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HR key to making IT Revolution 2.0 work

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In 1966, British physicist-novelist-Cabinet officer Sir Charles P. Snow predicted information technology would represent the biggest technological revolution known to mankind. As the decades passed and the prediction proved to be accurate, there was tremendous excitement about the potential for once unimaginable productivity. By the 1990s, however, many experts were not talking about skyrocketing productivity. They were raising eyebrows and debating the “productivity paradox” and whether IT had actually improved productivity.

All this didn’t stop IT from revolutionizing the world as we know it, creating a highly competitive, interconnected and globalized environment in which heightened productivity and innovation are critical not just for growth but for survival. With far less splash and far fewer headlines, the IT Revolution 2.0 is well on its way, but it’s not so much about the ongoing change and improvements to technology. No, this part of the revolution is more about the human beings and their organizations — and how they can optimize technology to achieve that skyrocketing productivity as well as innovation.

“The point is that IT is a tool. Whether tools impact productivity positively or negatively depends on how people use them, which itself depends on a variety of things, including the skills of the users and the reasons why they use technology,” says Marion Brivot, assistant professor at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business.

There are a number of areas that researchers, educators and high-performing companies are addressing in order to bridge the gap between the potential of technology to dramatically improve both productivity and innovation and what really takes place on the ground. At the top of the list is improving organizational competence to manage change, says Dr. Blaize Horner Reich, RBC professor of technology and innovation at the Segal Graduate School of Business at Simon Fraser University. “Change is hard. People get used to doing things in certain ways and even if there’s better ways of doing it, it’s still difficult to adapt. Some organizations are good at change competence, but often they’re not.”

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HCX Facts

Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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