“Anytime, anywhere, any device”: Working smarter in a knowledge world

Last week was fun. A couple of enjoyable dinners, an interesting day at the BSI KM Standards Committee helping to shape the UK’s response to the latest draft of the  emerging ISO KM Standards and a thought provoking day at Quora Consulting’s flagship Smartworking Summit. I will focus on the latter as it impacts the former.

Why are you here?

As I said in answer to that direct question posed to me by one of the speakers during his address:

Because John invited me for which I thank him.  I am also here as the discipline I focus much of my time on (Knowledge Management) relies heavily on the right environment to facilitate the sharing of knowledge. Also as a member of the BSI KM Standards Committee which is looking at ISO standards for KM I am keen to seen something in there that reflects the move towards smarter working.

I coud have added that, following the lead of Professor Clive Holtham and Victoria Ward, I have been banging on for a long while about the importance to Knowledge Management of an effective physical environment, it’s one of the indicators I look for when performing a Knowledge Audit or Assessment at any organisation.

The event:

The very well attended senior level event (of the near 200, 75% were C-Suite Directors) was held near St Paul’s and had as it’s focus in the morning “unlocking the full potential of women at work”.

quora-summit-pmThe afternoon comprised a series of breakout sessions. I went for the “Creating productive workplaces” session facilitated by John Blackwell, Quora’s founder and CEO.

As an aside it was nice to see Euan Semple again who was cofacilitating a round table session that draws on an interesting piece of work he is doing and was entitled “Building Bridges, dismantling siloes”.

Interesting fact of the day from Wednesday’s Smartworking Summit – collectively, the registered delegates interact with over 80 million employees on a daily basis – impressive!

Smartworking in context:

Statistics released by the Department of Work and Pensions and The Office of National Statistics are terrifying for the future of the UK economy which has already seen productivity fall by 17% over the last 10 years. These stuck out:

  • The UK will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies in the next ten years but only 7 million people will be leaving schools and universities during that same period. And further, 70% of those graduates will be female.

The Summit’s premise was:

“…there are only two realistic ways of plugging this 6.5 million job vacancy shortfall – encourage people to remain in work beyond the conventional retirement age and crucially, attract far more women into the workplace.”

The morning speakers drawn from some of the UK’s largest employers shared their stories.

I liked:

  • The ‘Come Back’ returnee programme for a 12 week period which helps Mums rejoin the organsation after pregnancy leave.
  • The carers work programme wherein flexible working hours (often in chunks of 30-60 minutes) are offered to remote workers who look after those incapable of doing so themselves.
  • The bottom up shadowing programme wherein senior staff are mentored by young employess on the use of Social Media.
  • Anytime, anywhere, any device. The strapline of a programme at a financial services firm who are faciliting a blend of working practices and estimate that 40% of their work will be done flexibly.
  • That Cabinet Office and BSI recently launched a Smart Working Code of Practice.  PAS 3000 gives recommendations for establishing good practice for the implementation of Smart Working, against which organizations can be benchmarked. It covers changes to working practices, culture, working environments and associated technology.
  • The following quotes:

On expecting staff to focus for 8 hours a day: “You can’t leave your life at the door”

On the imposition of a dress code for the office: “How about we trust you to do the right thing?  If you look in the mirror and ask whether you can get away with wearing this it’s probably wrong”

On the need to change mindsets: “What the boss does gets copied”; “It’s great to talk, its better to listen”; and “Climbing the greasy pole to reach the corner office”.

I was surprised by:

The results of Quora’s recent survey.  Here’s what they said:

We have just released our latest research publication titled “Creating today’s workplaces for tomorrow’s talent”. This study engaged with just short of 3,000 people to explore the correlations between productivity, employee engagement and retention, and amongst its stunning findings are;

  • In 1990, 10% of the workforce was over 55.  By 2010 that had risen to 26% and, by 2030 the proportion of workforce over 55 will exceed 50%,
  • Just 21% stated that the impact of changes at their organisation are tracked and measured.
  • Only 33% regard their workplace as optimised for productivity,
  • Less than half trusted their manager to do the ‘right thing’ by them,
  • 66% stated the main reason for leaving their job was because they ‘found their managers dull and boring’.

Among the conclusions are that workplace design needs considerable fresh scrutiny into the productivity impacts of light intensity and spectrum, daylight, sound amplitude and direction, air quality, air temperature, odour, and occupant location and activity, and provision of quiet space.

Lastly, given that the brain takes 30% of all energy input into the body, the provision of nutrition needs a complete rethink.   Considerable attention needs to be given to eating frequent, portion controlled small meals focused on nutritional value.

I am concerned about:

  • The rate of commercial redevelopment that is taking place in London. If the workplace of the future is so uncertain and large organisations are consolidating their sites, making workspace more collaborative and shared, who is going to occupy the offices being developed now?
  • The scarcity of skilled British workers to fill the impending void at a time when the authorities seem to be making it harder for overseas workers to come to the UK.
  • A survey that found only 1:5 believed their leaders would do the right thing.

I took away:

  • The notion that the future cv will evolve from being a list of employers to a list of interesting projects and that 75% of new graduates today are predicted to leave within 2 years due to dull management and an unproductive environment.
  • The revelation that we now have 4 generations working at the same time so personalisation of approach is really important. Generation Rent employees have vastly different value sets from the Baby Boomer employees.
  • The suggestion that the leaders of the future will be Influencers with a focus on outcomes and that some organisations are using Social Network Analysis to identify who they might be.
  • The need to manage nutrition as well as the physical and virtual environment of the workforce. Better nutrition and conditioning = better performance in physical activity so why not in the workplace?the-edge
  • A desire to visit The Edge the greenest most efficient ‘smart’ building in the world when I am in Amsterdam in January. The Edge has proved a big attraction to prospective employees of the building’s tenants who include Deloitte’s.
  • The importance of effective knowledge capture and retention to ensure that, whatever technique is used, knowledge from skilled elders gets passed on.

And finally:

Fast forward two days and I am at Chiswick for the BSI Meeting.  The first person I meet is someone I heard speak a few years back in Amsterdam at SocialNow.

Dana Leeson is a Digital Workplace Architect at BSI helping to transform bsi-spacetheir working practices and environment.  One metric they are using: reduce occupancy levels (from 100% usage of the office by their staff to the mid 70’s).

Theirs reflects similar initiatives across UK government who are reducing the number of buildings they occupy and introducing co-working hubs for many departments.



Great illustrations: valuing Knowledge, Orchestrated Serendipity & Immunity Management

I’ve been in Iran and Dubai. And as often happens when working collaboratively great ideas emerge.

Valuing Knowledge

Firstly to Tehran and an issue which so many organisations struggle with: how to describe the true value of Knowledge to an organisation?  We are good at valuing fixed assets but poor at applying similar criteria to intangible Knowledge Assets or Intellectual Capital.


This story, the keyboard and the patent, might change perceptions:

A few weeks back a new keyboard costing $20 was delivered to the Director. After a couple of days a lady from premises appeared to place a sticker on it to denote it was an asset of the company and henceforth will appear on the company’s register of assets. The asset is managed!

Coincidentally the same day as the premises lady appears the Director gets notification of the award of a US patent which costs in excess of $20,000 to acquire.

US Patent

US Patent Certificate

The patent will need to be protected and if necessary enforced yet in most organisations that patent is not shown as an asset of the company on its balance sheet even though its value (in terms of future revenues) is very significant.

By way of a further example, if I lose my Macbook I can replace the hardware (at a cost) but the value of the intangible ‘Knowledge’ stored on it (documents, emails, presentations, videos, contacts) can’t be replaced instantly unless I’ve taken steps to back it up on an external hard drive or in the cloud in which case I have managed my Knowledge!

Orchestrated Serendipity -creating a physical Knowledge Sharing environment

On my way back from Tehran I stopped in Dubai to catch up with a number of old friends which is why on Wednesday I spent a couple of hours at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) located in Dubai Academic City who:

… is responsible for the growth and quality of private education in Dubai. We support schools, universities, parents, students, educators, investors and government partners to create a high quality education sector focused on happiness and wellbeing.

Having arrived at my hotel in the early hours I was not at my best when some 5 hours later the cab dropped me outside KHDA’s offices.  I was early for my meeting with Luke Naismith Director of Research so thought I might see if I could find a coffee shop.


KHDA’s Reception

I was warmly greeted by two very affable Emirati who ushered me to a seat whereupon coffee was served. Over the next 15 minutes my whole demeanour changed.


Luke demonstrating the presentation ‘lectern’ in the boardroom.

‘Abdullah’ one of the Excellence Team responsible for ensuring adherence to the  Dubai Government’s Excellence Program showed me around as Luke was in a meeting.

I saw senior people conducting meetings in very transparent meeting areas; the Head’s PA was arranging appointments from the lobby. There was a relaxed yet professional atmosphere despite the presence of budgerigars flying around.

What caught my eye (apart from the boardroom) was the merging of the old and the new.


The Clipping Service

Each day KHDA compiles a clipping service of relevant news that it sends to all employees.

In addition it houses them in its downstairs work area so that all visitors and employees who choose to work in the communal area can keep up to speed.



Luke emerged and showed me around. I noted the layout promoted an environment of transparency so that people share and can find others.

The boardroom was an eye opener. Everyone can see what’s going on and the strategy appears as a set of diagrams as the picture shows.

PowerPoint presentations do take place and Video Conferencing but the emphasis is on brevity, agile working and rapid empowered decision making.

Paper is absent from most areas, people are treated like adults and act like them.  And staff turnover is low though if people leave the collaborative team working nature of KHDA means their loss is covered.


Upper floor: Collaboration and Training Area

Interestingly Enterprise Social Networking Tools such as Yammer have not yet had the impact I thought they might even though the whole physical environment is geared up for collaboration.

Immunity (Risk) Management

The most visible illustration of KHDA’s positive approach shows in how the board manages risk (often the driver for KM initiatives).  One of the team coined the term Immunity Management as a way of anticipating future ‘bumps in the road’. So they have an Immunity Register not a Risk Register that is reviewed regularly by the board. The simple act of taking a positive view has resulted in very innovative ideas.

And finally

In Dubai the imposition of quality standards permeates organisational thinking and sets a blueprint for organisations to follow. At its best (Emirates Airline) service is exceptional; at its worst strict adherence to standards can stifle creativity. KHDA is an illustration of how the pursuit of customer service excellence can change the way an organisation delivers it.

Where the above examples meet is in the need for identification and maintenance of Knowledge Assets or Intellectual Capital. More on that in future postings.

the future workplace seen from the streets of London and the importance of conversations

Running a portfolio of activities is great. It has downsides though: The feeling of anxiety about what’s next; or guilt at taking a time out to do pro bono work when I could be responding to a request from a prospective client. And like every business marketing and relationship management has its cost.

But yesterday I decided to take a time out to reflect and think about the closing session at KMUK which I’ve been asked to lead. And this is how I ended up walking the streets.

John Blackwell is someone I met many years back while he was an IBM’er.  His ‘new’ organisation Quora devotes much of their time to help organisations think about the future of work and workspace.  Those who follow what I write will know working environments (space: virtual and physical) is a topic I feel neglected in Knowledge Management strategies and implementation plans.

mobile knowledge cafe in the street?

When John invited me to attend an afternoon session run by Street Wisdom at the Royal Society of Arts as part of his Smartworking Summit I was intrigued as the concept has caught on around the globe and seemed to be a sort of Knowledge Cafe in the street. Here’s what happened:

  1. Scene setting: David, Chris and Mel, explained what was about to happen over the next 3 hours.  In a pre-session discussion I’d described my ‘doctrine’ of Orchestrated Serendipity and that was used to illustrate what might happen. This is what we did.
  2. AIMG_3579 1wareness: Having assembled in 3 groups of 6 outside of the RSA we were invited to go off on our own for 8 minutes and observe – our choice, what we see and record. I noticed this pile (and someone’s bed) not 100 yards from this lovely peaceful spot.IMG_3580 1
  3. Slow: Back at ‘base’ we were asked to go off again at a very slow pace to see whether what we noticed is different because we have slowed down. My immediate emotion was of being in a bubble as everyone around me hurried about their business. Certainly I was more attuned to ‘things’ and it felt like I do at airports where I often switch off and withdraw in as a way of coping with the vagaries of travel. My 8 minutes over I return to ‘base’.
  4. Patterns: With my new ‘friend’ Mark from Sheffield I set off in search of patterns. This was interesting. As we walked we reflected on how we had already seen things we’d not normally see. We parted, me to Caffe Nero, he to the pub, both to watch.  I noticed: in a cafe people give themselves permission to talk; no one seems to use a paper map anymore, they use their smartphones; buses do come along in threes.
  5. IMG_3582 1Beauty: If the 8 minutes searching for patterns seemed a bit frivolous, 8 minutes looking for beauty (definition: ‘in the eye of the beholder’) was revealing. Literally 400 years from the rubbish and garden, up a twitten off The Stand I came across this magnificent abode which was being shown to a young Asian Student and his father. Amid the hustle and bustle of The Strand here was an oasis (at a price-1 bedroom starting at £895k!) which was aesthetically pleasing.
  6. Burning question: Fired up and ready to go I returned for my last task assignment.  I was to go off for 30 minutes to answer a burning question.  In my case this was to think about how I was going to run the forthcoming closing session at KMUK.
  7. Plenary: All valuable interventions end with a debrief / reflection session. Here we sat in a circle and shared what we’d seen and done. This was a precursor to a more expansive group conversation among two dozen people drawn from HR/Change/Facilities Management functions.

observations from plenary

The plenary session was stimulating: some worked virtually, others from Academia did a combination of home and away.  Here’s what emerged:

  • While virtual working is hugely advantageous to many, not everyone’s personal circumstances or culture fits.  Last week in Hong Kong I realised that with personal space at such a premium work has to take place away from the home. One virtual worker also noted that as a mother the flexibility is essential for her. She did note though that personal contact is essential to make sure a virtual team functions to its optimal level.
  • The grouping of people around a central office or campus is declining.  One view was that the Google and Facebook campus facilities are the last hurrah for this type of environment.
  • The future is about creating community hubs (closer to where people live) that permit drop out/drop in attendance based on a concierge hotel style service.
  • Current contractual arrangements are too restrictive and Zero hour contracts exploitative and not conducive to creating the element of trust needed for a different approach to task management. We discussed the idea of giving staff ‘space cards’ which they can redeem against usage at such approved venues.
  • No one is training us to work in the new way or in virtual teams and the training should begin in schools.
  • Digital was an adjective, now its a noun and with Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) we are entering an era of extreme customisation of the workplace by the consumer.
  • No one ‘owns’ the topic at a senior level. Like Knowledge Management ways of working and workspace environment is seen as being a horizontal function straddling many disciplines.

my takeaways

  • The next 5 years will see an accelaration in the growth of the generic workspace.
  • ‘No one can speak twice until everyone has spoken once’ was a lovely approach from David Pearl (Founder of Street Wisdom) to ensure everyone in the plenary session got their say.
  • People and conversations matter, in fact they are vital for innovation and knowledge sharing: people share not technology.  I realised halfway through the session how important it is to have the imaginery ‘water cooler’ or coffee station area where you can go to share and be stimulated. By listening to others I was able to craft an agenda which otherwise I might have struggled with.
  • Street Wisdom worked for me when I recognised I had given myself permission to take time to slow down and reflect. It is an effective way of changing mindset and a case of: ‘when you look at things differently, the things you look at change.’
  • And finally, I managed to create a wrap up session for next week’s KMUK event. Watch this space to see what I did and how it went.

one to watch

Re-Imagining Work remains one of my all time favourite videos.  Dave Copin imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open working culture.  It is a great accompaniment to this discussion and one I use frequently to stimulate a debate.

A canoe, a pieris japonica and a conducive space: key ingredients for special and productive meetings

I often refer to the metaphor of: ‘Drinking from the fire hydrant ‘to describe what it feels like trying to keep up with the wave of material that hits our email in boxes.  And if like me you have 4 mail accounts (for different businesses and pro bono activities) you will know the challenge. In the past filtering of content was handled by the manual clippings service which collated material and grouped it according to a set of predefined topics.

Today much of that is automated but you still end up skimming and relying on trusted sources. I find less is more and prefer thought pieces from organisations such as the McKinsey Quarterly and Strategy & Business (formerly a Booz and Company publication now part of PWC).

meetings are the factory floor for knowledge workers

This week’s thought leadership interview by Theodore Kinni in Strategy & Business about meetings caught my eye. Based on a book Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done by Dick and Emily Axelrod, a couple of quotes hit home:

S+B: Why should executives be concerned about meeting effectiveness?
Meetings are the factory floor for knowledge workers.They are where a lot of work gets done—or should get done—these days. Organizations are getting more complex, and making them work requires people to meet. Meetings are also artifacts of the organizational culture. If you change the way you meet, you can begin to change your culture. And meetings are huge engagement opportunities. They are where people decide whether they’re going to sit on their hands or they’re going to put their wholehearted self behind whatever needs to be done.


…..These five factors—purpose, challenge, autonomy, learning, and feedback—provide a way of thinking about a meeting that goes beyond the agenda and mechanics, like how you set up the room. If you can embed them in your meetings, you should have good ones.

S+B: How do you embed them?
We use something we call the “meeting canoe” for that. It’s a six-stage process that represents the order, shape, and flow of the meeting experience. First, you welcome people and connect them to one another and the task. Then, you help them discover the way things are, and elicit their dreams about what could be. Next, you help them come to a decision about what should be done and ensure that everyone is clear about the decisions reached and who is going to do what. Finally, you attend to the end by reviewing the decisions reached, identifying next steps, and reviewing how you worked together.

choose which meeting you attend

This all struck me as being true! We are all looking for ways of making meetings more effective and the idea of making them voluntary (you have to see value and want to attend) is one that plays very well with Open Space Meetings – A method of running meetings – the agenda is decided on the day by participants and there are five main rules during the mini-breakout sessions:

  • Whoever comes are the right people: this alerts the participants that attendees of a session class as “right” simply because they care to attend
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have: this tells the attendees to pay attention to events of the moment, instead of worrying about what could possibly happen
  • Whenever it starts is the right time: clarifies the lack of any given schedule or structure and emphasises creativity and innovation.
  • When it’s over, it’s over: encourages the participants not to waste time, but to move on to something else when the fruitful discussion ends.
  • Law of Two Feet” (or “The Law of Mobility”). If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet. Go to some other place where you may learn and contribute.

You need special people and a confident organisation to run Open Space Meetings.  Most people need an agenda published in advance in order to decide whether to attend. In many of the cultures I work with such a session would be viewed as frivolous at best.

What I have observed, and why I was drawn to many of the assertions made by Dick and Emily, is that set up and space are so important.  Its a core theme in Masterclasses I run.

the right space and the right culture

view of the CityA month ago I was a guest at the official opening of dotmailer‘s new Head Office concurrent with their 15th birthday.  I had the pleasure of working with them in 2005 when the founders were thinking about where to take their evolving business (then called Ellipsis Media) and Tink Taylor (Founder) has been very generous in recognising that contribution in the what others have said section of this site – I will publish a note on that in due course.

I mention the testimonial as the company I looked at then has many of the same people still working for it today. Much of that is down to the working culture and collegiate approach which their new HO building in London which overlooks the City reflects.

dotmailer kitchenI particularly liked the use of the English style tea house (kitchen) which houses the original table from the pub in Croydon where the 3 founders first met and discussed the business.

And the use of the bubble pods for meetings and the iPad driven coffee machine.  Make the best coffee and people will meet around it, site the meeting areas close by and people will use them. dotmailer has dotmailer podsmade meetings (and work) fun and its dramatic growth as a business would indicate its a formula that works.

and finally

My title draws on three metaphors: a canoe, a pieris japonica and a conducive space.  I’ve dealt with the space issue above. Here’s what Emily Axelrod said about the canoe:

EMILY AXELROD: Our graphic artist, Bob Von Elgg, came up with the canoe as a metaphor for meetings. We love the idea because a canoe requires direction and coordinated action to move through the water. And when you look at a canoe from the top, its shape is reminiscent of the meeting experience: A meeting is a conversation that starts out small in the welcome and connection stages, it reaches its widest point when you’re discovering the way things are and eliciting people’s dreams, and begins to narrow again as you decide what to do and attend to the end.

Plants, like humans, require the right environment to flourish: put a shade loving plant (or person) into the limelight for too long and they go off colour; give them the right nutrients and feed them and you will reap the benefits.  Below is a Pieris Japonica I have grown from a small plant.  At the start of the season I gave it too much light and put it in a draughty spot – the leaves went brown and it lost its colour. Now in a sheltered spot (out of the wind and part shade) it has had a resurgence.

Managing meetings is an art form requiring careful husbandry. Get it right and the results will be spectacular!

Pieris Japonica

‘Freelancers’, orchestrated serendipity and the symbiotic relationship between virtual and physical space

I have just published an updated research note on Scribd. following the workshop I ran for the NetIKX community last week and wanted to share the findings here:

To succeed in the 21st Century organisations will need to be good at collaboration and co-creation and the research I’ve undertaken suggests some organisations are changing working environments and patterns in order to accommodate this. Are they doing enough to take their staff with them though or do their people merely see this as an attempt to cut cost?

a case for ‘Orchestrated Serendipity’

This has been a mantra of mine for some time. The RSA clip on reimagining work cites the example of people sat in open plan offices emailing colleagues sitting a few desks away.  Rather than promoting dialogue open plan has often had the reverse effect.

ADB Knowlelge Hub

ADB Knowledge Hub

Where I’ve seen organisations working well they have tended to look at workflows, people’s habits, made them an inclusive part of the process of change and communicated effectively. They’ve accepted that serendipity needs a bit of a push and have recognised that ‘ah ha’ moments often come from such serendipitous meetings and arranged space such as a khub to accommodate that. I often speak about how interactions to and from prayers in the Muslim world are often the most productive and why knowledge hubs and information centres are often situated in close proximity to refreshments areas.

Nelia R. Balagapo in May 2013 described how ADB had gone about the process of creating a physical knowledge hub.

The library reorganized its physical space to become a knowledge hub (kHub) to host book launches, meetings and forums of the COPs. In collaboration with the different departments and COPs, an average of four activities are held in the kHub weekly, including “Insight Thursdays,” a weekly forum where staff share insights on topics or issues of interest to ADB. Wireless Internet connection and videoconferencing facilities enable staff at regional offices to participate online in these forums. The introduction of these facilities, including a coffee shop in the library, contributed to the transformation of the library spaces into dynamic learning areas.

It seems our personal habits are changing too: this week it was announced that more and more homeowners crave for multipurpose ‘living’ areas that can accommodate, cooking, eating and lazing!

the rise of ‘Freelancers’

Knowledge workers are changing too, despite what Melissa Meyer said that all Yahoo workers should come to the office or quit! In a thought-provoking article How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth  Sarah Horowitz suggests that today in the US Independent workers make up a third of the workforce. By 2020, just six years from now, 40% of Americans will be working as freelancers, contractors, and temps. Here’s a couple of quotes that stuck:

…Freelancers are shaping the new economy. As flexible schedules and ubiquitous communication become the norm, the work-life balance that we’ve always struggled for is becoming achievable. As community and teamwork become more necessary than ever to thrive, the lonely, closed-off cubicle will make way for meaningful collaboration. And as the demand for healthy food and workspaces increases, industry will increasingly connect corporate profits and social good…

So if this phenomenon is growing how are we responding? I recall a presentation I gave in Houston in 1999 where I said that growth in the number of independent (non-salaried) workers was dependent on three factors:

  • supportive collaborative technology
  • a rise in physical meeting hubs
  • a change in the way financial services organisations assess the credit of non-salaried workers with irregular income patters.

All three now exist and so the key challenge is Trust (among peers as well as with direct reporting lines) as the Yahoo example would seem to suggest.

the importance of social and technology

I am a founding trustee (Knowledge Trustee) of a charity that aims to make better use of surplus food. www.PlanZheroes.org has no formal offices yet its governance process is all very formal and in the cloud. We hold virtual meetings and new volunteers are given access to all the materials and instructions they need to begin sourcing donors and recipients. As a knowledge hub for surplus food we perform a brokerage role helping to facilitate contacts between those who generate surplus food and those charitable organisations that make use of it.  All of this is made possible by collaborative technology, the rise of social media, which encourages and facilitates collaboration, a culture that is aligned around a shared vision and the availability of suitable meeting places in which to conduct essential f2f interactions that underpin social exchanges.

objects and the role of neutral space

Slide31One of my 3 takeaways is to use objects as a stimulus for dialogue and innovation.   The idea of neutral space is core: if you accept the premise that it is important to create hubs for interaction such as that illustrated at ADB then the same logic applies when looking at how to facilitate those interactions.

I saw a salesman use a very informal worksheet last weekend and wrote about it.  By using a worksheet (a neutral object) he was able to elicit valuable information that helped make a sale.

the symbiotic relationship between virtual and physical space

As often happens with the wonders of modern technology, a comment I made on a news item on the simply communicate newsletter entiitled working out loud at Deutsche Bank led to a really interesting exchange with Managing Director John Stepper.  John has achieved a lot using a Jive platform to encourage social collaboration and change the ways of working there. I asked him:

Hi John, I’d be interested in whether you paid attention to how virtual and physical space come together? I’ve just published on Scribd. an updated report on ‘when space matters…’ And one of the questions was whether virtual could replace physical! How did you manage to marry the two?

John replied:

Paul, I’m an admirer of well-designed spaces though by no means an expert. But I’ve written about how virtual spaces complement the physical (and systems) design: http://johnstepper.com/2013/02/23/the-best-office-design-for-collaboration-is-also-the-cheapest and


Do take the time to read his thoughts. If anyone has coined a more apt description of what many organisations have become then I have yet to see it:

We discarded some of the age-old principles of what motivates and engages people. Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten we should be designing organizations for the benefit of the human beings in them.