The Japanese Juxtaposition

As a sector getting creative in how we approach our traditional pitfalls of technology and digital transformation in a challenging environment is key if we are to meet the risks, opportunities and threats of the next decade.

DilbertProbably my favourite Tweet of all time came from Paul Taylor, it highlighted an article that showed there are people, living and breathing among us, who still believe that a fax machine is essential to their business. Not just a small number, 30% of those surveyed. What the actual fuck. This isn’t just something out in America, these are British workers. As someone brought up and raised on computers, who uses their smart phone to pick up news stories, who will Skype his brother half-way across the world and has a Gran who smashes it at WhatsApp this is baffling. But actually is it?

The interesting thing on technology and tech users is that people get so caught up in stereo-types that they miss the bigger picture. Old people are assumed to be rubbish, young people natural whizzes. Yet one of the most interesting articles I’ve that ‘s popped up on the BBC website shows that appearances and stereotypes can be highly deceptive. The piece in question looked at the use of technology in Japan. And how, despite appearances, many business were heavily reliant on tech that probably belonged in a museum rather than a work place.  With some estimates putting Japanese businesses 5 – 10 yrs behind their counterparts internationally in terms of adopting modern IT practices. This from a country with the bullet train and some of the best known high tech firms in the world.

Why so serious(ly slow)?

The answer is quite simple, out of the estimated 4.2million business in Japan 99.7% of them are Small or Medium Enterprises (SME) and they are tight AF when it comes to investing in IT infrastructure. And incredibly risk averse. For the fax lovers of the UK then, there is good news as they are apparently still en en vogue. Best get going then, off you go. Jokes aside this Luddite approach to technology is having a serious impact on productivity and is a part of the reason why Japan’s economy is in horrific shape. So what does this have to do with housing? Well, organisations slow to adopt new IT practices, slow to change their ways in operating, using old technology. Is this ringing any bells?

The HCA may have ruffled some feathers with its analysis of social landlord costs. But that’s only because it is in part right. We haven’t evolved because we haven’t needed to, and just as we aren’t as efficient as we could be because we could get away with it we haven’t upgraded our tech readily enough because there was no pressure to. However, in terms of the tech we use at least, that is changing sharpish. But as Peter Hall notes the traditional ways of meeting external drivers of change in terms of reducing costs may not cut it. A new digital solution or strategy does not guarantee costs savings or a more efficient way of working. Consequently re-evaluating our approaches to thinking about change maybe necessary.

The Future is Bright(ish)

If you haven’t read it already I would recommend  Paul Taylor‘s blog on the rhetoric of digital transformation. Aside from noting the depressing fact that often digital transformation A) Isn’t that transformative and B) hasn’t really happened. Paul references two chaps it is worth having a look at: Carl Haggerty and Frank Diana. Indeed if you want to collect some useful quotes/bullshit bingo Frank has some zingers.

  • In times of change the greatest danger is to act with yesterday’s logic (Quote from Peter Drucker…I don’t know him either)
  • Wait and see means wait and die (bit melodramatic, but still)
  • Leaders must shift from a focus on what is, to a focus on what could be (so on what to be or not to be…?)

Tying these into how HAs think about changing the way their business operates is key. As is moving from past success and failures and onto what might be in the future is needed, because the current methodology isn’t working. The future is going to be challenging, it’s time to get creative in how we meet it.

You can find more of my stuff here and follow me on Twitter here.



2 thoughts on “The Japanese Juxtaposition

  1. Pingback: Warm Smiles Don’t Make You Welcome Here – The Housing Blog

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