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Inevitable Progression

(July 24, 2006) We just finished reading a book you might want to put on your list. Shaping Things, by Bruce Sterling, is a manifesto for a new way of thinking in the design field. You are probably wondering why we suggest something that sounds so far removed from day to day Recruiting and Staffing.

Sterling is a Science Fiction writer, futurist and environmental activist. His work on emerging design theory, expressed in Shaping Things, is an extension of his long term and very vocal thinking about product design and development and the environmental consequences of our current practices. Deep ties to Austin's ever radical digerati make Sterling a luminary in some circles and an unknown in others.

One thing has been true about Sterling's work for the past 30 or so years. He always seems to be surfing the first wave of a new way of thinking. Sterling consistently delivers, in his voluminous writings and speeches, a provocative view of things to come. He has this eerie way of being right. So, we always read the latest missives from this guy.

In Shaping Things, Sterling talks about the evolution of stuff. He sees a relentless move towards embedding more and more information into each object in our world. The result will be an astonishing but well managed database of preferences, desires mistakes and successes. Sterling's optimistic vision is that today's confusion, caused by the way that our gizmos are designed (does anyone know how to use all of the functions on their appliances?) will give way to more sensible and more intimate relationships with things.

Era Stuff Notes
Agrarian Artifacts Handmade, small numbers of things. Each item is relatively unique.
Machine Products Lots of stuff, all alike. Consumers get one of each
Information Gizmos Stuff that does lots of stuff. Users have to become experts and design partners.
Network SPIME Each item contains its own history. Thinking RFID tags in everything.

Sterling uses the term "SPIME" to describe an emerging class of things that have histories embedded in them. Based on the military's extreme success with RFID tags on the logistics chain in Iraq, sterling sees increasingly advanced smarter products. They will be equipped with memory and identification. They will know where they are and what they are doing. That way, the human part of the team can retrieve and evaluate history in order to understand and create the future. It's a world in which everything has a metric.

What this means for us in the Recruiting and Staffing world is multi-layered. Most importantly, it is yet another signal that an era of profound transparency is right upon us. One close look at Jobster's latest moves and you will see the SPIME of Recruiting.

Like it or not, the future is all about transparency in your brand and corporate practices. In order to attract the kinds of people you really need, you have to make difficult information available and intelligible. This is a new, information rich, highly networked word. Sterling's book gives a straightforward look into the future.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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