Mind the Gap, Boomers & Millennials!

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Divided by technology and attitudes cast in stone, modern generations glare at each other across the great divide. What will it take to make them see eye to eye? Maybe it will help if, just for a moment or two, they put down their phones and listened.

It was the Baby Boomer Bob Dylan who summed it up best, in an age when everything around him was changing, including age itself. “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,” he warned. “Your old road is rapidly ageing.”

He was talking about a concept as old as time itself – the drift in values and attitudes between young and old – but that had just been given a catchy label that would come to define the changing times.

The Generation Gap. Today, the gap remains, even as the generations change. Once, it was enough to divide grown-ups from children, who were then sub-categorised as teenagers, a species accorded a distinct set of characteristics based on their observed broodiness, rebellion, and unfathomable taste in music. Life today is a lot more complicated.

Those teenagers have grown up to be Boomers, and their children and grandchildren are now the Generation Xers, Millennials, and Generations Y and Z who are supposed to be so difficult to understand and so far beyond our command.

But is this really so, or is the generational theory of the American pop sociologists, Strauss and Howe, just a slightly more sophisticated version of horoscope theory?

We invited two experts in across-the-gap thinking, Estee Roodt, an industrial psychologist, and Stuart Stobbs, advertising agency owner, into the BrightRock studio to share their thoughts on the subject with David O’Sullivan. As Estee points out, the great divide between the generations these days, particularly in the workplace, is often by nature a digital divide.

“The Millennials are the generation that has been transformed by technology,” she says. This in turn gives them a special power to transform, by sharing their intuitive understanding of technology with less switched-on generations. “It’s their responsibility to start teaching technology to people who are in managerial positions. It can be very daunting to incorporate new ways.”

At the same time, Boomers and Xers can share their wealth of knowledge and experience with their younger colleagues and employees. But it shouldn’t be a passive relationship, says Stuart, who is in his 40s and works in an advertising studio with many people half his age.

“We have to constantly change,” he says. “We need to keep educating ourselves on what’s new.” But turning an organisation into an active learning environment may not be enough to keep those restless Millennials in their place.

A stereotype of the generation is that they breeze in and out of  organisations, unwilling to be pinned down by age-old conventions of loyalty and one-rung-at-a-time career progression.

“Millennials don’t see the fact that they job-hop as being disloyal to the company,” says Estee. “They merely move on to the next experience. You really need to keep them preoccupied in your organisation, or create new opportunities.”

Stuart agrees, albeit with a caveat that cuts to the core of the problem with defining people by the era in which they were born. “Millennials are human too,” he reminds us. So are Boomers, and Xers, and all the other subtypes who get consigned into categories for ease of analysis and marketability.

His solution in the workplace is to encourage interaction by removing, every now and again, the single greatest barrier to getting to know each other better: technology.

Before every meeting, everyone has to put their phone into a box at the door, and leave it there for the duration.

“It’s amazing,” says Stuart. “People look at each other, and talk to each other, and focus.”

Even Bob Dylan would agree. The best way to bridge the gap is to lean right across it, and listen to what the other side is saying. For more insights and advice on working with your fellow generations, watch the full Iris Session below.

*For more advice and insight on the changing world of work today, visit the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life: Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

This article first appeared in The Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

How to Live Happily Evernote After

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In a world of chaos and information overload, Evernote is still the most flexible and powerful option for storing and syncing the info you need across multiple digital devices 

The universe is born in chaos, and our life’s work is to attempt to shepherd it into some semblance of order. But how?

Even in what we laughingly call the Paperless Age, we wallow under the weight of the physical data that floods into our business and personal domains.

Meeting notes, memos, business cards, forms, documents, invoices, articles, receipts, circulars, pamphlets, print-outs, Post-Its, and yes, even the occasional letter that makes its way through the postal system.

Add to this the relentless barrage of electronic data, from emails to pdfs to images to web links to multimedia files, and the question becomes all the more urgent. Happily, there is an answer. Note this: Evernote.

There are many apps, web, desktop, and mobile, that claim to be capable of corralling the chaos of modern life and keeping it magically at your command. What sets Evernote apart is how efficient it is at serving as a central repository for the paper goods as well as the e-goods.

This it does, firstly, by encouraging you to scan all the paper that comes your way, using the camera on your smartphone. Evernote expertly coverts the hard copy into crisp, readable digital files, which you can tag by subject matter and store in notebooks on the app.

In the same way, Evernote’s online “web clipper” allows you to save and file anything of interest you chance upon on the web, and you can also forward your important emails to the app for future reference.

As you take charge of the process, Evernote becomes an ever-accessible home for your stuff, as well as a default note-taking device, whether the note is in the form of a snapshot, a jotting, or a voice memo.

It all gets stored in the cloud, for instant syncing across all your devices – PC, Mac, desktop, laptop, and tablets and smartphones of all persuasions.

This means your info is at hand wherever you are, whenever you need it, but that wouldn’t mean much if you weren’t able to search speedily and in depth for the exact info you need.

Evernote is free in its basic version, which allows you to sync across two devices, but it’s well worth paying for the Premium service. This has no limit on devices, and its big attraction is its searchability: it can dig deep inside pdfs and Office documents and even recognise handwriting on a snapshot of a PostIt note or a whiteboard.

It’s also smart enough to figure out the context in your notes, so if you’re looking at an email, for instance, it will point you to the LinkedIn listing for a contact, and to other notes that may be relevant to your quest. The cost? Just over R30 a month.

Try the free version for a start, and if it works for you, consider investing in the power-user option. Evernote won’t quite be able to tame the chaos of the universe, but it can bring a semblance of order to your little corner of it, and that’s good enough for a change.

*For more information, visit www.evernote.com.


This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Meet the Moto Z, a Modular Mobile Marvel

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Greater and smarter than the sum of its parts, the new Moto Z from Lenovo is an Android device that is changing the face of mobile technology

When you carry in your pocket a device capable of identifying the stars, broadcasting live video, measuring your pulsebeat, and charting your path around the globe, it seems somewhat quaint to call it a phone.

So let’s just call the new Moto Z – that’s “Zee”, as the Americans like to say – a very smart mobile lifestyle, business, and entertainment device. Of course, there are a lot of those around.

We’ve reached a point of peak parity in the look, feel, and functionality of these machines, with their slim, slab-like design and big, bright touchscreens, 43 years after Martin Cooper, an engineer and inventor working for Motorola, made the first cellular call on a big-as-a-brick wireless portable with huge buttons and an ungainly antenna.

So it’s fitting that the same company, now owned by the global PC giant, Lenovo, is responsible for a breakthrough in innovation and functionality that adds a whole new dimension to the mobile. In fact, multiple dimensions.

The Unique Selling Proposition of the Moto Z is its ability to defy its physical boundaries and become something else, a bit like those giant robots that turn into trucks in the Transformers movies.

But the Moto Z, more elegantly, can metamorphose into a stereo boombox, a video projector, and – best of all – a Hasselblad point-and-shoot camera with a physical shutter and a 10X optical zoom.

This it does by means of separately-sold “mods” that attach magnetically, with a satisfying thwock, to the back of the Moto Z’s pencil-slim body.

This lock-and-load versatility turns the Moto Z from a very capable smart device into an even more capable smart system, with high-quality branded components (the boombox is by JBL, the portable-tech division of Harman) that set the scene for a whole new way of thinking about how we use the machines that have come to define our mobile lifestyles in the 21st Century.

The Hasselblad mod – from the legendary Swedish manufacturer that sent the first electronic data cameras to the moon – is particularly inventive.

Snap it on, and you’ve got a sleek piece of optical hardware that shoots great, stabilised images, even at maximum zoom, with a xenon flash that adds a burst of white light when you need it most.

It shatters the limitations of even the most advanced smart-device cameras, and is a worthwhile addition for a anyone who wants to take their mobile photography to the next level.

At its core, the Moto Z is a sophisticated Android device that boasts excellent battery life, a slick fingerprint reader, gesture-based control, and a highly attentive voice assistant that swiftly does your bidding.

But it’s the mods that make the Moto Z a device that is greater and smarter than the sum of its parts. Which includes, if you really, really must find a use for it, a built-in phone.


*For more information of the Moto Z, visit www.motorola.com.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Watch Yourself!

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The Apple Watch, due to be launched in South Africa soon, is a benevolent dictator that will change your life in small and subtle ways 

The big question about the Apple Watch, the same question people asked about the iPod, iPhone, and iPad when they made their debut, is: do I really need this shiny new device in my life?

And the answer, of course, is, no, not really. But want is different from need, and if you hold the Watch in your hand, and strap it to your wrist, you may feel compelled to ask a more pertinent question.

What can this device do for me, aside from tell the time? Well, in essence, it’s a liberator.

It frees you from having to fish your phone from your pocket to check your email and texts, make a call, monitor your fitness, get walking or driving directions, or keep a watch on your day.

When your Watch has got something to tell you, it sends you a little nudge, a tickle on the wrist, using a technology called haptic feedback.

It’s a curious sensation, but you quickly get used to it, to the extent that the Watch begins to feel as if it is bionically connected to you.

Even more futuristic is the swift response from Siri, Apple’s voice-detection “robot”, when you raise your wrist to ask a question or dictate a reply to a message.

But the Watch itself is something of a benevolent dictator, pinging you reminders, buzzing alerts to upcoming appointments, and giving you a haptic nudge to get up and get active when you’ve been sitting for too long. A fine principle, but a bit difficult to obey when the nudge comes while you’re in the driver’s seat of your car.

As a timepiece, the Watch is super-accurate, with a variety of beautifully-designed faces that feature customisable “complications”, from sunrise-sunset times to moon phases to the weather to timers and alarms.

Battery life is very good, and you’ll typically have 50 per cent left on the Watch when you set it to charge in the evening.

The more you get used to the Watch, the more your phone falls into shadow, which is a good thing in an age when we’ve become slaves to our mobile devices.

The Watch is meant to be glanced at, not lingered over, so it eases you into new ways of interacting with technology.

You’ll still need your phone, of course, for the Bluetooth connection, and it has to be an iPhone, because this is the Apple Watch.

But whether you need it or not, whether you want it or not, the Watch is yet another sign that the future of wearable devices has arrived, and it’s just on time.

*For more information on the Apple Watch, visit http://www.apple.com/watch

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This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.



Our wireless future

17 November 2014. By Leopold Malan.

When I look at the latest technological trends and developments in agriculture, I can’t help but wonder to what extent farming in the future will be done by remote control. 


I recently stumbled on an interesting interview with US scientist Dean Anderson,who is known for his research in the field on virtual fencing. He firmly believes farmers of the future will be able to contain and control their livestock through wireless fencing.

This will be done by setting up virtual perimeters on their farms. The livestock is contained in spaces he calls ‘electronic polygons’ through GPS devices that are attached to the animals and are known as Ear-a-rounds.

According to the Economist, these devices control the animals through “quiet sonic alerts, mild tingles, major ones to shouts or shocks” on the ear opposite to the direction in which the animal is being nudged. “You could be driving your property in your air-conditioned truck and you notice a spot that received rain in the recent past and that has a flush of highly nutritious plants that would otherwise be lost,” explains Anderson.

“Well, you can get on your laptop, right then and there, and program the polygon that contains your cows to move spatially and temporally over the landscape to this ‘better location’. Instead of having to build a fence or take the time and manpower to gather your cows, you would simply move the virtual fence…”

Just imagine what this technology will mean for ‘free range’ farming. Watch a video demonstration of a virtual fence in action here. With this kind of technology, farmers might even reach a point where they will be able to control their farms thousands of kilometres off site. The security implications should, of course, also be considered. One of the blogs I read about this went as far as to say we’ll also need to answer the question of how to deal with cow-hacking and virtual rustling!

I previously wrote about the surveillance capabilities of drones, but there are many more technological marvels that are making farmers’ lives easier. We’re already able to monitor cables and wires with technology that sends SMSes as soon as anything has been tampered with (GSM has some interesting technology in this regard).

Solar- powered CCTV cameras enable farmers to keep tabs on troughs, tanks, livestock conditions, traps, security and more. Tagging systems are also becoming more advanced, not only assisting farmers with surveillance and the counting of cattle (like Tramirloc for example), but also enabling the monitoring of soil moisture and movement.

All of this technology comes at a price, of course. Virtual fencing is said to cost around $600 (R6714) USD per cow, but the developers hope to bring the price down to around $100 (R1120). The fact remains everything is becoming more affordable and accessible.

So when will we see this technology on local soil?

* Leopold Malan has more than 20 years’ experience in the IT sector, the majority of those years spent consulting and working within the financial services space. He currently heads up BrightRock’s integrated processing, systems and IT division.

** This piece was first published on BrightRock executive director Leopold Malan’s BrightBytes blog on the Farmer’s Weekly website.






Mightier Than The Laptop

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The humble duo of pen and paper are set to make a comeback, if the results of a study into note-taking are anything to go by.

Remember handwriting? You touched the point to the paper, furrowed your brow like those faint blue lines, and took your pencil for a ride, looping and curving and crossing and dotting, making your mark in a parade of big and little letters.

Cursive, your teacher called it, and when the day came that you could pen your own name, you felt a surge of pride that made you feel all grown-up and connected to the big wide world.

Then you went out into the world, and that hard-learned skill fell by the wayside, like logarithms and declensions.

Who writes in cursive anymore? Who, in this age of touchscreens and keyboards, even picks up a pen to scribble a note?

Our muscle memory is shifting from the lyrical flow of ink on paper, to the tapping of impulses on electronic devices. And while there’s no point pining for a bygone era, maybe there is a case to be made for an occasional return to the old school.

Let’s take note of a study conducted in the US this year, by Psychology Professor Daniel M Oppenheimer and graduate student Pam Mueller.

“The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” it’s called, and it stems from a series of experiments in which students were provided with laptops or pen and paper to take notes. The result?

The laptop note-takers received significantly lower scores in conceptual and factual tests, even though they took almost twice as many notes as their pen-in-hand counterparts.

Laptops tend to encourage verbatim note-taking, concluded the researchers, which leads to “less encoding of content”. In other words, if you studiously take notes by hand, you’re more likely to grasp and comprehend what you’re noting.

“While more notes are beneficial, at least to a point,” says the study, “if the notes are taken indiscriminately or by mindlessly transcribing content, as is more likely the case on a laptop, the benefit disappears.”

Try it for yourself sometime. Put aside your computer or tablet, find a pen and a notepad, and write. The connection your hand makes with the paper will be echoed in the connection your brain makes with the content.

At least, that’s the theory, but it’s well worth an experiment of your own, as long as you’re able to read your own handwriting. Remember, as your teacher told you years ago: neatness counts!

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.