Welcome to the @ Work State of Mind

Last summer, we assembled a group at HyperIsland, the world-famous digital training center in Karlskrone, Sweden, for what we call Ignition Camp, an intense professional development program for our youngest colleagues showing the greatest promise. We were exposing these students to our techniques and tools for ideation and collaboration. They were asked to select a challenge against which they could practice these tools. They chose “work-life balance.”

I wasn’t among our youngest colleagues. So, when I came to the session as a mentor, I was gruff and dismissive. “Quit whining! People have been complaining to me for 30 years about the long and daunting hours of the ad agency business. Do you want a job, or do you want a career? This is no business for clock-watchers. It’s a fact of life in the agency business. There’s nothing new about this work-life balance issue,” I said.

Then one of them said, “Oh, yes, there is,” and she reached in her jeans pocket and set her iPhone on the table. “This has changed. It’s attached to me. I cannot disconnect from it.”

“Point made,” I replied. “Point very well made.”

It was for me a moment of epiphany; of sudden revelation and insight. It was not as if I had been oblivious to the spread of networked communications and hand-held devices, or even how important it was to deliver new forms of communication to reach people with these media. But as one who had spent his entire career focused on perfecting business-to-business marketing communications—that is, on marketing to people at work—it struck me like a lightning bolt.

Work has changed—and people at work have changed profoundly.

Oh, I had understood for many years that it was technically easier than ever to identify them, locate them, reach them, engage them and transact with them; even to spur them to exchange messages among themselves. I understood clearly how technology had changed, but I must confess I  neglected just how much it had changed them: the people to whom we were marketing.

by Rick Segal

President Worldwide and Chief Practice Officer

Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network

You can follow Rick Segal @MrBtoB