Mental hurdles – James West interviews Kriss Akabusi

Kriss Akabusi may inspire us at the HITS show with his enthusiasm, but it is his view on the working world that will leave the most lasting impression.

An Olympic medal winner may not strike you as someone who could help you improve IT support. Yet Kriss Akabusi has been chosen to talk at this year’s Helpdesk and IT Support (HITS) and he has promised that he will make attendees feel something all too rare in IT: passion.

Akabusi has been booked because of his motivational speeches where he explains the techniques he mastered on the track and how to translate these skills to the business world. But a recent conversation with him revealed that there is more to his presentation than simply inspiring people into action.

Akabusi explains that we all operate in an arena of sorts and that we all need support to help us fulfil our goals. The parallels between the stadium and the working world are fairly obvious at this point. Where it gets interesting is when he talks about our overall approach to work and it is on this subject where his words have a particular resonance in IT.

Many problems in the workplace arise, according to Akabusi, because we are not the same people at work as we are away from it. He argues that pre-industrial revolution, people tended to choose professions based on the essential skills they developed at home, perhaps sewing, baking, carpentry etc. Because our choice of work used to map closer to what we were in essence there was less disconnect between work and home life. This meant we tended to be more involved and effective in our work.

“Because people are not encouraged to bring the same passion they have for activities outside of work into a workplace, it is the employers who ultimately lose out because staff who are not inspired don’t work as well as they can,” said Akabusi.

Although it is difficult to replicate 19th century society in your workplace, you can encourage your staff to be more themselves. How much do you know about your workers and what gets them really enthused? Most of us think that to get to know staff, you should all get drunk at the pub. Do we do enough to encourage the talent that we have at our disposal?

This issue is magnified in IT because people don’t like to admit they enjoy it because it’s seen as geeky. Well, if computers are just tools, why do most households have a computer that is primarily used in the evening? We all enjoy technology; we can all remember our first tentative steps onto the internet and the subsequent realisation of the possibilities it opened up. If you have burned a CD, found a bargain on ebay, wondered how anyone survived without Google or fixed an issue on your computer that you previously thought was beyond you, it gives you a feeling of satisfaction. Without labouring this point, why is it generally acceptable to spend your evenings being fed mindless pap on television or drinking yourself into oblivion in the pub, but if you spend time communicating with like-minded individuals and doing things such as working with digital photographs, you are a bit sad?

None of this will last of course and IT will eventually move on and will be seen for what it really is: an information delivery conduit which either helps or hinders our lives. The point being made by Akabusi is that we must move beyond our preconceptions and embrace what we do to move forward. “IT is playing a huge part in making our lives better and IT professionals should be aware that they have a central role to play in defining these exciting times,” said Akabusi.

Talking about his upcoming presentation, Akabusi promised that everyone who attends will witness an energetic and inspirational performance and added that at least 80 per cent will go away and act on what they have learned.

The Helpdesk and IT Support Show takes place 26th – 28th April 2005, at the National Hall, Olympia.