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Posts Tagged “IBM”

Quartz, the cutting-edge NY digital news outlet, caught my eye last week (March 21, 2017) with this headline: “IBM, Remote Work Pioneer, Is Calling Thousands of Employees back to the office.”

This is a big change in direction for Big Blue. As recently as 2009, IBM had 40% of its hirelings working from home.

In fact, a number of companies have quietly begun shifting their home-based associates back to their corporate offices. This trend began to emerge publicly with Marissa Mayer’s startling decision to end Yahoo’s remote work policy back in 2013. Facebook now offers a $10,000 bonus to employees who live close to their office, and many other companies, like Best Buy and Reddit, no longer allow work from home. By September of this year IBM’s over 5,500 marketing people will have to work from physical offices in one of seven central locations: San Francisco, New York, Austin, Armonk, Boston, Atlanta, or Raleigh. Remote work will no longer be an option. (IBM already applies this policy to departments like security, procurement, most of IT, Watson, Watson Health, cloud development, and artificial intelligence.) Companies increasingly feel collaboration, creativity, and community are better fostered in a central office.

As an early successful adopter of the virtual office model with my first entrepreneurial firm, Corporate Rain, in the 1990s, I have always thought “What’s not to like?” After all, you save on office rent, office expenses, and commuting. And research indicates that remote workers are more productive and put in more hours than their office-based kindred. Also, for many people, it has been a partial solution to the work-life balance problem. According to the Gallop Poll, 25% of all American workers are presently laboring remotely.

That said, however, I am increasingly coming to a sense that for many companies, particularly large ones but also some of the small ones, there is a compelling rationale to centrally co-locate their office communities again.

For example, Best Buy reported that productivity had an average increase of 35% in departments that shifted to employees working whenever and wherever they wanted. However, there is a different set of benefits that ensue from central offices–and most of these benefits center around creativity and innovation.

Note John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, a specialist in HR strategy–again quoting from Quartz. Sullivan says, “It turns out the value of innovation is so strong it trumps any productivity gain….[Remote work] was a great strategy for the 90s but not for 2015.”

Certainly established companies are searching for how to solve the conundrum of creativity and how to come up with the next transformational eureka out of their behemothic institutions.

They long to infuse entrepreneurial passion and disruptive imagination into their titanic old-line firms. Their hidebound strategies aren’t working, therefore renewed office centralization is increasingly favored as a tool to help create a more generative, communal, cohesive business ambience–hopefully one more like the entrepreneurial laboratory.

Jeff Smith, IBM’s CIO, advocates agile management based around “squads”. He says “…leaders have to be with the squads and the squads have to be in a location.”

There increasingly is a valuation of what many call “the watercooler effect.” (Steve Jobs certainly appreciated the value of how chance meetings and accidental conversations can lead to disruptive ideas.) Note a recent study by Kevin Rickman of George Mason University and Michael Pratt of Boston College, who found that increased offsite work can have very negative effects on the office environment. Mason and Pratt state: “If the office is going to become a collection of employees not working together, it essentially becomes no different than a coffee shop (though perhaps with better internet and worse coffee.).” That may be a bit overstated, but perhaps reflective of the most au courant new HR thinking.

When asked what percentage of Google’s workers telecommute, Patric Pichette, then CFO said, “Our answer is: As few as possible.”

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home-slide-1I smiled when I received the Twitter link How technology is increasingly isolating us from each other and stifling creativity to @TimothyAskew’s article on tech zombification because it brought a number of people together who subsequently sparked off his idea, in part contradicting it.

Let me explain.

A week after this Twitter exchange I furthered the conversation with one of the Twitter participants futurist Chris Riddell over coffee. How did I know Chris?

Well, many moons ago when I was speaking at CeBIT I tweeted for an iPhone charger and a guy called Justin reached out.

MC for the event that year Justin Davies is also CEO of start up company @Prezentt and the next time I was in Perth (on the other side of Australia from where I live) we had lunch. I sent people his way and vice versa and we continued the digital discussion over many years.

Earlier this year when Justin was in Melbourne to collect an award for that same start up we had a red wine over all things digital when he said Chris was a guy I should meet – in a click, we were connected. With a strong, shared interest in the impact of digital on future trends and social innovation, we have since started collaborating.

Why the detail?

Because it reinforces how virtual and real existence converge. How social media networks generate mutually beneficial relationships that operate off and online. That’s how things work now.

This is not to suggest that technology is a panacea or that the value of face-to-face connection has diminished.

There’s dark and light to any technology (fire, hammers), but notwithstanding this, the capacity to encourage innovation and collaboration is huge. One world is an extension of the other rather than a separate realm.

Like Tim I am fascinated by the impact of technology on human behavior and believe we have yet to fully understand its impact.

And I confess too that I have seen and been one of those buried knee deep in smartphone and stumbling from place to place, staccato style, because biologically my brain can’t handle the whole shebang in real time.

Yes, I confess, I am distracted.

That aside I believe online is potentially one of the most powerfully connecting, creative experiences that challenges notions of where that self begins and ends.

Here are some of my experiences.

  1. Being online makes me think.

When I am online, I start to think.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think offline or appreciate the value of reflection.

I also know when I need to hunker down to read research and pull together a thoughtful piece of writing I’ve got to concentrate, question myself, think hard. It takes energy.

But when I discover something on the web I react instantly – look it up, consider its opposite, click on some or other hyperlink that provides more insight and information or even a new direction and of course, share it. And there are always plenty of people who hop in and influence my views.

Online I learn as I search. I learn as I engage. People teach me.

I may be deep down some rabbit hole when a stranger I’ve never heard of or met suggests something I’ve never thought about and bang, I’m off exploring a new path.

I may know them for that minute or find myself on the tube line to meet them in London a year down the track. It doesn’t matter. Even if the interaction doesn’t change my view, it makes me reconsider what I think more consciously.

Connection. Creation.

It’s not without costs. It is possible that I am outsourcing my short-term memory to Google, but given the limited capacity of my brain I wonder if it frees up space to think better? I don’t know.

It is possible that my attention span is diminishing. It is. As to how this impacts the quality of my thinking, how do I work that out?

  1. Being online connects me offline & online.

Online facilitates connection online but leads to deeper and richer offline connection.

I recently spent time in San Francisco and London to promote my book The Social Executive – how to master social media and why it’s good for business and caught up with people I had formed virtual relationships with over the past few years as well as newer ones.

This history meant that when we met for the first time in the flesh, we were not at zero. The pre-established sense of mutuality made face-to-face contact more meaningful.

Although virtual and real life connection are equally important in their own way and on a continuum they are not the same.

Eating a Gorgonzola burger with A World Gone Social authors Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt and Social Business Manager for IBM Jim Clausen or catching the ferry to Tiburon to hang out with author Kare Anderson and mental toughness coach LaRae Quy gave incredible dimension – but Twitter facilitated that opportunity in the first place.

  1. Being online makes me part of a global brain

I often say that no matter how smart any one of us is we are never as smart as the lot of us. While that goes for behaving stupidly too, the information available to us at a click is astounding.

Right now I can go online and learn Greek, Math, how to program a computer from prestigious universities anywhere in the world and for free. When in history have we been able to do this?

I think of Twitter, for example, as a global brain because it’s a vast network of links and people that take you form A to Z in an instant.

Such global connectivity is a form of abundance.

Tim’s generous invitation to respond to his article falls into this space. It’s less about what’s ‘right’ than inviting views that contribute to our collective knowledge on how we handle what’s coming up.

I believe Tim highlights important issues around distraction, which is necessary but can also be counterproductive to human life. Some distraction can elevate mood and counter-intuitively, assist decision-making.

But issues of distraction and addiction aren’t new.

“The world is too much with us late and soon, getting and spending we lay waste our hours, little we see in nature that is ours,” Wordsworth wrote in the 18th Century.

It does not make our current predicament less important but we need to remember that before there was a web to surf people killed time in other ways. Gossip, for example, has been with us from the start.

There are significant emerging issues resulting from technology –

  • Sometimes we assume if we can’t find information online it doesn’t exist. Unless we’re dedicated scholars, the hunt stops here.
  • Search is not yet sophisticated enough to discern quality from poor information and algorithms can be gamed. Sites like Google Scholar and Scopus can help and for those with an academic bent try these suggestions on Quora.
  • Screens command attention in ways earlier addictions appeared not to do. Whether or not this turns out to be true, we shall see. Will it be good, bad or indifferent? Who knows?
  • Are our brains being rewired Carr asked? Is this bad or just adaptive?

We simply don’t have the answers. We probably don’t even have the right questions.

There’s a wonderful collection of essays on Is the Internet changing the way you think on Edge.org that is well worth a read for anyone who is interesting in this issue.

The influence of technology, good and bad, is part of who we are right now. The self isn’t fixed, it’s constantly made and remade. Information we can’t access influences our behavior and technology is a big part of that.

Even when I’m walking with my smartphone off or taking offline downtime, which I regularly factor into my life, I am still connecting with people I’ve met through and outside of social networks, discussing ideas I’ve encountered online and thinking about the sorts of issues that Tim raises and we are discussing here.  Or sometimes, I’m just distracted.

Dionne Kasian-Lew is CEO of Social Executive®, professional speaker and author of The Social Executive – how to master social media and why it’s good for business. Dionne contributes to Forbes, Smart Company, Salesforce, Firebrand and Uncluttered White Spaces. Kred rates her top 1% for global community influence. Connect with her @dionnelew. Connect with her at The Social Executive or BeYourWholeSelf or on Twitter @dionnelew.

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185180626_640Business gurus ain’t my thing.  The very mention of insta-presto, silver bullet salvation peddlers sends me into paroxysms  of eye-rolling cynicism.  Charismatic business wise men and women may indeed be wise, but the results of their tutelage has always seemed ephemeral to me.  While I do believe there is much to be gleaned from such folk (gurus), and I have picked up useful things here and there over the years, I have not experienced or observed real life-changing, long-term transformation.

Well hush my mouth.  I do believe I have found a program that is overthrowing my years of looking askance at such stuff.  That program is Tracy Goss’ Executive Reinvention Program.

I recently spent two weeks studying under Goss and her colleague Ed Gurowitz along with 20 other corporate executives and business owners.  Goss is very well-known and respected for her 20 years of leading what she calls the Executive Re-invention Program (ERP) for the leadership of such companies as IBM, Chase, Paramount Pictures, Owens-Corning, Monsanto, Ciba-Geigy, and many others.  Her philosophy is limned in her best selling book The Last Word On Power (Doubleday, 1996).

Let me see if I can simply give you a sense of Goss’ work without being totally superficial.

For me, her key concept in the executive reinvention process concerns defeating what she calls your “winning strategy.”  To wildly oversimplify her thesis, her core insight is that what makes you a successful entrepreneur or corporate leader—your winning strategy–is exactly what will prevent you from growing into your full realization and greatness.  In other words, to move into your true center and power you must jettison the very successful strategies and qualities that you are admired for, that have seemingly been the bedrock of your success.  To become a fully realized transformational business leader requires you to step into an abyss as a new thinker and a person free of commitment to ingrained and successful qualities.

9780385474924_p0_v2_s260x420In the first page of her book Goss puts it this way:

The power that brought you to your current position of prominence and responsibility as a leader–the power that is the source of your success in the past–is now preventing you from making the impossible happen in your life and in your work….The pathway to new power is to completely and intentionally “re-invent” yourself:  to put at risk the success you’ve become for the power of making the impossible happen.

This is scary stuff.  Goss asks her executives to radically change their way of being.  She notes that change is usually a function of altering what you are doing well—that is, doing it “better, different, or more.”  What she demands is that you change your whole manner of existence to create something that is not currently possible in your reality.  This she calls Transformation and is the stuff of dynamic leadership.

Goss’ message particularly resonates for me as a former addict of several sorts.  When I was a full-blown addict my addiction served a function.  That function was dulling existential pain and deep feelings of personal inadequacy.  Addiction worked as that for me.  It helped me survive.  Part of recovery for the addict is simply realizing that the addictive survival strategy no longer works at some point and is rather an encumbrance to a real life.

While most executives are not addicts, I absolutely believe the principle is the same for creative leadership.  While I have just begun to plumb its depths, Goss’ Executive Re-invention Program is simply a practical way to break through your “success” logjams into unimagined realms of potential achievement and centered meaning.

Her program is a knock out.  I highly recommend if if you are feeling in any way stuck as a leader or a human being.  It offers a unique and powerful structured methodology for seminal, long-term growth.  (One caveat:  Goss’ ERP is not for emotional sissies.  It is bloody exhausting and not inexpensive.)

In a large sense Tracy Goss’ work is about overcoming and defying your own success.   Here is what Victor Frankl says about success in  Man’s Search For Meaning.

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”

Thank you, Victor.

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