryce is a former WA Deputy Premier and Minister of Technology.

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