Happiness and the paperless office

I read this article today on the advancement of the paperless office which got me thinking about the way we work in offices and how tablets and clouds will ultimately free us from desks and enable us to work in a way which is more natural to the individual. I then contributed to this post from Nixon McInnes which got me thinking around the subject of happiness at work.

It struck me the increased mobility of work could create a better understanding of what makes workers happier, er, at work. Management, Internal Communicators, Organisation Designers and Interior Designers can gleam a wealth of data from users of mobile tools which could directly change the performance of the organisation for the better.

My theory is based on a model used by a LSE venture called Mappiness where users of the app receive up to 5 alerts a day asking them about their happiness levels at that point in time. The alerts also ask for data about who the user is with, what activity the user in engaging in and so forth. After a while the app builds up a profile of the user’s happiness levels based on location, activity and company. This is then shared between the LSE and the user, enabling the LSE to build a macro understanding of the happiness levels in the country, whilst the user gets to understand their behaviour through the data.

If this model was transplanted into an enterprise version and added onto the tablets/devices of the newly mobile workforce then the organisation would be able to analyse the data and find out crucial information such as; what time of the day their workforce are more likely to be proactive and productive and base a workflow around that. Employee responsiveness could be measured enabling the best timing for the delivery of communications.

As one would expect a mobile workforce to work in areas where they are most comfortable, the data will enable the organisation to find out what sort of environmental design works best for their workforce. The data could also be used to examine happiness of clusters against outcomes to find out which groups are working well together and which are not.

There is a huge opportunity in this space for a real data capture which can help organisations with achieving the right outcome in important decision making. Firstly, the tablets/devices must be adopted, along with a freeing up of individual workspaces. Individual happiness must also be taken more seriously in organisation. Once these hurdles have been overcome then the happy paperless office can be more than a pipe dream.

 

 

 

 

 

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The importance of narrative

I have a friend, a very good friend, we share the same outlook on life, we
both work in the digital industry and we both share a passion for sport,
technology and generally interesting stuff. We get on well. To us, life is
one long conversation, we think nothing of sending an email with nothing
in the subject field and just a URL in the message field, we use iPhones to
send photos and SMSs of interesting things to each other without really
having a set dialogue and we use Skype to connect and share during the
day.

Nothing abnormal there you might think. Perhaps you are right but what
I find interesting is our ability to build a narrative around our everyday
lives through multiple platforms. What I find even more interesting is
how we can actually maintain two different conversations on two different
platforms simultaneously, even if the mood is darker on one platform and
jolly on the other platform.

The ability to build narrative is important nowadays especially for
communicators; audiences and messaging have become so fragmented that
there has to be a story behind the communication, the narrative builds a
sense of inclusion to the audience or in my friends and I’s case both of us.
Most importantly it connects us to the bigger picture – the story behind the
messages.

The story-behind-the-messages. This is ultimate goal for every
communicator, getting the audience to ‘get’ the bigger picture. Using
narrative is a great way to do this – if the narrative is right then every
message should resonate with the reader, if the narrative is wrong,
messages will be misinterpreted and potentially distrusted. Building
the brand narrative takes time and like a personal narrative, takes a lot
of commitment and understanding from both parties. There is no right
or wrong way to getting the right narrative in a corporate context, it’s a
question of building trust and rapport.

I mentioned earlier that my friend and I communicate constantly and
build up narrative through a variety of platforms; Skype, iPhones, etc.
This has enabled us to reach a point of understanding, trust and a sense
of ‘getting it’ as we are now free to communicate anywhere and everywhere.
This is my mind is fundamental to bringing the narrative to life and

bringing it into real-time relevancy. The key here for communicators
is to adopt as many methods as possible to build the storyline, amplify
events, allow senior teams to communicate how they feel most comfortable
and empower everyone with the tools to engage and watch how greater
understanding and more effective communications can take place simply
by having a strong narrative in place.

Further reading: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/03/using_stories_as_a_tool_of_per.html

Intranet Architecture – search then social

Intranet Architecture

I’m a bit concerned about the ‘buzz’ around the social enterprise at the moment. Whilst I’m a champion of social platforms within organisations and I’m firmly in the camp of more collaborative and social workplace, I’m a little concerned that one of the primary goals of intranet resources is starting to get overlooked: That of Search.

The current thought leaders in the field (Don Tapscott, Charlene Li et al) are right in saying the increased socialization and networking capabilities are fundamental to the success of an organisation. The movement back towards collaborative working principles, which are further enabled by these capabilities, also show no abating with success stories popping up everywhere about how teams/individuals collaborated successfully on projects. This is great and is where we should be going but we must remember that a large percentage of everyday users of internal platforms probably just want to be able to search for information in an effective and logical manner.

That is to say the most fundamental thing an intranet has to do is to offer the quickest way for an employee to find information. Failing that it should provide (through socialization) the quickest way to find another employee who holds the key to that information. In my eyes this is what intranets should be judged on. Collaboration on projects should exist as a way of working and can be built into platforms in form of Wikis etc, but fundamentally any intranet architecture should prioritise the quickest and most user friendly way to get from a question to an answer – be it on a data library or through immediate responses from colleagues.

This is where the socialization of intranets gets interesting. If you are searching for an answer in a contemporary platform you have two choices: 1) get your answer from a qualified and approved source, be it a directory or learning resource or 2) get your answer from your colleague. The trouble with this is the information you receive from your colleague may not be the correct information and it is unquantifiable in some cases. I have my own thoughts on how to deal with this and how to foster internal ‘Maverns’ (not my words) but that is for a future post.

Back to the importance of putting search at the heart of every decision made concerning the intranet. The workforce online behaviour doesn’t change as soon as they step through their office doors, so why are so many intranets treated differently to external platforms? If people are used to opening up a page with a single search field on Google then I’d be tempted to examine whether this would work internally. Yes it would involve tagging the data and a more conscious approach to meta handling and categorization, but it would pay off in the long term.

The counter argument is that the workforce wants a dashboard and needs to be served information and anayltics on their desktops. This is a bit passe now if you measured message recall and engagement on this type of content delivery against ‘involved’ content delivery I’m pretty sure I’d know which one will come out higher. The increased mobilization of the workforce will put pay to the cascading of information onto desktops in a few years anyway.

So what am I saying? Treat an intranet like Google – its primary focus should be delivering information based on a pre-defined algorithm. Like Google, add social and collaborative functions to enable new process, new design and new idea generation. Choose other channels to deliver information; Email (Email is not dead, the new priority inbox features on gmail is a fantastic shift in email control), Internal social networks, town halls and the other traditional offline ways.

If an organisation develops their intranet to be more like the Google offering, I predict an increase in the level of cluster knowledge internally i.e. groups developing deeper knowledge about certain parts of the organisation or about the organisation. This ‘deeper knowledge’ will then create the specialists and specialist groups enabling the human search process and the validation of ‘human’ search results to be more effective.

The Homogenic Issue

Let me get this straight this isn’t a piece with an agenda against women in internal communication roles, this is a post detailing my fear for the quality of internal communications within some organisations if the roles are continually filled with young women with similar backgrounds and experiences.

Call it a bit disruptive if you must but it’s something which has been on my mind for a while now and something i wanted to share with you. Again, this isn’t an anti-women post more of an anti status quo post.

I have worked in the communications industry for a few years now and I can’t help but notice that the amount of female IC practitioners far out-number the amount of male practitioners.  I can’t help but thinking perhaps this is a bad thing for organisations and the industry to let continue.

I mean, and I’m not stereo typing here, but if you allow a group any group with similar interests and background to dominate a large degree of information flowing through an organisation, that information is going to be perceived, digested and presented in a very different way to if it was digested by a mixed group from mixed backgrounds and experiences.

I’ve seen it myself – huge organisations employing a communications team which fits into certain ‘grouping’ yet the other 95% of the employees (the audience) come from completely different backgrounds with different ideal and a probably have a completely different view of the organisation.

I’m sure if there was a increased in the variety of backgrounds of the internal communications team then results, however you may measure them ROI, engagement, participation will improve because the communications will have had input from different perspectives from people with varied experiences.

I’m not sure why IC is so heavily populated with a certain type of ‘group’ but I’ll run through a couple of the most popular clichés and look at them both.

1)      Women are better communicators. Eh? Perhaps they are (I don’t have any evidence either way) but I’m pretty sure a good percentage of the experts in external communications are male especially in the field of new media. This makes me think that males are drawn to the higher profile external jobs, thus confirming the belief that internal comms is secondary in image and prestige to external comms. If this is the case internal comms must, simply must improve its positioning with organisations and as a career option.

2)      Internal comms is closely tied to the HR department. I think this is particularly relevant but also highly dangerous. Again I’m not stereo typing but I have met more females involved in HR roles than males. I don’t know why, and I’m not going to say it’s because it’s more of a female role. It’s not, and I’m not that dumb. The danger here is that when someone fancies ‘doing’ internal comms and moves from the HR department without any real understanding or training then the communications of an organisation is in the hands of an untrained professional. That wouldn’t happen in any other field.

The crux of this post isn’t about women it’s about homogenic groups dominating one of the most important functions of an organisation (in my eyes). If it was young men this post would be about them (but there is probably enough written about the ‘group’ the  city boys and their deficiencies as a functional group already).

As a Director of internal comms I’d ensure the team came from a variety of backgrounds; some from large organisations, some from agencies and some from other parts of the existing organisation. I’d try to encourage the mix and the cross fertilisation of experience and thinking. Debate would be encouraged as would an open forum to question every decision the team make in their goal for communication excellence.

Once the team lose touch with their colleagues then that is the end of any meaningful communications team. Keep the team relevant, keep them diverse and keep them debating.

Media Owned Agencies.

Have a look at this http://adage.com/agencynews/article?article_id=143491 and if your still interested this http://econsultancy.com/blog/5809-media-company-as-agency-a-trend-long-overdue?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed. Now I know I’ve blown the usual protocol of keeping readers on your page out of the water. But it was important to get a bit of background on this post first. So i’m thinking why the hell would any one go to a media owner to come  up with creative campaign?

Well, the first advantage I can think is that the media owners ‘agency’ gets the audiences mindset totally. The knowledge on tap inside the building through the content makers, the marketing guys and communications teams puts the media owners at a distinct advantage over external agencies (include the more niche agencies). The the record I’m assuming that it would be a luxury brand using the Conde Nast agency and not KFC.

Blue Sky Thinking - Ha

I’ve worked in agencies and the best the best ideas didn’t necessarily come from the AM/Ad’s who knew the clients universe inside out but also from people who have not worked in that vertical before bring fresh ideas and practices with them and cross pollinating (oops) these ideas across the business. Now I’m on the other side, I look for client diversity in an agency rather than expertise within one market. As a challenger brand/New entrant what other choice do I have?

I’ll be watching this development closely, I’m not sure it will be the best thing for creativity, but with the budgets behind them the ‘Inhouse’ agencies will no doubt be given a good crack to prove themselves.

Networking from the age of 7 (but I didn’t know it).

My girlfriend ventured out to the shops to buy the obligatory Friday night bottle of wine and came home with the Panini World Cup 2010 sticker album (along with the wine ;-)). I surprised myself by how excited I was with the purchase. It’s been years since I last purchased a world cup sticker album – I think it would have been Mexico ’86 or even Italia ’90. But anyway, as I was sticking players I’d never heard of into position I thought back to the days in school when whole breaktimes would be spend looking for other boys to swap doubles and get that all important ‘need’. I seem to remember each person would shuffle the whole pack and the other person saying ‘got’, ‘got’, ‘got’ ‘need’ should a sticker come up that they needed. How the hell we remembered we needed Gok Chung Pu from North Korea I’ll never know but we did.
What I’m writing about is that, this essentially, was my introduction to networking; each person potentially had something that we needed. So basic networking groups were formed. We even ventured into a rival school and formed networks after school with the network in there. As you get older you forget how easy networking can and that it can become a necessary bore. But if you think about it in the way we did when we were kids then it becomes fun again. It’s not the England badge I’m after nowdays but an essential bit of knowledge, industry gossip or simply a website recommendation.
Last night changed my outlook on networking but I draw the line at doing saking the kids at the train station if they have this year’s elusive player.