If working in an office is bad for your brain, where does that leave intranets?

A study has found that the hustle and bustle of modern offices can lead to a
32% drop in workers well being and reduce their productivity by 15%.

They have found that open plan offices create unwanted activity in the brains
of workers that can get in the way of them doing the task at hand.

Open plan offices were first introduced in the 1950s and quickly became a
popular as a way of laying out offices.

Having a clean and sterile desk can also leave employees with smaller brains,
scientists claim.

The findings are revealed in a programme made for Channel 4, The Secret Life
of Buildings, to be broadcast on Monday.

This type of research, IMHO, has implications for both our online and physical workplaces. Implementing a sterile, impersonal intranet is probably as bad as a clean desk policy.

But for physical workspaces at least, why does it always have to be one or other – open plan OR individual offices, work from the office OR work from home?

What’s in it for me? How about success and happiness in the workplace.

The greatest metric for predicting job satisfaction and engagement is the social support perceived by the employee. And job satisfaction and engagement directly correlate with productivity. So the best and fastest way to more connected and therefore more productive is to receive more social support from others at work, right? Not so fast.

The past two decades of research on social support has mistakenly focused on how much social support you receive, not how much social support you provide. It turns out, that giving feels better, does more for you, and provides greater returns in the long run, than getting ever does.

Not using that wiki or internal social network that your company setup for you? Maybe the only person you are hurting is yourself.

I know that a social workplace provides benefits to organisations, but its good to see some emerging research that points out the positive impact on employees who provide social support to the other people they work with.

From Anecdote: The problem with ‘motivational speakers’

So called ‘motivational speakers’ don’t motivate people to change behaviour.

Throughout my career I have been involved in organising, planning and developing a huge number of away days, events, conferences and the like. When you start working on ideas for the agenda, more often than not someone will suggest getting a ‘motivational speaker’ along. This suggestion is normally met with everyone getting very excited, throwing in ideas of who they could get and checking budget to see if it is possible. Everyone that is, except me.

Why am I so resistant to this idea? What it is about the whole concept of ‘motivational speakers’, whoever they may be, that I just don’t seem to get or be enthused by?

Simply put I don’t think they do what they say – motivate, and especially motivate people to change.

You don’t motivate people to change; you just need to involve them as participants instead.

Book Review – The Design of Business by Roger L. Martin


When people talk about Social Business Design, I find they spend a lot of time focused on the “Social Business” aspect but less on the concept of “Design”. But what do we mean by design? The Design of Business by Roger L. Martin goes some way to help answer this question.

Initially, at least, this book reads more like an extended essay. But give it a chance as I found it gradually builds up to a useful crescendo that builds on the foundational concepts outlined earlier on in the book.

At its core, Martin provides a background on the organisational psychological of traditional analytical thinking, which favours reliability over validity. There is good reason for this, particularly in large or complex organisations, as there is danger is relying on intuition alone.

The “knowledge funnel” is presented as a concept for explaining how organisational knowledge – which might be a product or a process – moves through stages from Mystery, Heuristic and then Algorithm.

The trick, according to Martin, is to look at design thinking as a way to seek balance between rigid analytical thinking and risky intuition. Through design thinking and the skill of abductive reasoning, organisations can remain progressive and innovative. In effect, they can continuously feed the knowledge funnel with new ideas that challenge existing ideas that have stabilised into business as usual.

Personally, I found this funnel concept a little simplistic – it serves it purpose in the context of the book, but its probably worthwhile going off to dip into the ideas of people like Gary Klein and Dave Snowden before you start dropping the funnel into every day business conversation.

However, I did enjoy the Research in Motion (RIM) case study, which provides us with the perfect quote:

“Design isn’t just about making things beautiful; it’s also about making things work beautifully.”

I think its a nice idea that we can think of Social Business Design as being about making organisations work “beautifully”.

In the final chapter – sub-titled, Developing Yourself as a Design Thinker – you finally understand why it was worth working through all the background information. Martin employs a model from his previous book, The Opposable Mind, which he uses to describe the design thinker’s personal knowledge system. He then addresses how to work as design thinker with other colleagues who are not design thinkers.

So the final message from Martin appears to be that it is really the design thinkers who are able to successfully navigate the reliability corridors of their organisation that are the real source of competitive advantage, rather than design thinking alone.

If you are interested in discussing open strategy, the challenges of open leadership and becoming a social business then please join us at the Headshift | Dachis Group Social Business Summit – Over 4 weeks – across 4 continents – 4 Summits will be convened. Sydney,  2 March –  Austin, 10 March –  London, 24 March – Singapore, 6 April.

The Scoop – Reinventing collaboration

Following on from Mark Jones’s podcast about enterprise social media, this week’s The Scoop vodcast looks at the related but broader topic of collaboration.

Mark examines the concept of collaboration from the perspective of both a technologist (a CIO) and a non-technologist (a research psychologist) – its quite interesting to see how they both approach this idea.

The technologist in this case is Ken Gallacher, CIO at the ABC. In the last half of the interview, he also has some interesting things to say about the use microblogging at the ABC and the importance of both talking and listening.