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WorkTech15 in New York is this week – I can save you $150 on the registration fee

worktechWorkTech is one of the best one-day opportunities you can find for learning the latest insights about the future of work. Phillip Ross and his Unwired Ventures team always  assemble a mind-bending and eye-opening program filled with success stories, thought leaders, and provocative insights.

Architect, industrial designer, and visionary thinker Robert Luchetti will be keynoting the annual WORKTECH15 New York City conference on May 13 & 14, Time and Life Building in Midtown Manhattan (The one-day event is May 14, preceded on the 13th by a special Master Class featuring intensive interaction).

Robert Luchetti and Phillip Stone published “Your Office is Where You Are” in the Harvard Business Review in 1985. In this seminal article, they presented their creation of and predicted the concept of “activity based working.” In his keynote presentation at WORKTECH15, Robert Luchetti will revisit their predictions and take a critical look at what they got right and wrong and present a critique of the current state of the workplace.

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Why “Know Thyself” has Never Been More Important

Young businesswoman holding a moleculeI spent last week in Orlando, Florida, attending the annual spring Facility Fusion Conference hosted by IFMA.

Today I want to share some core ideas that grew out of one of the best sessions I attended. It was part of the “WE” (Workplace Evolutionaries) track, presented by Kay Sargent. Kay is a trained architect and experienced workplace designer; she is now Director of Workplace Strategies for Lend Lease Development.

Kay’s presentation was titled “Unlocking Your Corporate DNA.” She directly confronted the incredible tendency that so many workplace designers (and senior executives) have to copy the latest and greatest workplace design being touted by Google, or Apple, or Facebook, or some other “hot” tech company or Wall Street darling of the month. Read more

Moving a Mountain (of people)

Imagine this: you are the head of workplace services for a large high-tech firm that has just been acquired by Google (that’s the good news).

Here’s the tough part: you are responsible for a major suburban campus facility that houses about 2,000 employees and you’ve just been told that your immediate task is to build out several floors of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to replace that suburban campus – and to persuade that entire workforce to begin spending about 90 minutes every morning and evening commuting between their homes and downtown.

As Stephen Monaco, Head of Global Real Estate and Workplace Experience for Motorola Mobility, described his experience carrying out that assignment, he began by observing: Read more

Every Big Change Starts Small

ideas

“I kept complaining ‘Somebody should do something about that,’ and then I realized I am Somebody.” – Anonymous

I don’t know where I first heard that statement about taking personal responsibility for making the future happen, but it was on my mind frequently last week while I was attending World Workplace 2014 in New Orleans.

I enjoyed seeing and working with many long-term friends and colleagues, and experiencing the many wonderful sights and sounds of Bourbon Street and other less-well-known spots in New Orleans.

But while I lapped up the culinary treats, it was the food for thought that made the week worthwhile.

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Bring Out the Blue Chairs

Conference RoomPlace matters. Last week I focused on the way most of us knowledge workers are moving around from one workplace to another, finding “the place just right” for getting our work done.

Sometimes we need a quiet place, sometimes we want to engage with colleagues in an informal lounge-like area, while other times we attend meetings with either focused group decision-making or open-ended brainstorming agendas. Each of those activities works best in a different physical setting.

Okay, that makes sense. But how does the design of the workspace affect your mood, your creativity, your ability to concentrate? More importantly, how does place impact conversation? And how does a change of place change a conversation?

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De Uno, Plures (From One, Many)

As I reflect on the history of work on this Labor Day holiday (in the United States) I am thinking that I don’t need a workplace; I need many workplaces.

Of course, I can only be in one place at a time. But sometimes I need to be in one place, and sometimes in another.

I am a knowledge worker. I use my head to create value. Sure, I use my hands too, but mostly just to hit some little square pieces of plastic in a particular sequence that produces images of text on a computer screen. Sometimes I hold a pen or pencil and spread ribbons of ink (or graphite) on paper as another way to create and capture my ideas. But however I record my musings, it’s what goes on in my head that matters.

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Moments of Meaning

I have just returned from the annual convention of the National Speakers Association. It was an energizing gathering of professional speakers, authors, storytellers, facilitators, and consultants. We spent four days together focusing on the art and craft of informing, influencing, and inspiring our audiences.

As I reflect on what I heard and learned during that week one insight in particular stands out for me. Freddie Ravel, a professional musician, was one of the early General Session speakers. During his presentation he played bits of music by artists like Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

But he wasn’t focused on the notes; he wanted us to hear the quiet moments between the notes – the pauses that let the just-completed sounds sink in and that produce the cadence and rhythm that makes the music so memorable.

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A team is not a team is not a team

There is no such thing as “a team.”

There are big teams and little teams; there are research teams and problem-solving teams; there are fact-finding teams and product design teams. There are functional teams and cross-functional teams. There are co-located teams and distributed teams. There are departmental teams and multi-company teams.

And there are certainly many, many books, websites, thought leaders, and trainers who offer general prescriptions for building effective teams. But today we want to focus on the things that make every team and its work different from every other team.

For the last several weeks we have been exploring the value of looking at teams – and entire organizations – as living systems. We are deliberately moving away from Industrial-Age models of leadership and management, and we are seeking lessons about team effectiveness from fields like biology, zoology, and other disciplines that focus on living systems.

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The Workplace IS Strategic: Take it from a CEO (Part Two)

Last week I described how in 2001 Joe Hagan, the Chief Executive Officer of National Equity Fund (NEF) led a highly strategic workplace redesign and relocation project that had a major impact on the company’s culture and economic survival  (see “The Workplace IS Strategic: Take it from a CEO“).

Now, in 2014, NEF is getting ready to move once again. Why? The office still looks very much like it did in 2001, and the staff still likes working there. The company continues to be an industry leader; it’s not in need of a dramatic turnaround.

But – and this is both obvious and critical – much has changed over the last decade. The last five years have been a very tough time in the financial services sector. The “Great Depression” and the housing debacle have put incredible economic pressure on NEF and its competitors (to say nothing of publicly funded housing).

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The workplace IS strategic: take it from a CEO

Picture this: On the first day that a Chicago-based financial services company moved into a new – and dramatically redesigned – workplace, two employees bumped into each other in the hallway. One said to the other, “Who are you? Why are you walking around our office?” The other replied, “I work here – I’ve worked here for several years.”

They had never seen each other before, even though the company’s headquarters office is home to only about 115 employees.

Today that company – National Equity Fund (NEF), a nonprofit financial services organization that constructs deals to fund affordable housing projects across the United States – is an industry leader that enjoys low staff turnover, high productivity, and a reputation as a high-energy, compelling place to work. It’s characterized by open collaboration and a free-flowing, can-do culture.

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