So you’re thinking how on earth does that happen? Let me explain. I’ve been an anywhere worker for some time, my first memory of working on a plane goes way back to the 1980’s. My briefcase was full of typed up documents and hand written meeting notes; I literally carried my office with me. If you were lucky you may get an air phone and be able to make a few calls at $10 a minute but the reality of working on a plane was a lap full of papers and constant shuffling of notes as you tried to find that one important line that would spark your thinking. Getting to the airport usually meant a good 20 minutes at a payphone updating my team with things I’d learned in flight and then I’d be running out the door to catch the first cab into downtown somewhere. My away from office life was a series of long periods of disconnection followed by short bursts of connection and engagement with my teams.
Today working on a plane consists of either my laptop or iPad depending on what I’m trying to do, maybe my notebook (some things I just can’t give up) and a distinct lack of a mountain of paper on my lap. My away from office life has switched – completely, long periods of connection are now the norm (excuse the pun). Disconnection (remember when you had to disconnect all your devices) is my enemy and I try the best I can to minimize the short bursts of it when they crop up, for by example picking flights with in-flight WI-FI.
So yesterday I’m on one such flight. Everyone’s settled in, the food cart has gone round and those of us who have some work to do have our laptops out. The first thing I do when opening my laptop is to open Circuit, I immediately spot a note from Warwick our SVP of Sales Operations and Enablement , I dive right in read the update and then without thinking about it hit the video button and spend a good 45 minutes talking through the note live at 35K feet (halfway across the Atlantic). Suddenly I get a tap on the shoulder from a member of the cabin crew. “I’m sorry sir you can’t Skype on the plane.” I protest that it’s not Skype but it falls on deaf ears and eventually I have to give in and disconnect. I didn’t get a ticket but it sure felt like the equivalent of getting caught speeding while on a plane.
I do totally get why you wouldn’t want users to access Skype on the plane if you are the airline or a Wi-Fi provider, it’s very intensive on bandwidth and that’s going to impact other users. But WebRTC products like Circuit are built specifically with this in mind and use minimal bandwidth in comparison. So how do we educate airlines and other Wi-Fi vendors? To me this is where “digital skills” come into play, as a technology company we have a wealth of digital skills and we’re constantly learning new ones but it’s only just starting to become a thing in other types of businesses. While Millennials will bring new digital skills into our businesses it’s also important that we look to those who don’t possess a wealth of innate digital skills. We need to ensure we are enabling them not just from a usability perspective but also giving them the knowledge to understand even just at a basic level the difference between something like Skype and Circuit. If we don’t we’re disenfranchising whole generations and building even greater frustration in generations that do understand. To airlines I say this: digital skills are actually not just a customer service issue they are a safety issue. Your teams need an ever increasing benchmark of knowledge of what’s digitally safe to use and what isn’t.