Switch off my phone during a meeting? Are you joking?!

Can your environment change the way you do things?

“How will we work in teams in 2027 differently from 2017? The difference lies in scale and maturity. In 2017, teams form as loosely federated groups of people, pulled together in an ad-hoc fashion or by reporting structure. In these cases, teaming is more of a behavioral competency than a legitimate organisational principle.” – Oblong Industries, Los Angeles, May 2017

In May last year I met John Underkoffler – 2015 National Smithsonian Design Award winner, and technology lead for the film “Minority Report”. Remember Data Gloves and the glass screen computer? His warehouse in Los Angeles is awesome. The technology he’s developed at his firm Oblong Industries allows you to treat content like a physical object, and therefore interact with it as a collaborative multi-location team. Just imagine a video conference where the whole group can contribute in multiple locations in real-time on multiple screens, throwing things into it from phones or laptops, scribbling drawings, and adding in quick answers to problems without having to wait 15 mins to be “passed the ball”. His view of how people will work together with technology in the future is amazing. His broad philosophy is that UI hasn’t changed since Apple replaced the command line.

Let’s now imagine it’s 2019, and you’ve had a successful 3-year partnership with Qlik. In December you took the plunge and invested in 5000 licenses, a comprehensive education program, you had 10 Qlik Consultants ensure a perfect implementation, and a Customer Success Manager calls you every week to help keep things on track.

Your new graduate intake arrives for their Induction Day to help power your new analytical world on January 2nd. You sit them in rows of desks in the Training Room for a day of slides and go through some meeting house-rules “Close your laptops, tablets and phones off!” your Graduate Sponsor says smiling.

Are you joking?!

I wonder if the Graduate Sponsor has been to a University recently and seen how these graduates work day-to-day?

Since the 11th Century, Oxford and Cambridge have used the tutorial system of teaching where problems are solved and content enriched in groups of 1-3 with your tutor. Williams College and Sarah Lawrence do the same. When I was at INSEAD 3 weeks ago, we had zero slides in our Strategy Disruption class over 4 days. There was no pre-reading. All content was self-generated by the class, in the class. Last time I was at Wharton, lectures were held on round tables. They were interactive 50/50; 10 minute table discussions to reach conclusions/reflections were the norm. During lectures, we used phones and laptops to cross check content or find out more about something fascinating we’d heard. The Marketing class was at the Naval Yard and taught by the CMO of the ‘6ers Basketball Team and the top guy at Comcast. Story Musgrave, the NASA Astronaut who fixed the Hubble telescope taught us Art. Engineering class was done standing up in the machine shop. Not by an Engineering Professor, but by the guy that fixes the machines in the shop. World B. Free (Basketball Hall of Famer) dropped by and bought us all drinks one evening.

What a Story! With six time Mission Astronaut Story Musgrave

Hall of Fame! World B. Free

It’s not just Universities that are teaching our employee’s new ways of working – take a look at this inner city High School near to where I live.

A cool High School near me:

The Scary High School I went to

I wish I had gone to the cool school.

The cool school looks fun to go to and learn, open space, plants, funky displays, comfy areas. Look at their working spaces! Students co-work on joint projects, figuring out each others skills, using cutting edge, cost-effective, sometimes experimental software to get their work done. We are teaching people that are 18 – and sometimes 11 years old, that this is the norm.

More and more schools, universities, and workplaces are changing to accommodate these new ways of working. They are accommodating and adapting to a new type of individual that wants to interact with their colleagues, technology, and particularly analytics, but maybe doesn’t want a desk, a chair, a keyboard, a mouse, a computer, and most of all they do not want Spreadsheet and Slides 2015.

In other words, some organisations have started architecting workplaces to take maximum advantage of highly visual, interactive, real-time, simultaneous multi-device, mobile, collaborative technology so we are maximizing productivity, motivation, better task division, good fast decision making, and ultimately delivering a stronger culture.

Where should we look for inspiration?

ING Bank in the Netherlands is an old, highly traditional, structured banking organisation and around 2016 they cleared away their desks, cut meeting rooms and offices. They put up big monitors, dining room tables for meetings, and they made 7000 people redundant – including many high performers that they thought could not work in a new “digital” (visual, interactive, collaborative etc) type of way. And it’s been a huge success! People engagement is up, people happiness is up, people performance is up, company performance is up.

ING Bank making fundamental changes to their organisational way-of working:

This is a library, I think in Texas: Where are the books?

The next photo I took from on top of the Tate Modern Museum of an office in London. It’s a magazine publisher, I can’t tell you whom – only time will tell:

Spot the Office

No messy desks, no exec offices, few partitions, no clutter? Looks like a pretty nice place to work.

I wish I had a photo of the consulting firm I used to work for – they have stripped out everything – even chairs. Why? Because instead of sending 120 page slide-decks to their project colleagues over a period of two weeks for edits, additions and reviews, they’ve decided solving business problems is better done surrounded by your 5 experts, on a whiteboard and with technology, standing up, then-and-there. It’s more fun, effective, visually impactful, collaborative, quick, and inexpensive for the client.

And it’s not just young people that want this. I snapped this picture of a top CEO’s office in California (it’s not a tech company BTW):

Why can’t I have an office like this?!

So that all sounds great – and everyone likes the idea of an office love-in – but let me set another baseline? How important is architecting your technology or analytics environment, if a life depended on it?

Probably the best example of collaborating with technology in multi-locations to look after people whilst attaining high productivity, motivation etc:

NASA employees typically answer questions and make decisions in 1.5 seconds – why? Because that’s how long it takes to communicate with the Moon. Each of these pits you see contain the No.1 expert in their field, but they know the precise piece of information to communicate to their neighbor Janice, who is the No.1 expert in her field, and so on. All of this information and data comes together in seconds to communicate back to a spaceship! Why can’t this be your organisation?! There is no reason not to.

Shameless Selfie: the nicest CIO in the galaxy – James Rinaldi – knows a thing or two about Life on Mars:

To gain the real scale benefits of digital working – across technology and analytics, consider making the extra investment (or saving!) into some of your organisational practices; how to bring people into natural multi-skilled working groups to solve business problems, establishing collaboration zones with whiteboard screens or beam-screens, and identifying the 5 experts to work with you to rapidly solve challenges or take advantage of new opportunities. Think about your meeting practices – (interactive screens not slides?), your presentations (one big desk not rows of desks?), and how you exchange data in seconds (be like NASA or Oblong). Like the universities I described before, if you think about it, isn’t the role of people working with analytics to “learn things and share with others”? Most importantly think about how you are educating people…

If like NASA, you are trying to make smart decisions with smart experts, then they need to be data literate. Not only do we want to move away from closed offices, spreadsheets, slides, etc., we want and need to inject data into all of our innovation, creativity, and meetings and utilize that data properly to drive the right decisions. This way you evolve your team and your whole organisation from the old way of doing things, putting power through data at the forefront of it all.

David Warne discusses the importance of organizational practices to help facilitate learning and productivity.


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