If you’ve been to any business conferences over the past few months, you won’t have failed to notice that interest in topics such as mindfulness, health and wellbeing is at something of an all-time high. CEOs have been encouraged to pay more attention to the importance of sleep, and many businesses are encouraging moments of meditation – we even drew these topics into our Resilience and Purpose FoW theme. And yet, while I think it’s great that business leaders are thinking about these issues, I am beginning to wonder whether we’ve been examining them from the right angle.
The key to preserving decision-making ability
The main thing that strikes me about today’s discussions around wellbeing is that they have tended to focus on the individual. Of course, the link between all round healthy and fit workers being resilient, and resilient workers being a good starting point for running a resilient and profitable company, is logic that most of the members of the broader Hot Spots Movement community seem happy to adopt. But don’t mindfulness, health and wellbeing have a more direct and immediate effect on the health of a business? Recently, I’ve been wondering whether many of us aren’t missing the most important point: that if workers are not healthy, not fit, or simply tired, they are likely to make poor decisions and big mistakes.
Think of this: Busy executives who defy time zones and walk off planes and straight into meetings may ‘still be standing’ and seemingly function, but are they at their best for making sound decisions? And at what point does their impaired ‘fitness for making the best decisions have a negative impact on the business? Are some decisions so important that executives would need to be particularly rested before making them? In some businesses, the wrong decisions can have fatal implications (for example where physical safety of workers or clients is involved), but I’m hard pushed to see any industry where suboptimal or downright wrong decisions or poor execution of decisions or tasks wouldn’t have very negative implications for the business.
Great thought is given to these issues in some industries – airline pilots, for example, have very strict regimes for number of hours they can fly, how much they need to rest in between, etc. and I suspect most people find that infinitely sensible. But assuming that all decisions are important, even if they don’t have potential and immediate life-and-death implications, why wouldn’t we apply this to all work?
Join the debate
I wonder whether our attention to mindfulness and wellbeing wouldn’t significantly increase if we took it out of its current feel good territory and started to look at the serious business benefits and risk mitigation they can offer. Perhaps what’s needed is more effective terminology to allow us to shift health and wellbeing from being topics that generate polite and PC-driven interest to being business critical.
This is a topic I think we should all be discussing – and I’d love to hear your ideas. Contact me – or us – on Twitter via @tschneidermann or @HSpotM.
Our research team really enjoyed Lucy Kellaway’s recent article in the FT about how the most diverse teams often end up descending into groupthink, remain at the level of banal exchange of business jargon rich platitudes and find it hard to make any decisions – let alone creative ones.
So, is this a death knell for diverse teams? We think that Lucy’s observations are thought-provoking and certainly reinforce Lynda’s research which shows that people find it easiest to collaborate with people they perceive as being similar to themselves. But what it tells us most of all is that creative collaboration in the context of a diverse group takes practise. Throw a group of smart people representing different cultures, genders and generations into a room and they will interact based on the lowest common denominator – business jargon – rather than nudging each other towards mind-blowing insights. Perhaps we need to change our perception of a diverse group – does it always have to be two women, two seniors, two bright young things, and two participants from other cultures? Or perhaps we need to offer training on how to collaborate effectively within a diverse group. What’s clear is that diverse groups are capable of achieving great things – but companies need to do more than simply bringing them together to empower such greatness.
Is your internal social media platform being used to its full potential? We’ve found that while many companies have invested money, time and effort into integrating internal social media platforms with their existing platforms, they find bringing people together on these platforms to engage in meaningful exchanges a complex and daunting prospect. So what can you do to ensure you extract convincing results and insights?
At the Hot Spots Movement, we have spent the past five years developing our FoWlab process to create and support online collaboration within organisations. We know what works well and what to avoid, and we are now offering our expertise and experience to help organisations derive more effective engagement with their employees by running jams on their own internal platforms. We provide supported practices, processes and training to help companies engage their employees online and tackle their most complex organisational challenges.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you make the most of your internal social media platforms, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m blogging from Tokyo this week, where Lynda and I have been meeting our Japanese Future of Work Consortium members at a series of special events. We started the week with a FoW workshop addressing a number of key global trends, including hyperconnectivity, the rebalancing of financial markets, longer working lives, the hollowing out of work, climate change and the rise of poverty and inequality. Hosted by Kokuyo, the workshop also included delegates from Fast Retailing and Ricoh.
Kokuyo also hosted an evening event where Lynda gave a talk about her latest book, The Key and we enjoyed an excellent presentation by Kokuyo’s CEO Mr Kuroda. Lynda also had time to meet with Mr Tadashi Yanai – the founder and CEO of Fast Retailing – and learn about his approach to leadership and the future of work – before heading off to do a series of interviews with Japanese newspapers and television. It’s been an exciting and action-packed trip so far – check out Lynda’s Twitter feed for more updates on what we’ve been up to.
It seems paradoxical that in a world where we can communicate with anyone in the world at any time, employees are still in the habit of sharing bright ideas only with their manager in the hope that they will be pushed up the food chain. An unfortunate result of this custom is that valuable pockets of expertise can remain untapped due to poor inter-departmental communication or managerial oversight. It’s hard not to notice the way teams and their managers become anxious to gain status by “owning” a project or issue – with the frequent and unfortunate consequence that the company’s leading expert might be left out of the process because they work in another team.
This is at odds with the communication habits most of us have outside work, where people are becoming increasingly used to commenting on, amending and even criticising the decisions, actions and statements of others. Social media democratises communication and makes it possible for people to share their knowledge – and benefit from that of others – regardless of location or status. This is the sort of spirit that exists within our FoWlab Jams, where we seek to level the field when it comes to communication and draw out the best ideas from around an organisation based on their relevance to the issues being tackled rather than the relevance of the job titles held by the commenters. Breaking out of the work communication structure doesn’t come naturally – our jams are facilitated conversations – but the benefits it brings can make a tangible difference to your business.
Hopefully companies will soon be comfortable updating their communications practices to ensure valuable contributions are heard irrespective of where they sit in the organisation.
Join our webinar on Tuesday 10th June 2014 to celebrate the launch of Lynda Gratton’s latest book, The Key: How Corporations Succeed by Solving the World’s Toughest Problems.
Lynda Gratton will be launching her latest book, The Key: How Corporations Succeed by Solving the World’s Toughest Problems with a webinar on Tuesday 10th June 2014.
In this webinar, Lynda will explore the ways in which today’s corporations – already bigger, wealthier and more powerful than ever before – can ensure a resilient future. Drawing on research from her book The Key, which includes over 20 case studies fromVodafone, Natura, Tata Consultancy Servicesand others, Lynda will look at how corporations can use their wealth, power and wisdom to combat global challenges such as climate change, youth unemployment and global poverty.
The webinar will take place on Tuesday 10th June 2014, 5pm-6pm BST. To register, email us at email@example.com.
I really enjoyed this recent article, in which McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland interviews Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever. In the course of the interview, Polman discusses his thoughts on “the new corporation”, the need to switch from short-term to long-term thinking and his view that business has a duty to serve society in a sustainable and equitable way. He also shares some great examples of how Unilever is already doing this within its supply chain.
Polman’s initiatives at Unilever are among the examples shared by Lynda in her forthcoming book The Key: How Corporations Succeed by Solving the World’s Toughest Problems – you can pre-order the book now through Amazon.