Guest blog by Siobhan McHale, CHRO at Dulux Group
“Anne Lewis” mulled over a problem she was having with a staff member as she queued for her morning coffee at the city’s popular Hole In The Wall Café. She was the executive in charge of a retail loans department at “BlueStoneBank (BSB)” and she had an issue with one of the employees in her team. Jack had been working at the bank for 6 years but had seemed quite disengaged recently. He was bright and others in the team liked working with him but he had been in the same position for over 3 years now. He seemed stuck in a rut. Indeed, over the past few months she noticed that Jack had been so leisurely in his ways that others in the team had to wade in to help him get through his workload.
Anne was meeting with her boss Lee later that afternoon and she knew he would be demanding more from her team. The recent performance stats were not looking good and she needed everyone in the Department, including Jack, to pull their weight. If they didn’t all lift their game Lee would start micromanaging her again!
The Chevy Corvette Sting Ray
As Anne stood in line she wondered whether Jack was simply bored with work or just disinterested in life in general. She remembered a recent work social event when he had spoken animatedly about his passion for antique cars. He seemed to spend every waking hour, when he wasn’t at work, tinkering with that Chevy Corvette Sting Ray sitting in his garage. She wished Jack had the same level of enthusiasm for his job as he had for his beloved collectible car.
Jack seemed much more engaged in working on his Chevy Corvette Sting Ray than he was in his role at BSB
Anne’s mind went back again to the meeting with her boss Lee later that afternoon. She knew that her Department was coming under scrutiny and Jack’s recent listless manner wasn’t helping one bit! She wondered if she should take a different approach to unleashing some of his discretionary effort at work.
The coffee catch-up
Anne ordered her usual cappuccino and decided to get Jack a latte which was his favourite morning brew. Five minutes later she bounded into his office and, as she handed him his coffee, she asked “Jack how do you see your role, you know your job here at BBS?” He took a long sip of the latte, leaned back in his chair and responded “Hey, thanks for the coffee! Well my role, as I see it, is to help our customers complete their loan applications and then submit them to the Risk department for approval. As you know it’s all about driving the revenue line I suppose.”
Anne enquired “What loans do you have on your ‘to do’ list for today?” Jack stretched his arms out above his head and responded “One couple, the Mendozas, want to try and buy their first home in a cool suburb near the bay. Another loan is for a recent graduate Sofia who has just gotten her driving license and wants to purchase her first car. The last high priority one for today is for this guy Liam who is a fanatical sailor and wants to buy a boat so that he can try his hand at fulfilling his dream of sailing around the world!”
“That’s a pretty interesting and diverse group” Anne responded. “And it seems to me from those stories that you’re actually helping to make these peoples’ dreams come true in your role, eh?’ Jack looked at her over the rim of his coffee cup. He raised his eyebrow and nodded slowly. “Yes I suppose you could say that.”
Over the next few week Anne noticed a spring in Jack’s step. He was getting to work on time, she was finding fewer mistakes in his applications and he just seemed, well, happier. He was also a lot more productive and even made time to help out others in the Department. All of this had led to an increase in the team’s productivity which has not gone un-noticed by the boss Lee, who was once again singing Anne’s praises.
The power of reframing
When I caught up with Anne at The Hole In The Wall Café later that month she talked about the shift in Jack’s attitude. “What’s changed to create a happier and more engaged employee? I asked. Anne explained the work that she had been doing over the past few months to reframe the role of her team and to connect them more closely to the difference their work was making in the lives of customers. She went on to say “I reframed Jack’s role from ‘form filler’ to ‘dream maker’ and that, I believe, has made all the difference.”
Reframing verb (transitive) 1. to support or enclose (a picture, photograph, etc) in a new or different frame. 2. to change the plans or basic details of (a policy, idea, etc)
Reframing is about looking at the world through a different lens and is a powerful way to transform our thinking by giving a different meaning to our experience. Reframing the role of employees can lead to higher levels of engagement especially if connected to the difference that your company makes in the lives of others.
How are your employees framing their role at work? Is there an opportunity to reframe how they see the part they are playing in meeting the needs of customers?
Jack had reframed his role from ‘form filler’ to ‘dream maker’ and that had made all the difference
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Here at Hot Spots Movement we pride ourselves on our multidisciplinary approach to research on the Future of Work. It is something that goes right to the heart of our intellectual ethos and lays the foundation for much of our research. From Aristotle to Aldous Huxley, or from Sociology to Semiotics, we passionately believe that the best and most innovative work is one whereby an eclectic array of views, ideas and opinions are incorporated into the body of knowledge. Seemingly, the days of the maverick lone wolf (think Tesla, Darwin or Einstein) are over. This is not, however, to suggest that creative individuals don’t matter, but ‘rather that we become more innovative when we remain open to as many arguments, philosophies, conversations and rival ideas as possible’[i].
Take, for example, the research conducted by Stefan Wuchty, Benjamin Jones and Brian Uzzi. This multidisciplinary team of researchers used big data to learn what distinguished ideas that had an impact from those that did not. After sifting through twenty million academic articles and two million patents cited over the past fifty years, ‘they discovered that the most innovative and impactful ideas were much more likely to come from cross-enterprise collaborations rather than from teams from the same university, lab or research centre’[ii].
However, despite this, many organisations still tend to build networks which only reinforce the existing ideas underpinning their current organisational architecture. Such a tendency can partly be explained by ‘selective exposure theory’ which is based on the notion that people have a predisposition to engage with information that reaffirms our existing viewpoints. Quite simply, this is because the brain favours familiarity and people therefore do not respond well to opinions that don’t align with their own.
To this end, transcending our echo chambers and incorporating diversity of thought into the organisational framework requires us to go against our instinctual need to create networks that reinforce our pre-existing views. However, one innovative initiative that can help build more diverse networks into the workplace is that of co-working spaces. ‘Co-working spaces bring together diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals in a shared, communal setting’[iii]; thereby organically create a milieu in which people from wide ranging industries and professions can assemble and share their diverse knowledge and expertise. Such an environment cultivates not only a hybridity of perspectives but also innovation.
However, if completely redesigning the office space is unfeasible, then homogeneous logic and ideas can also be overcome through mechanisms such as crowdsourcing platforms or sponsored lunches with rival competitors.
Fundamentally though, irrespective of what mechanisms are implemented, incorporating diversity of thought into your organisational framework is contingent on being open minded and expressing alacrity to viewpoints and perspectives which in the past may have seemed fatuous or superfluous. The era in which we live is characterized by unprecedented and nebulous change. This generates many exciting opportunities, but such opportunities can arguably only be fully realised if organisations are willing to absorb the information and ideas which exist in sometimes unfamiliar domains.
[i] Burkeman, O. (2010) Steven Johnson: ‘Eureka moments are very, very rare’, (The Guardian)
[ii] HotSpots Movement (2015) The Collaboration Imperative Report
[iii] Bound, A. (2018) Demand for Co-working spaces expands beyond London (Financial Times)
Do you think you could beat a robot at football? The answer, for most of us, is yes. Ok, so how about at a game of Chess? The answer this time is most likely no (unless you’ve whacked the difficulty levels right down).
These were topics discussed in a recent article by Matthew Syed (a sports journalist, of whom I’m a massive fan). Syed assesses why robots, which can now comfortably beat even the most talented humans at games such as chess, Go and Shogi, are still unable to get close to an average human, let alone your Messi’s or Rooney’s, in creative sports such as football.
A surprisingly simple explanation for why this is the case is that hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution and natural selection has honed our skills, such as creative problem solving, hand and eye coordination and motor intelligence, that favour high performance in sports. On the other hand, skills such as logic and calculation are relatively recent human skills that we have yet to perfect. As a result, sports that require motor skills and creativity come much more naturally to us then games where our mental capacity and logic is key.
And this got me thinking. Why, in a world of rapid digital automation and the potential loss of jobs resulting from this, are we trying to cling on to roles and tasks that a machine can do infinitely better than we can? Particularly, given this is often at the expense of those tasks that play to our uniquely human strengths, having been honed by a necessity to creatively adapt in order to survive.
Now obviously, not all of us can be a Messi or a Rooney, but in our normal roles, we have ample opportunity to focus on the creative and non-routine tasks that machines simply cannot do. The World Economic Forum predicts skills such as emotional intelligence and the ability to teach others, as well as cognitive skills such as creativity will be in higher demand across all industries over the next five years, so crucial will these skills be to our future.
This is something that both employers and employees alike need to be thinking about. It is crucial that we create jobs where automation complements and augments what we do and allows our workforce to be more productive than ever before. For example, we spend hours filling out expense forms or time sheets, when instead we could be designing products or selling to potential clients, tasks that can’t be done by machines.
As employers, it is your job to educate your people around this. How will their jobs change in the future and what training will you need to provide them with to be capable of filling those roles? An additional, and often overlooked, element of this is rewarding innovation and creativity. We must demonstrate that these uniquely human assets are key for the future. Here at Hot Spots Movement, we work with numerous companies who are looking at incorporating creative, collaborative and innovative metrics into their KPIs, in order to create a culture that promotes these uniquely human skills and encourages their employees to hone their relevant abilities.
Likewise, as employees it’s important we are embracing the learning opportunities and preparing ourselves for future roles as creative, caring or non-routine workers. In addition to this, as we see the roles of paralegals, book keepers and many others change, we must adapt accordingly and develop our creative, problem solving and innovative abilities in order to ensure we remain employable in the future.
Finally, as parents (a role that many millennials and Gen-Yers will take on over the next few years) we have a responsibility to understand what the future of work looks like and use this to help guide our children on skills that will be crucial in this new world of work. For example, being able to crunch numbers rapidly or proof-read vast swathes of texts will no longer be vital skills that make you employable, AI and robots can do this better than we ever can. However, skills such as problem solving, innovation, creativity and personal skills will be the desired assets of the future.
So, let’s not see AI as something to be feared and resisted. Instead, lets make sure that we allow Siri to unleash our inner Messi’s.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you and your employees prepare for the Future of Work then just drop me an email at email@example.com
There has been a fundamental disruption of influence and power over the past few years. Historically, power and influence were in the hands of a chosen few at the top of hierarchies such as politicians, CEOs and public figures. Today we see a different picture. A great example of this is the meteoric rise of Vloggers. These are often teenagers, posting videos from their homes somewhere quite remote. They can command viewers in the their millions and make – or break – a brand or product purely through the influence of a 50 second video. Just last week celebrity influencer Kylie Jenner appears to have wiped roughly $1.5 billion off the market value of Snapchat with one tweet.
The interesting point for organisations to take away is that this isn’t just happening in the outside world. It’s happening at work too. Enterprise social networks such as Yammer or Chatter, as well as a tendency towards flatter hierarchies in many organisations, means that your influencers aren’t necessary all sitting in the executive team. At work, influencers are ‘people who can, because of their knowledge, skills and position in the company network, and not their formal hierarchical power, shape the views of multiple colleagues’. These influencers can become powerful change agents, most particularly in the face of culture change or a major transition your organisation is undertaking.
A challenge for organisations is to identify these influencers, and ensure they can leverage them to support organisational needs and outcomes. While I find that most of the organisations I speak with are aware this should be on their to do list, I sense that many are struggling to find a route to achieving it. So I’ve drawn out three ways to illustrate how to identify influencers, focus on them to nudge behaviour and leverage them to change micro-behaviours.
- Identify influencers: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a long-standing client of ours, has made public communication the default through an internal social networking platform the norm called Knome. By using Knome in place of email, a private form communication they aim to unleash unstructured collaboration, innovation and creativity. Interestingly, TCS have also used this tool to identify influencers within their organisation. By using a platform, they can see beyond the traditional hierarchy and identify those with social capital or bright ideas, wherever they might sit within the organisation
- Focus on influencers to nudge behaviour: Nudge theory is a concept in behavioural science where positive reinforcements and indirect suggestions influence the motives, incentives and decision making of groups and individuals. As you can imagine, if organisations focus on changing the behaviours of influencers and leaders, these nudges become all the more powerful. This is due to the multiplier effect of highly visible or influential people on their peers
- Leverage influencers to change micro-behaviours: Enabling workplace culture change requires an understanding and altering of micro-behaviours. It is important for influencers and leaders to call out negative micro-behaviours in the workplace. Equally, leaders and influencers should provide micro-affirmations, that is congratulating the efforts and achievements of employees when they engage in the right kind of work or behaviours. In doing so, employees’ behaviour becomes conditioned through negative repercussions and positive reinforcements, provided by both leaders and influencers
Identifying and leveraging influencers requires subtle and thoughtful work, but research indicates that the outcomes can be significant, particularly in the context of culture change. I have certainly seen the results in the crowdsourcing projects that I run with clients – both in engaging influencers to raise awareness and engagement before the event, and in identifying hidden influencers during crowdsourcing events themselves.
If you’d like to find out more about how to identify and leverage influencers in your organisation, feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
 Shu, L. Gino, F. Bazerman, M H., (2011) Ethical Discrepancy : Changing Our Attitudes to Resolve Moral Dissonance, Behavioral Business Ethics: Ideas on an Emerging Field. Taylor and Francis Publishing
 Workwire, (2015) Workplace Nudging Persuade People To Desirable Behaviour
What incites people to deliver their best performance? I have been exploring this question for some years now and I am increasingly of the view that the answer lies in empowering people. People will be most committed and motivated to the organisation when they feel their day-to-day work environment is autonomous. They need to believe they have a sense of control over their work or they may adopt what psychologist Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania termed ‘learned helplessness’, where they basically stop taking initiative.
Building a culture of trust is what will truly make a significant difference. Research indicates that people in high-trust organisations are more productive, have more energy at work, suffer less chronic stress and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. Simply put, when companies trust people to choose which projects they will work on, they focus on what they care about most and this powers greater performance.
An important caveat to remember here is that autonomy is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can fuel creativity and performance. On the other, autonomy can also lead to ambiguity and chaos. This is because the effects of empowering people are largely impacted by how people perceive their leader’s behaviour. People may perceive greater autonomy as an indication that the leader trusts them and is providing them with opportunities for growth or they may see empowerment as evidence that the leader can’t lead and is trying to avoid making difficult decisions. In the latter example, people may become frustrated about their role, leading to worse performance. It is therefore vital that when trying to empower people, the leader makes sure people are equipped effectively to perform their jobs. To make this happen, an ongoing discussion of the needs, obstacles, what is working and what is not working is of paramount importance to the development and upkeep of an autonomous working environment. Indeed, providing people real autonomy requires hard work of crafting all the incentives, practices and processes that actually empower employees to be autonomous. A good practice illustrating how to approach autonomy is the Swedish company Spotify as they have largely succeeded in maintaining an agile and autonomous mindset without sacrificing accountability.
Please send any ideas or examples you have on building an environment that empowers people. I would love to hear them!
 Monarth, H. (2014). Make your team feel powerful. Harvard Business Review
 Zak, P. (2017). The Neuroscience of trust. Harvard Business Review
 Mankins, M. & Garton, E. (2017). How Spotify balances autonomy and accountability. Harvard Business Review
A fascinating interest of mine is the human consciousness. I could forever learn about how each of our brains, 1 kilogram of hard matter, conjures up an infinite kaleidoscope of thoughts, feelings, memories and emotions, which make us ‘conscious’. This conscious awareness has long been assumed to govern how we make the approximately 35,000 decisions required of us each a day – from what time to get out of bed to what to eat for dinner. However, increasingly, there is evidence to suggest that many of the decisions we make are determined not by our conscious thought, but instead by our unconscious thoughts. This theory is a relatively new one, titled the Unconscious Thought Theory or UTT, (Dijksterhuis and Nordgren, 2006).
We all have an ‘unconscious’. It is where the bulk of our mind’s processing takes place, attributing to our beliefs and behaviours. Our unconscious mind’s main purpose is to prevent mental overload by efficiently informing our decisions based on quick reference to past events and experiences. However, research has begun to suggest that our unconscious may go beyond informing decisions, and actually be making our decisions for us. In one study by Soon et al (2008), it was concluded that our brains make decisions up to ten seconds before we realise it. So much so, that researchers could predict what decisions participants would make before they were even aware of having made a decision.
This can be both positive and negative. As anyone who has come across the literature or training on unconscious bias will know, it can result in us making snap judgments that reflect stereotypes and bias.
However, it seems it can also be positive. For example, whilst theorising UTT, Dijksterhuis and Nordgren found that when participants faced a complex task, the group which had more time to deliberate but were distracted (and therefore not consciously thinking about the task), had better and faster solutions. This is particularly interesting for us at Hot Spots Movement, when we consider how we perceive complex tasks and decisions, particularly at work, and how we might tackle them in the best way.
So, how can we tap into our unconscious to help deliver better and faster decisions?
Firstly, we could all benefit from a good night’s sleep. I’ve found this is the most accessible as our unconscious mind does not rest at night, instead it is busy making sense of the day’s events. It’s a common feeling to wake up from sleep and feel like a brand-new person, with your troubles not seeming as big as they did the night before. A tip for being in touch with your unconscious insights would be to write down your initial solutions to a problem first thing in the morning, before your conscious mind takes hold again.
Another way is through meditation or yoga, which are both fast-becoming forms of ‘fashionable’ exercise but actually benefit you by initiating deep insight, calmness and reflections. They work by allowing you to think beyond your conscious distractions to really consider who you are and the choices you make and if they resonate with your being.
Lastly, you can channel unconscious thoughts by putting yourself in situations where you can repeatedly act spontaneously, for example, during Improv classes – Improv is a form of unscripted theatre, where actors make up the story in the moment. Improv is a great way of channelling your unbiased thoughts and feelings – the idea is that you are in a safe environment and able to give entirely impulsive responses to a friend’s own, impulsive response. These reactions have not had time to be considered or filtered by your conscious so, over time, you can inadvertently learn about your instincts and how to involve your unconscious mind in your decisions. Several of my colleagues here at Hot Spots Movement practice Improv for the very same reason – to be more in touch with their unconscious mind. It has proven very beneficial for many reasons – so much so that here at Hot Spots Movement, we have started incorporating Improv exercises into our workshops with clients to enhance collaboration and trust amongst employees.
So, next time you’re struggling to think of a new approach to a difficult problem, perhaps consider engaging your unconscious mind. Take a moment for meditation, distract yourself with another seemingly unrelated task, or perhaps even sleep on it. It could be that your unconscious mind already knows the answer.
If you’d like to find out more about how you can use Improv to enhance collaboration and trust amongst employees within your organisations then please do get in touch on Melissa@hotspotsmovement.com
Here at Hot Spots Movement, we have supported many leading organisations in realising their ambitions around agile working. This experience has revealed to us what it takes to successfully roll out an agile working approach in big, established companies – and crucially – the pitfalls to avoid. Here are five questions you need to ask yourself in order to unleash agility in your organisation:
- Are you clear about why you’re embarking on agile working?
Agile working not as an end in itself, however, many companies fall into the trap of addressing it as if it is a separate initiative on the to-do list. Instead, for agile working to really take hold it must be viewed as an enabler of individual, team and organisational outcomes important to your company. What is it about agile working that will enable you to deliver on your business or talent strategy?
- Where are you on the journey?
Like any culture shift, agile working takes time. Every organisation is at a different level of maturity when it comes to bringing about this agility – for some, it’s facilitating the next level of coordination between team members on different working contracts, in different locations, combining under one purpose; for others, it’s about getting acceptance of the idea of working from home once in a while. Both are valid and important milestones, and it’s critical that organisations appreciate where they are on the journey and avoid the temptation to run too fast.
- Who’s leading the way?
A common challenge for organisations embarking on agile working is converting the intellectual understanding of why this approach is required, with the practical commitment to make it happen in teams and divisions throughout the organisation. Our experience is that this challenge tends to manifest at senior leadership levels, with sentiments such as ‘I agree we need agile working, but not for my team – it wouldn’t work for us.’ It’s essential that leaders are presented with the case for agile working as an enabler of the business strategy (See point 1) and are tasked with being part of the solution as to how it will work within their team.
- How will you take everyone along with you?
Agile working is a journey that everyone in the organisation must be on together. While it is critical that leaders appreciate and act on their role in endorsing agile working, the success or failure will ultimately rest on the everyday behaviours and interactions of colleagues and team members. Everyone must appreciate their role not only in taking up flexible working themselves, but in enabling their colleagues to do the same. The emphasis on each person’s role in enabling agile working shifts the conversation away from the individual, instead focusing it on the team dynamic. Doing so alleviates from the very beginning some of the concerns from leaders and managers about negative impacts on collaboration and team performance.
- How will you tap into what really drives behaviour in your organisation?
A common barrier to agile working is the belief that it will negatively impact one’s career progression, being viewed as a sing of less than 100% commitment to the organisation and its clients. To overcome this, agile working must be positioned as a capability required of high performers who want to progress in the organisation. Those on high potential programmes or Partner tracks must be evaluated in part on their ability to work in an agile way themselves, and enable high performing agile teams. Creating this link is essential in shifting the perception of agile working away from isolated initiatives for specific groups of employees, and towards a future-proofed way of working to unleash performance.
With employees increasingly impatient for new and agile ways of working, perhaps it’s time to ask (and answer) the questions that will move your organisation forward on the journey.
Find out more about our work in this area by contacting:
E: email@example.com | T: +44 (0) 20 7759 1848