MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

Worse is NOT better

This is a copy of the M-Shaped Strategy Weekly, now forming over here.

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Worse is better? This seems so arrogant and selfish. Clay Parker Jones seems to admire the concept that worse is better, saying, "a simpler system will be easier to implement. It won’t be perfect, but because it’s easier to implement, it’ll get implemented by more people. And all those people will shoulder the hard work of making it perfect." This is the concept that makes us all, without compensation, endure hassles and massive amounts of lost time, struggling to make use of a technology that some well-funded startup rolls out in some primitive form and expects us to perfect for them. What am I missing here?

Why Startups Should Steal Ideas and Hire Weirdos I am confused by this headline in an otherwise interesting article by Sandy Pentland in Wired about the importance of diverse opinions when shaping the idea flow that leads to innovation. "People act like idea-processing machines combining individual thinking and social learning from the experiences of others. Success depends greatly on the quality of exploration and that, in turn, relies on the diversity and independence of our information and idea sources. "

The office building of the future My own opinion is that we need to find another form, another typology for doing work, and should abandon the "office building" which seems so archaic these days. This article offers a view of a newer form for officing. "As envisioned by the design team, the OBF has the ability to continually evolve and accommodate humanity’s drive to innovate. What suits and serves its occupants in 2030 can be replaced by future tenants who have grasped the imaginings of 2030 and realized them as the novel and unanticipated technologies of the high-performance building of their time."

Case4Space: The Wake Up Call? the tip for the above referenced article came from the people at Case4Space. This is an organization seeking to move the measure of the office building from overhead to revenue. "My visualization of the office today is like an atom, with a massive number of particles flying around. The particles are issues, intangible concepts, news, threats, and opportunities. They are ideas, and these ideas fly through their space at very high speeds, occasionally crashing together; they iterate, change and bounce off each other, often in different directions. A few are captured, spur thought and innovation, and are leveraged to grow and sustain the company."

Is ‘cultural fit’ a cop out? In general, yes. Stowe Boyd is on a tear these days, offering a manifesto for change in the way that work is done, and therefore in the design of the places and spaces where work is done. His considerations are formed mostly in the social nature of work. "think we are starting to see the beginnings of a deeper work culture, one that transcends and replaces the shallow organizational culture of the previous, industrial era. In this new work culture, the individual fit within the organization culture is less of a consideration."

Measuring the economics of engaged workplaces There is a broadening discussion about the strategic value of the workplace and how it can be measured. This article offers 4 key performance indicators to consider, concluding that, "The physical work environment affects just about every part of an organization, from finances to work process to human capital. When the workplace enables work and deepens relationships, employees become more engaged and more productive."

What machines can't do David Brooks contemplates five key human skills that he believes will have increasing value and that cannot be replaced by machines – enthusiasm and exploratory drive, strategic discipline and extended time horizons, procedural architecture, loose organization management, and essentialism. "In the 1950s, the bureaucracy was the computer. People were organized into technocratic systems in order to perform routinized information processing. But now the computer is the computer. The role of the human is not to be dispassionate, depersonalized or neutral. It is precisely the emotive traits that are rewarded: the voracious lust for understanding, the enthusiasm for work, the ability to grasp the gist, the empathetic sensitivity to what will attract attention and linger in the mind. Unable to compete when it comes to calculation, the best workers will come with heart in hand."

Baxter and the second machine age Brooks' interest was keyed by another Brooks who is making cheap robots trained by people on shop floors to do inexact tasks for which their labor is valued. Brooks is celebrated in this article, a selection from the new book, The Second Machine Age.