Org Behaviour

Not Business As Usual (film)

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“WFH” Ban good or bad for productivity?

Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Earlier this year Melissa Mayer put an end to Yahoo’s “work from home” program. In an article from Venture Beat she stated,

“People are more productive when they’re alone,” she said at the conference, “But they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.”

Does this policy change fly in the face of what experts have coined, “the future of work”? Is this sound workplace management or an epic policy failure?

For a closer look check out Fast Company’s article, Yahoo Says That Killing Work at Home is Turning Out Perfectly.

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Chief Culture Officers (for realz)

When is the last time you’ve had a real legitimate, WOW moment? Well, I had one today. What happened was this: last night in bed I was reading my Twitter feed (as I often do) and came across an article tweeted by HBR and written by Grant McCracken, entitled, “Creating Combustible Marketing“.

I enjoyed the article and in particular McCracken’s thought-provoking concept of creating combustible marketing by mixing “unstable” materials together (eg. like tv personalities as demonstrated in his article with the recent hiring of Michael Strahan as the new co-host of Live with Regis & Kelly – or Live with Kelly as it’s been known for several months now since Philbin stepped down). “Chemistry,” he continues to write, “[w]e have always called this chemistry. Well, it’s still chemistry – except that now, instead of looking for a combination that goes down smooth and crisp, we want something that’s more akin to the product of a mad scientist’s lab, combining things never before brought together.” He continues to state that, “[i]t’s a big shift and it will mark a difficult transition. But it is the new path to success in marketing. Where once marketing worked when it was agreeable and obvious. Now it works when it isn’t.”

Ok, this gets a ‘wow’ (lower case) from me. But it’s still not at the heart of my big WOW (upper case) moment. Hang in there a bit more.

Whenever I like something I’ve read and want to learn more about the author I begin my search for more information. As it turns out, McCracken’s published a couple of interesting looking books all on Corporate Culture – a topic of study I am deeply interested in from both research and teaching perspectives. By the way, both of his books are on my Christmas Wish List in case you are wondering…

Next, I look for the individual on Twitter so I can follow him/her more closely and stay up to date on their publishings, research, and meals via Instragram (joking of course). In this particular case, I looked at the last few tweets to make sure this guy’s the real deal. 

Then I see it. A tweet sent out 23 hours earlier that contains a link taking the user to Pinterest. “Hmm…I wonder where’s he’s going with this?”, is what I say to myself. 

I follow the link and that’s when I see it. WOW. A custom “pinboard” McCracken’s created of Chief Culture Officers (in fact or spirit). What a great way to collect, compile, label, and effectively – digitally curate – information about a specific topic that can be shared immediately and grown over time.

One of my favourite new examples of using Pinterest that doesn’t involve knitting, Ryan Gosling, or Weight Watchers. Well done McCracken.  

When you’re a hammer…

…you know how the saying goes. When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail. Recently, our faculty was extended an invitation from one of the publishing companies we work with to attend a professional development workshop entitled, “Always Innovating”. This being my first PD workshop in quite some time, I was eager to attend and ready to be inspired by others. The overall experience, however, was rather disappointing. But every experience, even the under-whelming ones, offer a learning opportunity so here is what I have taken away and repurposed as a post to share with faculty and students. And you know, if someone from the publishing company comes across this too, that may not be a bad thing.

1. Workshop disguised as a sales pitch

What I most disliked about the session was that it had been presented as a PD workshop, but was instead disguised as a sales pitch. And by disguised I guess I mean blatantly presented as a sales pitch. Aside from the opening speaker, who was an Economist and spoke about why business and economics need to “talk more”, the remainder of the “Always Innovating” break out sessions were used to discuss and promote the publishing companies proprietary software solutions (used in teaching). I’m not a fan of this “sales dressed up as marketing” manoeuvre one bit.

2. Staying true to the title

Perhaps a small thing, but when a workshop carries “Innovating” in its title, my expectation is that I am going to be enlightened, inspired, and maybe even blown away by techniques and concepts I’ve never considered before in my classes. What I did learn is that this publishing company has encouraged some instructors to repurpose low-visibility web content for textbooks: suggesting that such content will be seen and digested more if it’s in a textbook. For reals!

Yikes. Kind of made the hair on my arms stand up when I heard this. If your web content isn’t attracting attention then you need to revisit that problem, not ditch it and bury it in a textbook somewhere. Don’t even get me started on the problems organizations have with their content marketing and outreach strategies.

3. One audience doesn’t fit all

I realize that we are unique at Kwantlen and that is one of the many reasons why I love teaching where I do. One of the things I enjoy most is that I have been able to build excellent relationships with my students over the years. I’ve seen them tackle complex subjects, survive the onset of mid-terms and finals, produce creative reports and projects, and even launch their own companies. They are not nameless, faceless individuals. They are more than followers on Twitter: they are adults who are going to shape the next generation of consumers through their marketing philosophies and I’m very proud of them for this part of their life journey.

Did I mention that the reason I have this level of knowledge and exposure to my students is because our class sizes are no more than 35? This is why teaching at Kwantlen is so fulfilling and why students seek us out: because it is more than just grades on a piece of paper, it’s an experience.

So when a publishing company is pitching me software that is designed to better deliver the exhausting 2-hour lecture, I can’t help but think, “who the ‘bleep’ is this for?” Because it’s not me (thank goodness) and it’s not something that would make me better at what I do and my students better at what they will become.

4. Constant need for validation

Nothing makes my head spin more than when a question is asked in hopes of hearing what one simply wants to hear. In other words, validation. I would expect an audience of well-educated, seasoned, and presumptuously like-minded professionals to know better, but when the speaker poses the question:

How do you define the 21st century learner?

and everyone jumps in with slightly negative comments about “kids today” being demanding, having short attention spans, being-search driven, and always wanting to know “will this be on the test or not”…etc. and etc., I’m really disappointed. Way to take the bait and validate what the speaker wants to hear instead of challenging this question.

In my mind, “kids today” are no different than in years past. We ALL have suffered from short attention spans; only wanted to learn what we’d be tested on; and, didn’t want to go about doing anything the “hard way”. I hated having to look words up in a dictionary when I was 12. All that has really changed are the tools: the minds are still hungry for only what feels and tastes relevant.

When a second question was posed I had hoped the audience (those super smart instructors) would recover from round one. Nope.

What do students bring to class?

Now the venom comes out. “Not pens”, one instructor yells. “Computers, phone, iPad or all 3!”, says another with sheer and utter disgust. The frustration and sense of “defeat” is palpable. These people are upset and they seem to need to talk about it.

Excited, I think, now we’re going somewhere! Now we are going to conquer a really important and relevant topic. Wait for it, because the third question gets asked on the heels of these outburts (which are neither acknowledged not discussed by the speaker):

What are you doing to connect with the students?

Ok, sure I get it. Maybe this is a bridge into the session about how to make faculty more in tune with the students. Some of the attendees offer up their solutions which overwhelming include YouTube videos and iClickers (for voting). However, with no further discussion, our speaker moves us into the direction he’s wanted all along: to talk about his proprietary Simulations software that should be used in our classrooms as a way to tackle the above “issues”.

And we’re back to sales pitch (see #1 above). By this point all I can think is #WorkshopFAIL.

As a side note, during this session I was using my iPhone to tweet with my colleagues who were not in attendance and seek feedback from my followers (students, faculty, writers, teachers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, etc.) regarding the topics being discussed. One instructor sitting to my left snarled at me and said:

You’re worse than the students

Ouch. Let me defend myself by saying that I’ve been to a number of conferences and workshops and PD sessions over the years and I’ve taught several PD sessions myself and I have never been sneered at for such a thing. At the break I politely explained to him that my phone isn’t being used for personal reasons (my life isn’t nearly that busy or interesting) but instead I am bringing others into this discussion and keeping them abreast of what they are missing.

Apparently he’s not attended a marketing conference in a while where such behaviour is not only encouraged, it’s expected and required in order for the speakers and organizers to receive immediate feedback. And let’s not forget the power of connectivity and how a #hashtagged event can unite attendees together during the event and beyond.

No no no…let’s not go there.

Before I sign off I would also like to include that the next break-out session entitled, “Collaborative Learning” pitched to us another proprietary software solution that allows for anonymous peer to peer feedback on written course assignments.

Wait, what? This is neither innovative or collaborative!  And is anonymous feedback really helping anyone? As I work tirelessly to prepare my students for the “real world” here is a solution that will never teach them to accept or give constructive criticism. Can we please agree to instead teach our students how to give relevant feedback in a respectful and professional manner? More people hiding behind technology is the last thing our society needs. And how is this at all preparing our students for the reality (and sometimes brutality) of the real world.

I for one believe our students deserve a lot better. So I will therefore do my best to seek out professional development sessions that don’t pretend to be a hammer and see everything around them as a nail.

Scott Stratten on Social Media ROI

Leave it to Scott, Mr. “UnMarketing”, to keep it real and deliver this critical message to the “old school business folks” who (still) spend hours upon hours questioning the ROI of social media.

In his latest blog post, Scott forces us all to examine the ROI of non-social media efforts that are supposed to bring business value.

Like meetings.

And more meetings.

Point taken.

Jason Fried: Meaningful work doesn’t happen at work

Jason Fried is the co-founder of 37 Signals. If you don’t know what this is, start by doing a quick Internet search, then walk, no run, to your local bookstore and pick up “Re-Work”. You can devour this book in one sitting: expect to develop a small kink in your neck from nodding (in the affirmative manner) repeatedly. You can also expect to experience many “ah-hah” moments. There have not been enough books of this nature: books that challenge us to reconsider how we do things and re-think how effective our traditional structures and processes really are.

Jason speaks about what really holds us back from being productive and getting work done. Is it Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? No. Jason tells us those aren’t the real problems, those are merely “smoke breaks” which ironically, have been both allowed and accepted for decades.

It’s M&M’s that are the problems: Managers & Meetings.

May 10th, 2011 Update:

I’d like to add some additional Jason Fried material to this post that I recently discovered. Nora Young of CBC’s Spark interviewed Jason and they spoke more about, “why work doesn’t happen at work”. Great stuff for all you Org Behaviour fanatics out there.  🙂

Jason Fried: Meaningful work doesn’t happen at work

Jason Fried is the co-founder of 37 Signals. If you don’t know what this is, start by doing a quick Internet search, then walk, no run, to your local bookstore and pick up “Re-Work”. You can devour this book in one sitting: expect to develop a small kink in your neck from nodding (in the affirmative manner) repeatedly. You can also expect to experience many “ah-hah” moments. There have not been enough books of this nature: books that challenge us to reconsider how we do things and re-think how effective our traditional structures and processes really are.

Jason speaks about what really holds us back from being productive and getting work done. Is it Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? No. Jason tells us those aren’t the real problems, those are merely “smoke breaks” which ironically, have been both allowed and accepted for decades.

It’s M&M’s that are the problems: Managers & Meetings.

Respecting the stupidity of users

I didn’t say it, he did. Evan Soloman said it, and you know what? It makes perfect sense.

Specifically, he said: “good design (of technology) respects the stupidity of users”. It’s brilliant, isn’t it? Presenting at Get Contagious this year, Evan reminded us that it’s the simplicity of complicated matter (cars, refrigerators) that makes us all comfortable and trusting of said matter. We can also look to Apple as a shining example of this concept: Apple has simplified and de-mystified what Microsoft and so many others over-complicated.

As we emerge from a marketing era inundated with “feature and benefit” messaging, will we see more marketers embrace this very simple, “simplicity concept”? Or will the stupidity of users continue to be disrespected so marketers can bathe in their own sense of self-wordiness?