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“Surfacing the social factors early" - Podcast by Alex Boeing

As part of The Australian Journal of Management Podcast series, Alex Boeing, Research Associate at FOWI, was interviewed about her co-authored paper recently published in AJM Special Issue on the Future of Work. The title of the paper is: “Surfacing the social factors early: A sociotechnical approach to the design of a future submarine”.

In this podcast, we discuss some key insights from our paper for industry, policy makers and employees. Many organisations are facing an opportunity – and sometimes an imperative – to incorporate a greater degree of interconnectedness and technological complexity into the way that they work. Planning for this future, when there are so few case studies for us to draw and learn from, can be a daunting task.

In the podcast, we highlight that there are lessons to be learned from existing highly complex systems, such as military submarines or aviation. These industries highlight a critical need to be considered around the way we design work for the people in the systems, from the get-go. We suggest that it is very achievable to consider the human work right alongside any technological acquisition.

The benefits of having this proactive and integrative approach include both system and work efficiencies, as well as good, safe and healthy and productive work.

We discuss how COVID has accentuated some of the messages of this paper, by demonstrating the degree of human adaptability, but also the reactive and haphazard nature of ‘fitting-in’ with changes to work. Had we been able to plan for the coming pandemic, organisations would have had a chance to ensure the work was optimised and the technology supported us effectively. In a similar vein, if we are looking forward and understand that change is coming, we suggest here that there is no excuse not to plan and design for how to adopt new systems and technologies as well as how we will design the human work alongside this.


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