Articles - Perpetual Motion – The lives we live today

The UK Patent Office refuses to grant patents for perpetual motion machines on the basis that they have no industrial application. While any perpetual motion machine would obviously have enormous industrial application, the ruling of the patent office is designed to prevent them from having to wade through tons of patent applications for machines which are designed in such a way that they blatantly defy the laws of physics and to date have never managed to transfer to working viable models. However, the search for the elusive perpetual motion machine is now over.

 By Tom Murray, Head of Product Strategy, Exaxe,

 Observation reveals that the answer is the human race, which over the last few decades has reached a state of activity and mobility the likes of which has never been seen before on the planet. 24-hour news cycles merely reflect the 24x7 activity level of mankind that has become the norm in recent decades. After thousands of years of working in harmony with nature, humans have now conquered nature and have achieved mobility and activity levels that bear no relation to their own physical capacities or to the natural rhythms of the planet.

 The starting point for these lives of frenetic activity was the invention of the mobile phone, allowing people anytime, anywhere access to each other. Communication changed because it became independent of place and therefore allowed people to move into a virtual reality. Since then, the Internet and the multiplicity of devices that can access it have increased peoples capability to interact and collaborate at many levels, independent of time or place. Vodaphone’s original tag-line ‘connecting people not places’ was prescient in describing how the world would change.

 This independence gives humanity an ability to overcome the limitations of our own bodies and the restrictions of our environment to live our lives in a completely different way, which has impacted dramactically the way the world works today. To quote another well known advert, “work, rest and play”, as the sum of human activities, have all changed far more rapidly in the last twenty years than they had in the two centuries before that. The rigid restrictions that mirrored the unyielding time-based approaches of nature have now gone; people can attend to personal matters during working hours and working matters during holidays despite being thousands of miles from their usual working environment.

 No enterprise can ignore this and it is more than just a matter of looking at changing consumer habits. The effects also spill over into how companies engage with their employees and the mutual expectations of both in this dramatically different environment.

 The Life and Pension industry is now different. Actuaries and underwriters are the same as other people and their lifestyles are changing just as swiftly. Accordingly, their expectations have altered and companies need to allow far more flexibility to their employees than ever before. If companies are to supply 24x7 services to consumers then their staff must be flexible to respond to customers’ demands. However, demanding that level of service from staff requires that companies respond to the consequent demands from staff for a flexible working environment.

 This will mean the adoption of new technologies that enable staff to work on that anytime, anyplace, anywhere basis so beloved of Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter. Providing people with devices that allow them to work flexibly does mean allowing them to use them for personal purposes as nobody wants to carry multiple phones and tablets around to segregate their working lives from their personal lives.

 The security challenge posed by this is a big issue as is the need to change management attitudes, which need to become far more empirical. If demands are being made of staff to work at what were traditionally regarded as non-working times, then management need to refrain from examing the detail of how working time is spent and judge performance on the outcomes rather than the activity. This is in line with consumer expectations where judgements of companies is far more based on actual delivery rather than how it is delivered.

 Shifting away from older technologies which enslave people to the whims of the machine and moving to embrace newer, mobile platforms is essential for all companies in the twenty first century. This means giving staff access to new platforms to enable them to break free from the need to be in a certain place at a certain time in order to do their work by allowing smartphone and tablet access to company network. It also means readjusting work expectations to move away from measuring physical presence to measuring task outcomes and virtual presence at work.

 On the bright side for companies, the breaking of the link between work and place should enable them to control fixed costs like premises a lot better although their will be a corresponding increase in the cost of supplying and maintaining that virtual workspace their employees will now inhabit.

 Human lives have been changed irredeemably by the move to a more mobile technology-fuelled lifestyle. Those companies who aren’t planning to adapt to these changes will quickly find both consumers and employees deserting them for those who will.

 If you would like to read more of Tom’s articles on life and pensions, please visit the Exaxe blog:

 Tom is also on twitter –

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