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We Need a Declaration of Interdependence

Source: Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

Here in the United States we’ve just completed our annual celebration of the signing of The Declaration of Independence – on July 4th, 1776, the day our founders declared themselves an independent country. We then fought a long, bloody, and bitter war to separate ourselves from Great Britain.

Yet today the United Kingdom and the United States are mutually supportive allies with many close personal and institutional connections.

In spite of that awful war the two countries obviously have common cultural traditions, common ancestors, common values, and strikingly similar – though not identical – laws and governance structures. Our leaders today understand that we also have common interests, and that, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

In short, the United States may have declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, but in reality the two countries remain deeply interdependent. And the same is true for our relationships with many other countries.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that every relationship, at every level, includes strains of both independence and interdependence. Read more

Talking About Tomorrow

This is an invitation to join an ongoing conversation about the future of work.

Future Exit Sign 000018627375XSmallDo you often wonder where the future of work is headed? Do you have trouble keeping up with all the things impacting the workplace – factors like workforce demographics, new technologies, changing patterns of work, new physical workplace designs, changing social values, and so on, and so on?

We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world, and it often seems impossible to stay on top of everything that matters. I know I find it both frustrating and energizing to live in a world that’s changing as rapidly as ours is today.

The only way I know to stay sane in these conditions is to share both my confusion and my fascination with the future with friends and colleagues, and to learn together as we exchange experiences and insights. Read more

The Way We Were: Why the Future of Work Will Be So Different

Future Exit Sign 000018627375XSmallWe have just celebrated Memorial Day weekend in the United States. It has been an opportunity to reflect on our good fortune as a country, but more importantly to give thanks for the millions of servicemen and servicewomen who sacrificed their lives to protect us in way too many wars.

But this time of pausing and reflecting also got me thinking about how the working environments where most of us spend most of our waking hours have changed over the past twenty years – and will change even more going forward.

Those of us of a certain age can remember when our families sat down in front of the big box in our living rooms that brought us the 6 o’clock evening news. We shared that experience with our neighbors near and far; most of the country absorbed that information at the same time, and from one or the other of the three major networks that brought us all the television news and entertainment.

And most of us had one telephone somewhere in the front hall or living room; but we only used it for short, functional conversations with our neighbors and nearby relatives (calls were billed by the minute, after all). Once a year we might call a distant grandparent for a short “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Holidays” message; long distance calls were prohibitively expensive and the sound was often tinny and full of static.

In short, we didn’t have much choice in how we got our information or stayed in touch with out-of-town family and friends. Our world was relatively limited.

And the way we worked was very similar. Read more

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.

Read more

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

What’s This Meeting For, Anyway?

ManagersThere are something like 11 million corporate meetings held every day in the United States alone. Yet most of us would rather be somewhere else.

But if your meetings are well-planned they can be highly productive, fun to be part of, and even personally satisfying.

The first step in creating a memorable meeting is to be very clear about why you are calling the meeting. Read more

Can’t Think Straight? Take a Hike!

cube farm4My colleague and good friend Diane Coles Levine is fond of saying “It’s a lot easier to think outside the box when you’re not in one.” That’s her way of pointing out that cube farms are not the best environment for creativity and collaboration.

I have written previously about my belief  that knowledge workers don’t just need a workspace, they need many places (“De Uno, Plures – From One, Many”). Work today isn’t monolithic or monotonous, and we need workplaces that offer variety and choice that matches what we do day by day or hour by hour.

And as I pointed out last week (“You Make It, You Own It”), when individuals make choices about where and when to get their work done they “own” those choices and are generally more committed to their work, more productive, and more engaged with their employer.

About five years ago I was part of an international research project team that was seeking to define the attributes of an effective workplace. Our Swedish lead researcher asked each of us on the project team to take a photograph of our favorite part of our own office and then to post it on the project website. Read more

You Make It, You Own It

English_Bay_Vancouver_BCLast week I participated in IFMA’s Facility Fusion 2015 Canada conference in Vancouver. I enjoyed seeing many old friends and making new ones. But more importantly I enjoyed having my brain cells stimulated by so many interesting stories of new workplace designs and workforce programs.

If there was one underlying idea that linked many of those stories together for me, it was the power of choice. Almost every story we heard about workplace innovation mentioned increased variety within the workplace, and/or between alternative workplaces. And more variety clearly means more choice for the people using those workplaces. Read more

Why are Meaningful Conversations So Rare?

conversationsEven though most of us know intuitively what a good conversation feels like and how it unfolds, the vast majority of conversations at work are okay at best, and the rest of them range between boring, inconsequential, depressing, and demeaning.

In spite of what most of us know, most meetings and far too many of the less-formal conversations at work just don’t generate excitement, or learning, or even clarity. And that’s being kind:  I’m not even considering the meetings that waste time and generate anger, frustration, and patently wrong decisions. And worst of all is how few conversations tap into the “hidden talent” that everyone carries around with them every day in the form of experiences, insights, ideas, and intentions.

But the barriers that get in our way are actually very basic, and very understandable. Read more

Knowledge is not a “Thing”

Classic wall clockEarly in my career I worked for a large Midwestern textbook publishing firm. I have never forgotten a conversation with one editor, a brilliant, well-educated woman, who told me in tears that she had just been docked a full week’s vacation.

My friend was supposed to be at her desk and at work every morning at 9:00 AM; her supervisor had been tracking her arrivals and had secretly documented that over the past twelve months she had accumulated almost 40 hours of tardiness (10 minutes one day, 5 minutes another, and so on).

It apparently made no difference that she almost never joined the parade out the door at precisely 5 PM; in fact, she regularly worked an hour or two beyond 5 PM to meet her deadlines. And she often took work home at night.

That might have been an appropriate disciplinary action if my friend had been working on an assembly line somewhere and was being paid by the hour. But she was a former secondary school teacher with a Masters degree who was being paid a decent salary to collaborate with a college professor on a high school math book. Read more