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RSA Animate - Re-imagine Work

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There was a study released last year in the U.S. And it basically said that 71% of the american workforce is not happy at work its disengaged by their organizations. 71%. And actually a lot of this technology is part of the problem. And I wanted to address that. I wanted to try and show people that there is a very different way to use technology and not just in our professional lives but in our personal lives too. But really, readdress that balance and get people much more engaged and more productive in what they do at work. When you use something like Facebook or Twitter (you have to be in those platforms) you are using a fundamentally different culture of collaboration. You are saying, pretty much, "By default everything I do is open, except for the bits that I choose to keep private." Contrast that with the standard culture of collaboration inside most organizations. It's completely inverted: "Everything I do is closed unless I specifically say I'm going to share this." The change in that is absolutely profound. When you have people who are used to that sharing experience. That rich, friction-free way of sharing information collaborating with their friends and family and they join organisations and they cannot share in that way, trouble starts to happen. It also makes us realise how some of the way we live our working lives today has become outdated. It's become out of place for the kind of society that we live in. We are in a world now where productivity, the thing that we've been chasing for hundreds of years, is fast becoming the problem. We've entered a world of work where productivity has become the thing that we do everyday. We've gone through this period of industrialisation where we thought: "Actually, we need to standarise processeses in order to make organisations more effective" "If we break down the thing that we're trying to do into a series of processess. We standarise these processes. We will do more stuff, we will achieve more things." Email has just meant that all we do is just generate that hamster wheel of communication. We spend our days answering messages, batting things forwards and backwards. We forgot that that's not everything about work, that's just a part of work. When was the time you actually stopped and think, creatively. You start to think about "How could we do things differently? How could I innovate with the thing I am doing here?" You don't do that because we are too busy being busy! So that's the technology piece but it doesn't really stop there, in fact, the biggest challenges that we face is more about our office space than it is about the tools that we use within them. Work is really changing. Work is something is really something different to us today because of the way we live our lives, because of the world in which we live that it was even just a few years ago. The other thing that is happening is the way we changed our office design. How many of you work in an open plan office? These are the sort of insane sort of organisational studies that show that we could be more collaborative with people if we take away all of the barriers. If we remove all of the boundaries people will talk with each other more. What do I do? I go to my office. I sit in my open-plan desk and I email people three desks away. But there's still this sort of basic human dynamic that happens when you put people in this open-plan offices. Which at the time we thought would be the height of collaborative thinking! A really primal thing starts to happen to us. We start to feel really exposed. If you go back to your office and if you work in open-plan just have a look at this when you go back. What you'll see is in the middle of the floor there will be a whole series of open-plan desks and everybody that is sat in the middle of the floor will be sat with their screens facing outward. So they're always vulnerable. Everything they do could be monitored at any one point in time. And this leads to a sense of anxiety and stress, because I guarantee that somewhere on your floor there will be one or two other desks. And they will be different, because they will the ones with their monitors are facing the window or facing the wall. So that, the manager can sit and monitor. everybody on the savannah and make sure that they work doing the stuff that they need to do. Now we know, even just from the animal world, that animals on the savannah live in a state of heightened stress. because they are under survelliance they don't know at any moment that a predator might strike They maybe get distracted, they may get pushed away. And this in turn fundamentally changes the way people think, the way they create, the way they choose to do their work. But if you buy any of that then you start to then question: what is work? Work is no longer a destination. We come through a history of standardisation and industrialisation where in order to work you had to go to where the infrastructure was. If you were a factory worker you had to go to where the plant was. We carried that forward in the information economy. You had to go, in the days before the Internet, if you wanted to use personal computers you had to go to the office. It's the only place where people could see them or use them, or touch them. And then networks came along. and the only way that you could get on the network is you had to be in the office. The problem is, that we know live in a world where none of that is any longer true. For the average knowledge worker, you don't need to be in a specific location at a specific point in time, to access specific services. You have most of you, I guarantee you (looking at you some are even doing it now) have all of the tools that you need in the pocket: in your pocket or in your bag and you can work from anywhere. And yet, what do we do? We still, we're so ingrained in working this way, we still do this insane thing: we commute, everyday, to be in the same place, at the same point in time. And that leads us into this definition of flexible working. We've been talking about flexible working for years! And the problem with flexible working is: when I say "flexible working" most of you will probably hear: "Working from home" Well, yeah, working from home is a part of it. But, actually, this is about choosing your location where you want to be. It's also about you taking control of how you work and how you use the tools that are in front of you. I've spent some time with some friends over the weekend and I was just amazed by the conversation that was happening, and you may have had conversations like this. This is when people start bitching and moaning about email. "Oh god! I've just looked at my email!" You know, it's a Sunday afternoon. "Oh god! I've just got all these bloody emails!" The problem with you getting an email on a Sunday, is not the fact that you got the email on a Sunday, it's the fact that you chose to read it! And it maybe that you do that because that's the kind of person you are and maybe because you work for an organisation that makes you feel that you have to do it. "Flexible working" at its heart is about being mindful about the task that you have in front of you and the best place to accomplish those tasks. It could be "sat at home", it could be "in your office", it could be with your customers it could be in one of these "third spaces" that are opening up It could be in my community. Why do I come in to London to buy a sandwich and a coffee from the sandwich shop in London? when I could be going to a library in Boundary bringing that retail there. Reinvigorating that community there. Now I've worked for organisations that have sents the "bones on seats" memo. I've worked with customers who have sents the "bones of seats" memo. I'm not going to lay any judgement on what's happening at Yahoo. But the "bones on seats" memo, whenever that gets sent: you know there are problems. And the problems, probably, relate to trust. It's nothing to do with people working from home. It's the fact that "I don't trust what my people are doing!" In fact one of the really interesting things in the studies that we did is actually the biggest issue about trust with people working outside of the office is not between the employeer and the employees. It's about the employees amongst themselves. "I can't see Dave" "He's probably not working" "I wonder how his patio's coming on" In our studies what we also show is that people who weren't working in the office they had to carry around this "sense of guilt". "I'm not in the office. They're going to be thinking I'm working on my patio." So they ended up overcompesating. They end up sending more emails, making more phone calls in an extent to be more visible. Destroying the advantages of working away from the office. What about these offices spaces that we've created are they really fit for purpose? Are we stuck in this endless cycle of productivity when actually we need to be creating some cognitive space for people to do the thinking and innovation that should we done? If we live in a world where actually the only way that people can have competitive advantage, if we live in a world where everything is pretty good. Right? I mean, you can't really buy a bad car these days. I'm not going to create a better car unless I take some proper time out to think about, think *really* differently, about how I can innovate the products and services that I make. I'm not going to do that if I spend all my time sending off email. We need to think really differently about the office space that we provide the collaboration, and the community that we have for our people has to fundamentally change if we have to live up to the opportunity. And so for most organisations, it's a reallly hard thing It's about having the confidence to let go. The confidence to empower your employees, people that you work with, to choose the best place to work for the task that they have in mind; the best tools to use them in the way that they want. It's a really scary place to be for most organisations, and, trust me, from an IT perspective its a hugely scary place to be. But if you do that, if you put the right kind of infrastructure in place the right kind of culture, the right kind of process, actually, you can make things happen.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 8 seconds
Country: Russia
Language: English
Genre: Animated
Producer: RSA
Views: 413
Posted by: irarmy on Oct 1, 2013

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture.

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