Lead by keeping up with the world

One of problems of being a migrant, is that even after 20 plus years in one's adopted country you find that you still make assumptions about how things operate that turn out to be completely erroneous imports from the homeland. Even now when this happens to me, I feel slightly disconnected and somehow out of place.

L.P. Hartley wrote that "the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there". I suspect the elderly have similar experiences of loss of place. I suspect I will find that out soon enough!

I recently experienced this when talking to a senior police officer about my driving licence. Luckily this officer is my friend and was off duty at the time. I had always assumed that one did not have to carry one's driving licence when wrestling the horseless carriage around the byways and parking inspectors of the convict state. If politely invited by a saluting highway patrol officer to produce my licence in the matter of driving in a manner likely to induce hysteria in equine beasts, I had always assumed I could take a leisurely stroll to one of the constabulary's fine hostels over the ensuing days. Discovering this was not the case, my friend in blue informed me that it has been ever thus. I was still in the United Kingdom circa 1980 listening to Embarrassment by Madness.

Luckily for me, until recently I have always had my licence about me, for it resided in my wallet and anyone to have had the misfortune of standing me a round of drinks will know that my wallet never ever leaves my trouser pocket. That is, until recently. Technology has changed things. Now I have little need for my wallet, and I pay for nearly everything using my watch. It is a lot simpler. The trouble is, the wallet is no longer necessary for its primary purpose, and I have had a few near misses where I nearly went driving without my licence, and I have arrived at the bus stop without my Opal card.

Transport NSW I gather has been trialling credit card payments on ferries, and may soon expand the Opal system to allow contactless payment with non-Opal cards or watches. This can't come soon enough. But what about my driving licence? We no longer have registration stickers – this is all done electronically via number plate reading technology and databases. Surely we are getting close to the time where governments – for it is a government and not a police decision – to change the legislation to allow for electronic licences.

Passports these days are unnecessarily big. All of the important stuff is stored electronically in an embedded chip. The rest of the passport is a glorified bit of packaging. This too should be made fully electronic and wearable in a watch or ring, or at least in a credit card.

Governments, companies and employers all are prone to making the same errors as migrant me and the elderly, in failing to challenge our assumptions regularly enough about how the world is currently working. Failing to do so can result in far more than a feeling of embarrassment and temporary loss of place, it leads to inefficiencies, and loss of competitive edge and jobs. None of us are in 1980s England any more. Which is a shame if you, like me, are a Madness fan.

Jim Bright is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy.