A new way of working at The Edge, the world’s smartest (and greenest) building

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Last Tuesday I spent the afternoon at the world’s smartest and greenest building as the guest of Miriam Tops of Deloitte and Erik Ubels of OVG Real Estate (and formerly CIO of Deloitte).

Imagine arriving at your place of work and being directed to an area or office suitable for that day’s work; where the lighting and heating adjust automatically to suit your preferences; where the coffee you like is dispensed from one of the best coffee machines available; and where if you need anything a concierge service is on hand to get it for you.

That’s the start of a day in the life of a knowledge worker at Deloitte Amsterdam.

The Edge is a contemporary new building located in an emerging business district close to Schipol Airport, the motorway and railway, yet a 15 minute drive to the centre of the city. It is home to 2,700 workers with desks allocated on arrival each day to accommodate approximately 50% reflecting changing work patterns.

a fusion of Data Analytics and great contemporary design

Conceived by the largest real estate technology company in Holland OVG it is an astonishing example of how to use natural light, the sun, the earth and other natural materials to power a building, provide a sustainable infrastructure while creating an innovative environment in which to work. A helicopter view of the roof would reveal little expensive equipment apart from solar panelling which is also built into the external facade.

The EdgeIt is the forerunner of many such buildings and OVG are not resting on their laurels. Erik and his colleagues have far reaching plans to change the way buildings and those who inhabit them work.

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The ‘smarts’ lie in the way data analytics sourced in part from the lighting and delivered by a smart app are used to stimulate a new way of working.  These were developed by the project team which Erik headed and which drew up countless simulations of working practices based on a set of personae.

The Knowledge Management component is interesting. Erik and Miriam (who heads Deloitte’s Dutch KM activity) were part of a Knowledge Council which also included Talent / People Management (HR), Facilities Management and various other practice groups.  The council’s input was valuable in determining how the building might be used,

Deloitte RobotThe building never sleeps: at night a robot patrols the ground floor obviating the need for on site security and maintenance.

 

Return on Investment

Innovation comes at a cost. Many of the components were more expensive but will deliver a payback. Already the company has seen:

  • Lower energy and service costs due to investment in climate ceilings and new sustainable technology (LoE)
  • Acquisition of new business (clients love the building and all it says about Deloitte)

I am sure there are many ‘hidden’ benefits around productivity, staff acquisition, engagement and retention which are not in the public domain but integral to making the building such a success.

and finally

If anyone is looking for a great example of the idea of ‘Orchestrated Serendipity’ The Edge is the building to go see. Don’t just take my word for it, take a look at great (shortish) videos shot by Bloomberg and CNN Tech and an excellent piece by the BBC’s Technology Team.

A huge thanks then to Miriam, Erik and Andrea Stevenson who heads Deloitte’s Global Outreach KM team and who connected me to Miriam.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Boardroom

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.

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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.

‘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

/http//johnstepper.com/2014/02/01/creating-places-we-care-about/

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.