Tech Populism and Discotheque Populism: Parallel Revolutions
Tech populism, a term coined by Forrester Research, refers to people bringing the technology they use in their personal lives into the workplace where traditionally tools have been provided to them and their use prescribed. Employees may, for example, have access to online courses they are supposed to take, but they may prefer to search for and use information available on the web instead of utilizing these courses. Another example is when there is a corporate knowledge management initiative but employees find and contact each other through LinkedIn or other social networking services.
Tech populism is revolutionary in that the traditional tight controls on workplace behavior are violated – often to everyone’s benefit. And a revolt can occur when employers attempt to suppress tech populism.
“Bona fide revolutions—whether political, cultural, or spiritual —occur infrequently in history” and one is certainly taking place in the workplace today. This revolution parallels what was arguably the biggest revolution in music, dancing, and nightlife: the discotheque.
The American Heritage Magazine article goes on to say that “the discotheque originated as a den of resistance in Nazi-occupied France” and, from the 1960s to the 1980s, impacted all aspects of culture in the US and other countries. “Discotheque dancing followed the 1960s pattern in which teenagers invented pop-culture trends and discarded them soon afterward, at which point they were taken up by adults,” just like Facebook today!
“Saturday Night Fever propelled disco fever to epidemic proportions: By 1978, 40 percent of all the music on Billboard’s Hot 100 was disco. Meanwhile the discofication of America proceeded: There were disco lunch boxes, disco “Snoopy” bed sheets and pillows, disco belt buckles, disco records by old-timers like Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman, an estimated two hundred all-disco radio stations, disco dance courses, disco proms, books about the proper makeup to wear to discos—and an estimated twenty thousand discotheques nationwide.”
I coined discotheque populism to refer to how this “discofication” still lives in the music, lighting, and dance moves found in any club. Even the clothes, makeup, and hairstyles periodically return to popularity. Tech populism is no different – the Facebook of yesterday is the Twitter of today. Tomorrow will bring new applications that will be adopted (and even created) by teenagers first, become mainstream, and then be abandoned by the original adopters just when managers are developing policies for their use.