Month: April 2014

MIT engages teenager to help design MOOCs

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by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
MIT is currently working on the format of its mass open online courses (MOOCS) with the help of a 17 year-old student from MongoliaBattushig Myanganbayar managed a perfect score on one of the university’s electronic engineering courses when he was just 15. Now a student at MIT, he is also helping them design the courses in a way that will appeal to high school students and others who don’t already have a degree-level education.

MIT aren’t the only ones interested in what Gen Z thinks – we’re conducting a Gen Z survey as part of our Talent Innovation theme for the Future of Work Research consortium. To find out how your organisation can get involved, contact

Check out our new Future of Work themes!

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Take a sneak peek at the next three themes we’ll be exploring with our Future of Work Research Consortium.

The Hundred Year Life
We are at the dawn of the 100-year life – a fact which creates enormous opportunities, but also significant challenges and risks. In this theme, we will explore how a three-stage career will evolve and what it means to work for up to 80 years, as well as what this means for selection and development and how corporations can prepare for the most significant change in human capital ever faced.

The Collaborative Imperative
Working with colleagues across time zones and locations is part of our everyday business life, but the conventional design of organisations is not geared towards fostering a collaborative way of working. We will explore the latest advances in research on collaboration, including the role of generosity, recognising and reward collaboration, and the debate on diverse teams.

Talent Innovation
Demographic shifts are changing where the world’s workforce will be located, with some countries entering a period of demographic dividend with millions of young people entering the workforce. But, what does this mean for workforce planning and how will organisations develop the agility they need to respond? With the latest data from our Generation Z survey, combined with academic and business insights, we translate these shifts into what they really mean for the employers of tomorrow.

If you would like to be part of exploring these themes with us, to learn more about what membership entails and how your organisation can get involved.

Catch up on Collaboration Week

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Our Collaboration Week events on April 14-17 were a great success – something we feel is a testimony to the growing realisation that collaboration is hugely important. Whether you joined in and would like to revisit some of the week’s activities, or were unable to make it and would like to catch up on the fun, we have a range of content available online for you to enjoy:

  • Webinars: Leading a Collaborative Organisation: Professor Lynda Gratton launched Collaboration Week with two webinars on why collaboration starts at the top, featuring Farooq Chaudhry of Akram Khan Company and Anshoo Kapoor of Tata Consultancy Services.
  • Collaboration articles – Enjoy perspectives from guest contributorsHoward B. EsbinJohn Milne and Sally Harrison on topics such as serious games, virtual coffee breaks and making teams work.
  • Collaboration lightning talks – Watch talks from our Collaboration pop-up event, including presentations from the Hot Spots Movement, Vodafone, Venda and Save the Children. For more information about these events, please contact and get in touch with Tina Schneidermann to hear about how our team can support your organisation in building collaborative capability.

As part of our commitment to the collaboration theme, we work to help companies collaborate in a practical way. Our FoWlab jams are an effective way of getting people from around your business to collaborate on key themes and pressing issues at the heart of your organisation. Contact Keith Dalton (( or on +44 (0)207 759 1848 to learn more about jams.

Work longer, live healthier? The health implications of retirement

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by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work

When to retire? It’s a life-changing question most of us will face and, while we may be able to calculate the financial implications, it seems we could be making this decision with astoundingly little data on what retirement means for our health. A clearer understanding of the health implications of retiring early or late will be essential in deciding when to swap the office for the golf course…

Perhaps one of the most cited studies in this debate is that of employees at Boeing, the world’s leading aerospace company. This research revealed that the earlier a Boeing employee retired, the longer they lived. For example, an employee retiring at 50 lived on average to 86, whereas those working to 65 lived on average just a couple of years after their retirement date. This was of course a shocking message, not least to Boeing who responded with some data of their own, seeming to show no correlation between retirement age and life expectancy post-retirement.

To complicate the matter further, The Institute for Economic Affairs recently published research showing that while the short-term impact of retirement on health is somewhat uncertain, the longer-term effects are consistently negative and large.  Their data, involving a sample of 9,000 people aged 50 – 70, revealed significantly lower self reported health among the retired population compared with those in the workforce. These negative health impacts included both physical and mental health, with retirees 63% more likely to be diagnosed with a physical health condition than the working population, and 41% more likely to be suffering from clinical depression. Worse still, the adverse effects of retirement increased as the number of years spent in retirement increased.

So, according to the study of Boeing employees we should be planning to retire at 55 or earlier if we want to preserve our health and live longer. According to Boeing’s own research, the decision on when to retire has no bearing on our life expectancy at all. And, according to research by the Institute for Economic Affairs, we should actually continue working as long as we can to preserve the particular health benefits of being in the workforce, such as increased physical and social activity.

So, why are we receiving such contradictory advice on the best time to retire in terms of health? Well, it’s largely down to the significant challenges in researching this link. First, retirement decisions are affected by health: people may retire because they are experiencing health concerns that are already reducing both their quality of life and life expectancy. Second, there is a time lag in terms of how long it might take before the health implications of retiring take effect. Finally, when people decide to retire, they may start changing their behavior in anticipation of this lifestyle change for example they may begin eating more healthily or exercising more, both of which will influence their health in retirement.

While the Institute for Economic Affairs perhaps goes the furthest in addressing these challenges, we are still far from a conclusion in this debate. In the coming years we may see the nature of this conversation change quite dramatically as people begin to let go of the idea of retirement as the third definitive life stage (after education and work) and instead move towards long careers with regular sabbaticals with no official expiry date. Some organisations such as the UK’s hardware store B&Q, and the North American steel manufacturer Vita Needle, are already preparing for a cohort of older workers who have abandoned the notion of a fixed retirement age, instead leaving and reentering as and when they need to.

In terms of the golf club membership, best you consider a Pay-As –You Go option for now…

Collaboration: strength in synergies

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Guest blogger John Milne of Leadership Down Under rounds up our series of collaboration-themed articles by sharing his advice for successful collaboration. 

Collaboration sees multi disciplinary teams formed across countries and corporations to make projects happen on time and within budget. The idea is to harness the suite of experience, skills and knowledge of each team member to achieve shared goals, solve complex problems and create new products or services. Choosing the right mix takes study and judgement from leaders and managers. Use the common wisdom model.

#Technical competence means the person knows what they are talking about.

A thorough knowledge of your field of operation adds to productivity and enhances your credibility. Be at the cutting edge by contacting thought leaders and achievers worldwide.

#Strong, honest people will earn trust and respect from team members and from clients.

Definite, reliable people draw business, earn promotion and add value to their workplace. By keeping your promises every time you will have the hallmark of a special talent. Even amongst, professionals keeping promises is a challenge. It is rare. Move beyond excuses to results. Strength of mind and purpose focuses energy and channels activities.

#Commitment to your own work, your team, your company will inspire confidence.

Leaders and managers who have the well being of their staff in mind as well as efficiency produce better results through team and individual performances. Be alert to pressure points, deadlines, crises, dangers and opportunities.

#Being active and giving in social media contacts and in social interaction reaps rewards.

Just as morale is built one brick at a time, so networking takes time, focus and persistence. Blogs, Linked In, Twitter and each new platform can introduce you and your services or products to amazing new markets. Be careful to give freely and wisely in these crowded market places. Collaborations can happen through this reaching out enterprise.

# Show professional respect due to master practitioners. Jealousy and selfishness in one can sap the good work of many in each team. Get over it. Have a realistic appreciation of your own and other team member’s suite of skills. Foster interplay of ideas.

When you respect the ideas of people from all positions, you can chart a more certain path for your organisation, school or business.

Working together can be fun and fruitful. It can bring the best out of people. Start today!

My Virtual Coffee Break

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Sally Harrison
By Sally Harrison, Head of Social Media, Unify Enterprise Communications Ltd.

In another special guest post for Collaboration Week, Sally Harrison from Unify Enterprise Communications introduces us to the concept of the virtual coffee break.

Each day at 3pm I have a standing conference call. Yes, I know that is not unusual but what if I told you that I actually look forward to this call, – which has no agenda but is entitled “Virtual Coffee Break”.

My daily “virtual coffee break” lasts only 15 mins and each week I have this break with someone different on my team. There is no set agenda but the conversation inevitably drifts to a common topic, our business and what we are working on. This meeting always ends up being so different from others because the conversation is unfailingly honest and we talk about real issues at a new level and how we can help each other and the business. On numerous occasions I have found that my informal conversations have had a very positive impact on my work, removing blockers and improving business results.

Even though I am a true #anywhereworker (thanks to technology and the culture of my business) and I love the flexibility it offers – I do miss the personal connection that comes with talking to people (colleagues or agency partners) – understanding them and building those relationship.

That’s my experience and one that we at Unify felt was worth exploring further. We have always been interested in the way people interact (well you would expect that from an enterprise communications company) and increasingly how virtual teams work effectively.

The first in our new research series, Unify New Way to Work Index, ran between January and February 2014 and surveyed more than 300 executives across the globe focusing on the habits and constructs of successful teams. Among the results was the finding that 94% of respondents work on teams with remote and/or mobile team members.

It also gave some insight into the behavior of successful virtual teams:

  • Those on very successful teams are more personable in their habits. 71 percent of them engage in personal/non-business conversation with colleagues daily or weekly, compared to just 42 percent of those on less successful teams.
  • Successful team members reach out across locations. 86 percent of those on the most successful teams regularly reach out to colleagues at other sites merely to keep in touch
  • Dialogue trumps monologue in successful team meetings. 77 percent of those on highly successful teams say less than a quarter of their meetings are one-way monologues. Only 16% of those on struggling teams can say the same

Successful teams collaborate freely wherever they are. Only 16 percent of those on the most successful teams say they are less likely to voice disagreement on virtual calls than they would in face-to-face meetings; compared to 55 percent of those on less successful teams.
I fully appreciate that we are all extremely busy – but I promise you if do make an increased personal effort with your virtual team members – you will reap the benefits. So what are you waiting for? Open your calendar now and book a short virtual coffee break with a colleague you don’t see often, or ever…

It will be the cornerstone of a whole new way to work.

Sally Harrison is the head of social media for Unify, a provider of enterprise communications and collaboration solutions. Since October Unify has placed a huge emphasis on the new way to work – and that while technology is important, it is people’s mindsets and behavior that need to adapt.

Collaboration Week Tweetjam

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As part of our Collaboration Week, we’re giving you the opportunity to ask Professor Lynda Gratton and Hot Spots Movement COO Tina Schneidermann questions about collaboration and join the conversation to share your own perspective.

When is it?

We’re running the Tweetjam twice, at 10-11am BST and 3-4pm on Wednesday 16th April 2014.

How do I participate?

The first step is to follow @HSpotM so you can see our tweets. If you’re asking a question or commenting on another tweet, using the hashtag #collabweek14 – you can also use this hashtag to find tweets from other participants.