Have you ever come across a situation which at first glance seemed normal, but for some reason you had another look and realised that something strange was present when so called “common sense” would suggest otherwise?
This happened to me a few weeks back and now that I have my eyes open and time to reflect, I realise I was witness to something that is changing the world.
I will get back to that in a moment, but first, what do I mean “changing the world”?
Well time and time again new innovations and new ways of doing things start to impact society. For example, back in the mid to late eighties, the fax machine was slowly being introduced across businesses and replacing what some of you will recall, was the telex machine.
Now the telex machine was quite a beast – you needed to be trained on it and then, you still needed patience and perseverance! However it was just like it was overnight, the fax machine arrived and before we knew it, we were trying to figure out how to not let the thermal paper copy of the fax machine fade and lose all that valuable information or the customer order just received by “magic”!
The ripple effect of course of that innovation was in how we communicate today and how we interact as individuals or as organisations, across borders and across oceans.
Once the “flood gates” open, these innovations or “disruptive forces” play out in their own way, finding the lower ground fast and spreading with ease. Before we know it, the landscape changes before our very own eyes, literally transforming us along the way.
So coming back to where I started this article, what was it that, I witnessed?
Well I was in Phenom Penh last month.
Phenom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia and my hotel that I stayed at, the Indochine, sits adjacent to the Tonle and Mekong rivers. There are all sights and sounds and of course a country with a history that Cambodia has, there are many people experiencing significant hardship on a daily basis.
One evening, may be close to midnight, as I looked out my window from 5 floors above the street below, I could see a small glow towards the river bank. It flickered on and off every now and again, but basically stayed in the one location.
It took me a while to figure out what this small little light was.
Then “bang” I got it. I realised what I was looking at.
You see the small little light was coming from a smart phone and it was being held in the hands by a young woman who was surrounded by two children sleeping on mats beside her.
Now I did not get to find out about her situation, only that she is one of many families who live on the streets there in Phenom Penh. This as we all know, is not unique to Cambodia either. My own city, Sydney for example, has far too many people living rough each night as well.
I wonder what she was looking at on that evening with her phone?
Could it have been a TV broadcast for entertainment? Could it have been something else, maybe to teach her a new skill, to inspire her to somehow feel that she has the ability to rise above her current circumstances? To give her some hope.
Did she sleep that night with a little more comfort and re-assurance than the night before?
Did that small little light help her?
I hope so. I hope so for so many who are living it rough.
I also hope that many of the changes happening today will have their flow on effect to the people who are often on the margins because I do believe we are living in extraordinary times.
So when you curse your printer’s paper jams, or its taking too long to download your favourite programs, spare a thought to that young woman, that stranger, and lets hope that she and her children can grow up to have similar opportunities as we have.