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Trained Hopelessness

Does this sound familiar?

Research firm TARP Worldwide says that some people who can’t get their digital camera to work solve their problem by throwing it away rather than even going back to the store or calling the 0800 number. It happens all the time with business, when it is often easier to toss out the technology (or not even attempt it) than try and train the workforce. TARP calls this trained hopelessness.

Well, we had better get over it, because the world has changed.

The new order is all about communicating and collaborating, and individual competence, which in turn, requires the use of technology to the full. And if we don’t do it, there are 150 million highly trained, ambitious and incredibly industrious new workers based in India, China, Korea and the old Russian states. These guys are looking for opportunity, and are wired into the world by broadband and collaborative software. Work happens anywhere, 24/7, and we in South Africa need to stake our claim. You may not have noticed it yet, but this way of working is already happening all around you.


All is not doom and gloom. There are SA companies that have embraced ICT or digital machinery, and are operating as well as anyone, bringing massive improvements in productivity. However, to do this effectively, the entire business process needs to be re-structured to maximize the opportunity provided by the technology. Most managers are reluctant to take on this task – it is expensive, sometimes complex and most importantly, requires a willingness to scrap many entrenched practices. Not easy for anyone, and especially with poorly trained workers and old-school management.

More about this later.

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