In early June, my family and I went down to Durban to support some friends who were running the Comrades Marathon. We booked into a Durban-side hotel to be close to the start of the race, hired a car, studied the maps and after a festive Saturday, got ready for the race on Sunday.
This would not have been possible without our smartphones – all set with extra phone chargers for the day.
We used Waze and Google Maps to navigate out of Durban in the darkness and to find our way to rendezvous points. We had Garmin LiveTrack on our phones for each of our athletes because they were being tracked real-time via their own smartphones so we knew their whereabouts, their speed and their splits, every step of the way. We set up a WhatsApp group with dozens of supporters from across the world and shared screenshots of the tracking, as well as photos of our sweaty, exhausted friends whilst we cheered them on, as they jogged past us.
We took photos with our phones, instantly sharing them with one other and supporters across the globe. We received news of the whole field from other group members who were watching on their TVs at home, as they shared TV screenshots of the winners sprinting home.
We travelled in convoy using two-way radios to talk between four cars, and to make sure that we could stay connected to one other.
We were a community of almost a hundred people; following, commenting, cheering on, sending and receiving data, experiencing the event together, be it on the side of the road, on the road, in Johannesburg, Cape Town, London, Sydney etc. Friends from all over the world burst into tears of pride and joy as our loved champions overcame their pain and fear to complete the grueling marathon.
This simply could not have happened say five or maybe even three years ago. None of us had received any training on how to deploy and manage all of this technology. Each person spontaneously took the lead for each piece of the puzzle; someone set up the WhatsApp group with several administrators, someone brought radios and set them to one frequency and someone set the Garmin LiveTrack up for each athlete. We all took photos and posted photos onto WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.
We had a common purpose and common vision – the desire to support our friends throughout the race. The rest just worked itself out.
This is the power of digital communication, marketing and project management in action. Spontaneous. Easy. Fun. Intuitive.
Businesses are of course considerably more complex, but is there any reason why things should be any different in the workplace? This spontaneity is the new way, and we can all join in. If we know and understand a common purpose and vision, we can all participate and lead. We can be extremely effective without a traditional hierarchy. Some basic rules of the game are all we need to oil our wheels. We can use our initiative, make contributions and collaborate with customers, suppliers, other divisions and team members. We can have fun while we do this. We can form and disband short and long-term teams and groups. We do not need to wait for some top-down instruction, some training or permission.
If we add the above to a common purpose and vision that we all know and understand, we can all participate and lead. We can be extremely effective even without a traditional hierarchy.
Of course, we still need the hierarchy, the structure, the direction and leadership – but this informal digital way of life can operate alongside the old way very easily and help us to get things done.
Join in the fun. Show us how.
Miles Crisp is the Tarsus Technologies Group CEO.