retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It’s hardly news that necessity begets invention and innovation. But it is somewhat newsy when that necessity provides us a lesson in how to deal with a number of issues including how to best engage with the younger generations now so critical to the workforce.

The Israeli army is the source of this innovation. Israel, as you no doubt know, lives in a complex geopolitical space that requires the country to have a well-armed and innovative military. Like many countries, Israel relies on young men and women to staff that army.

The Washington Post recently reported on a new Israeli tank, the Carmel, that allows the soldiers inside to basically operate as if they are in a video game right down to the video game style controllers used to drive the vehicle.  As the Israeli army brass explains, the innovative style fits with skill sets that young recruits have after years of playing games like Fortnite. That in turn, vastly reduces training time.

As the Post article explains, this type of technology has been creeping into the military for a while now, including in how various countries teach pilots to fly drones. I found it somewhat encouraging that the Israeli brass recognized that video games can dehumanize the player to the mayhem they are causing, so they have focused on how to ensure the Carmel’s users understand they aren’t in a game and the people they may shoot at are real.

But I also found this article highly instructive as to how all forms of business are going to have to incorporate technology to best utilize the skills of younger workers today and certainly tomorrow. It starts with recognizing that a young person will be incredibly put off by a workplace that uses technology that is significantly slower or less sophisticated than what they’ve had since 9th grade, or earlier.

There are unquestionably countless skills that young recruits in any company need to learn from more experienced hands. That institutional knowledge is essential to making any company run properly and certainly in building and maintaining relationships throughout the supply chain and with customers.

However, we need also recognize that even today’s greenest recruits might simply know about things - apps, hardware or whatever - that could easily improve existing operational issues or consumer outreach through emerging social media sites and more. In the case of the Israeli tank we also see how artificial intelligence seems far more accessible to gamers than anyone might expect.

As one Israeli battalion commander said of his new recruits, “I don’t want to say it took them four minutes (to master the tank), but maximum it took them four hours. They are far more willing to experiment, they are much less afraid of technology … it comes to them naturally. It’s not exactly like playing ‘Fortnite,’ but something like that, and amazingly they bring their skills to operational effectiveness in no time. I’ll tell you the truth, I didn’t think it could be reached so quickly.”

The Israeli tank might be a model on how to recruit younger folks for essential jobs that seem low tech and also seem less attractive. We have to wonder if the Carmel tank model - that is, creating a gaming environment for a non-gaming task - might help somehow with making long-haul trucking or distribution center jobs more attractive to a new generation.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.