Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Working definitions and shared meanings

Anne says: 2022 is not evolving as many had hoped. Strategies to return to new ways of working are being challenged by the climate disasters, continuing covid outbreaks, and now the war in Ukraine. It strikes me that the relevance of this week’s article, about working definitions and shared meanings, has a much broader application beyond just our workplaces.

So, why do definitions matter? While some people may dismiss the use of definitions as semantics, shared meanings matter. Shared meanings avoid misunderstandings. Nuances in the use of terminology can impact how business interprets strategies, which can result in alternative pathways and solutions being implemented.

The “Working Definitions” developed by MIT Management provides a valuable approach for opening conversations within your own workplace context. Step back and look at your daily business practices – does everyone understand the terminology being used in the same way? Does it differ, even slightly, from department to department? What impact may this have on internal communication? How might this affect your customers?

As an activity for business alignment, we’d recommend creating a list of commonly used work practices and technologies – it would be likely to include terms like intranet, digital workplace, collaboration, social learning and more recently hybrid or remote work. Now, distribute the list (which could be added to at any stage) and start to develop some working definitions. You could use internal collaboration tools to collect definitions, then combine and refine those and redistribute for further input and review. There’s no set formula for how many rounds may be required and no rules that stop working definitions being updated as needed. The collaborative process in itself becomes a valuable activity for the development of shared meanings.

For further inspiration, browse through the Instagram link for ideas. My personal favourite, for today, is “Splinternet: The fracturing of global channels of communication into factions that share no common ground.”

Read: https://exec.mit.edu/s/blog-post/our-favorite-working-definitions-of-2021-MCHE4U6L53N5FUREVKYURYYAZN4I

View and explore: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/workingdefinitions/

The pain and pleasure of being a cyborg

Jakkii says: I must admit, I’ve never before thought of a person with a bionic limb as a cyborg. I suppose I’ve never really thought much about cyborgs at all, outside of during their appearance in sci-fi film & television, despite the fact we’ve shared articles on human augmentation and biohacking before. It makes sense though, with a frame of reference being science fiction, that a cyborg would seem to be something rather more fantastical, rather more dramatic, and perhaps rather more scary (thank you, Terminator) than simply someone for whom modern biotechnology has offered an incredible advance. And it’s probably not just me with this confused view, with Frank Swain writing in a piece for the BBC titled “Cyborgs: The truth about human augmentation”:

There’s a big gulf between the fantasy vision of cyborgs, and the current reality of being dependent on an implant or a prosthetic in day-to-day life. If we’re to separate the two, we ought to pay close attention to those who are living in that world already.

In my piece this week, an essay by a Brazilian journalist, Lidia Zuin, she takes a look at what it means to be a cyborg here in the early decades of the 21st Century. The essay raises issues I had never considered, starting with the story of a woman denied access to charging stations at a conference because people were already using the power points to charge their phone. First come, first served, I’m sure, but the problem was she needed to charge her bionic arm! It raises an interesting conundrum, even if it isn’t necessarily a new question: is first come, first served our best approach as a group if the needs of those waiting aren’t equal?

The essay goes on to briefly discuss some existing and upcoming technologies in the cyborg space, such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink neural implant, which is discussed often for its ‘promise’ to one day connect our brains directly to the internet, and far less often for potential applications such as recreating nerve connections that might allow people with spinal injuries to one day walk again.

Those kinds of possibilities are reminiscent of what Peter Scott-Morgan is searching for in Peter: The Human Cyborg. Scott-Morgan has a PhD in robotics and has Motor Neurone Disease, and the documentary follows him as he ‘fights back’ against MND in the best way he knows how: with technological intervention. Of course, technology isn’t where we might like it to be yet, and MND advances on, but – at least at the time of filming – the human cyborg pushes back.

“Now is not the end of anything,” says part-cyborg Peter, even if not as far merged as he had hoped. “Now is when the fun begins.”

Yet for people using technologies made by companies, not developed on their own – which is currently and will in the future be most people – they’re reliant on that company maintaining, updating and, potentially, upgrading that technology over time. This is illustrated by the story of a company that made one of its retinal implants obsolete, while a year later the company nearly went out of business entirely after facing financial struggles. In its wake are people who have received the implant and have come to rely on it to help them see. What happens to people in this situation and where do they go from here?

It raises all sorts of conundrums, from ethical issues to social issues and, of course, to government issues of both policy and regulation. As technology advances and more and more people have access to become cyborgs, whether through medical necessity or by choice, these issues and questions will only get bigger. Like so many things, it would seem prudent we start considering how to address them long before we let them get away from us.

Read: https://lidiazuin.medium.com/the-pain-and-pleasure-of-being-a-cyborg-68250964a342

Friday Five

Five links you might find interesting this week:


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