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Jargonbusters - interpreting the flexible work lexicon


In the interests of promoting online learning, Flexibility is pleased to publish here a brief guide to the emerging vocabulary of the new world of work.

So take a quick dip into our value-added knowledge base of innovation, garnered from the intellectual capital of our telepatetic* expert team. 

Words + interpretation

Holistic - not just looking at the thing itself, but the whole kit and caboodle. On the lips of a consultant or contractor it means "Let's turn this into a bigger project".

Paradigm shift - choose from:
1) a great leap forward in one's conceptual framework for the way of doing things:
2) I'd rather do it in a way I understand better;
3) a small change won't do - we need to look at this in a holistic context.

Scenario - usually one of a group of hypothetical situations. All but one of these will be entirely implausible or impractical.
Following an holistic approach to enable a paradigm shift typically generates a cascade of these.

Tele - a prefix which can be attached to any noun or verb, and most other parts of speech, indicating the speaker understands the significance of new technology. We will be offering a prize of a free subscription to Flexibility for the best new tele- word this month. IBM and other notable modernisers are trying to replace "tele" with "e-" but words  such as "e-business" can cause confusion in  nightclubs and sometimes even boardrooms.

Cyberspace - the space between the ears of the person from the IT helpdesk.

Multiskilling - enhancing the professional activities of staff so that they can fulfil a range of roles and develop their portfolio of skills and employability.
For example, using work experience trainees, cleaners and even actors for TV production rather than expensive & qualified craft technicians. Money saved can be spent on Investors in People programmes etc.

Hotdesking - the practice whereby workers have to sit somewhere different every time they come into the office.
Tends not to apply to people in authority or others with difficult personalities.

Knowledge management – a concept based on distinguishing between data, information and knowledge, but not necessarily wisdom. It involves keeping know-how in the organisation after right-sizing has disposed of the people who knew it.
Good "KM" requires new money and good consultants to develop holistic strategies and systems for capturing and sharing corporate knowledge.
Further down the food chain it means hours of trawling through information systems to find something out. This replaces the archaic approach of phoning the person who has the answer. Proper training is essential to maximise the benefits of this approach. A cultural paradigm shift is also recommended.

Sustainability - used to mean the ability to keep on making money (as in economically sustainable). Since 1992 it implies environmental stewardship, biodiversity, lots of buses and lots of meetings.
Sustainability is invariably a key outcome of any new policy, technology, electronic service or paradigm shift.
It also apparently includes social equity ( - at least for neo-Marxist South American priests and many UK local authorities), not to mention motherhood and apple pie.

The virtual workplace -  describes a spectrum of scenarios resulting from the paradigm shift brought about by a more holistic approach to hotdesking, enabling telecollaboration over electronic networks. (Phew!)
Working this way creates innovative sustainable work environments, providing workspace scenarios which i) benefit the environment and ii) promote social equity.
This is because i) workers don't need to drive as much, and ii) it means that poorer people can turn their living rooms into impromptu call centres. Incidentally this also promotes healthiness in the young as the kids have to play outside.
Taken to its logical conclusion, it means work can be wherever you are. And this can only be a good thing....

Andy Lake (Editor)

* telepatetic, by the way, means something like "wandering at a distance" - on the lines of "peripatetic", only more networked. (from Greek "tele" = "far" and pateein = "to tread")
I think I made it up, but you never know!


Room for some blue skies thinking ...


A sideways look at the jargon...

If you prefer a more light-hearted approach to flexible work and ICT jargon, try the others in our Jargonbuster series:




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