This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
I was walking through the McGill University campus the other day and noticed a poster that described the invention of the Kellogg cornflake. It reminded me ¬†again of how chance has led to some of the most innovative creations of the past century: vulcanized rubber [think tires], Post-it notes, Teflon, mauve [yes, and a must read on this], the x-ray, superglue, stainless steel, and microwave ovens [for more].¬†But, there’s more than happenstance and chance or even serendipity, to these breakthrough events. There was the ‘accident’ and then there was insight.
Virtually every organization I know is trying to find ways to encourage and capitalize on innovation. Big and small, customer or operationally-focused innovation is the new ‘silver bullet’; a “key growth lever”.
Well, they’re benchmarking. ¬†They’re designing new workspaces to support innovation – atriums and agoras, open offices, whiteboard walls and basketball hoops. Mimicking the Google and Apple campuses in the hope that they will inspire new ways of thinking. They’re giving employees access to more and more collaborative tools and creating opportunities through internal innovation challenges.
But most of these same organizations – whether they are white collar knowledge workers or blue collar labourers – are designed to produce widgets.¬†It’s the nature of the work and the day-to-day deliverables.¬†The design of the overall business operation is more like a production line in a sausage factory than a research and development team in a laboratory.
Are we just “putting lipstick on a pig”? Or are these changes – especially in older traditional businesses – really delivering the promise?
There’s a lot of interest, OK hype, around Google Glass. Let’s face it, the futuristic glasses are pretty cool looking just as a fashion accessory, but add in all the power of a smart phone and well it’s a pretty compelling offer.
Here are some of the features in the current prototypes:
- Responds to voice commands
- Answers questions [since it syncs through the net it means you can search the net - it's a Google product after all]
- Has GPS
- Takes and shares¬†photographs and¬†live video
- Sends and receives text messages and emails
- Provides digital voice assistance that is customized to your personal habits [e.g. weather, traffic]
All this in a range of fashion colours!
At least one of ¬†my luckier, dare I say it geekier, friends [Mitch Joel] has already had a chance to try the Glass. ¬†His take: ¬†”I think this will blow people away.” ¬†I’m pretty sure we can expect that¬†by the end of 2013 we’ll start seeing the Glass on others if we’re not lucky enough to have one ourselves.
So, here’s my question:¬†What impact will Google Glass have on the workplace? ¬†You know it will, so it’s definitely not too soon to start thinking about the potential and planning for the future!
I first heard about Building 20 at MIT when I read Jonah Lehrer’s article “Groupthink. The brainstorm myth” in the New Yorker just over a year ago. According to Lehrer this huge ["two hundred and fifty thousand square feet, on three floors"] and un-designed, temporary WWII building was “by the time it was finally demolished, in 1998, … ¬†a legend of innovation, widely regarded as one of the most creative spaces in the world. In the postwar decades, scientists working there pioneered a stunning list of breakthroughs, from advances in high-speed photography to the development of the physics behind microwaves. Building 20 served as an incubator for the Bose Corporation. It gave rise to the first video game and to Chomskyan linguistics.” Wow, that’s an incredible list of innovation!
In a commemorative publication, to mark the demolition, one of the headlines: A building with soul, caught my eye.
If we’re going to ask employees to stop telecommuting and come back into the office, then what kinds of places are we inviting them back to. ¬†Are they workplaces with soul? If not, is there anything we learn from Building 20?¬†
First it was the Berlin wall. ¬† Now it’s the cubicle wall. ¬†Workspaces even in the most traditional environments – banks, insurance companies and law offices are changing. And they are changing in pretty radical ways. ¬†Shared work stations, open space and windows, tables, couches and banquettes instead of cubicles and enclosed offices. ¬†Even though the initial motivation of these organizations is cost cutting, according to an article in today’s Globe and Mail employees report an overwhelmingly positive experience and increased productivity.
Perhaps even more interesting, given the focus of this blog, is the implication for communication and change management. ¬†One would hope that there would be something equally inventive, but when faced with some issues “10% of negative comments are about noise and work behaviours that become distractions, the bank is doing training and distributing tip sheets about having consideration for others.” ¬†Good grief! I think the walls just went back up.
The first thing that crossed my desk this morning really caught my eye. ¬†Empowering patients. Crowdsourcing as the next big step in medicine!
And, just a few hours later, a second piece. ¬†This time ¬†an article about empowering amateur astronomers and crowdsourcing as the next big step in science.
So, what do you think? Empowering employees. Crowdsourcing as the next big step in management?
The opening ceremony at the London Olympics cost an estimated $42M [US]. ¬†The production took years of planning, 1000s of professionals and 10,000 volunteers and livestock, involved artists of all kinds, designers, managers and trades to install 1000 of tons of equipment and materials and animate the whole thing. ¬†Just thinking about the logistics of such an undertaking is breathtaking.
At Simply Communicate, they recently reflected on “What the Olympic Opening Ceremony can teach corporate comms” in an interview with¬†Adrian Smith. ¬†The full article is definitely worth a look, but there are three main¬†lessons and a central idea that Adrien drew from the Olympics 2012 opening ceremony that I want to share [my words]:
- Have one vision for the creation
- Recruit and engage a range of experts and create an environment where people from a wide range of specialist disciplines [verticals] are able to bring their expertise and ideas to bear on the creation of the whole
- The “best” idea “wins” no matter where it comes from.
Adrian then goes on to his central idea. He argues for the fundamental role of design in corporate storytelling:¬†”There is a whole new generation of corporate communicators who do not know what a live event can do. And production companies are losing out because there is a generation that don‚Äôt know what design can deliver in terms of story and theatre. As time goes on there is a danger that this lack of theatre in corporate events will become the norm.¬†I hope that the success of the Opening Ceremony may be a catalyst for people thinking about taking emotion and engagement from a live performance as opposed to a video on a website.”
What do you think? ¬†Are we as leaders and communications professionals too focused on the facts? Is it time to bring back the ‘emotion‘ and ‘engagement’ of live performance? ¬†Does design [and design thinking] have a place in corporate storytelling? ¬†Is it time for us to expand our storytelling palette? ¬†
Sometimes compromise is a good thing. ¬†And sometimes… ¬†you end up with decisions that just don’t make sense.
What do you think? ¬†Open/closed office space concept or closed/open space concept?
Do you have any examples of compromise decisions gone wrong?