Just because you have a strongly held opinion on an issue or even a doctorate on a subject, or just have a corporate marketing policy or company loyalty, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of objectivity. If an idea, product or service cannot properly take its stand in the marketplace of ideas without collapsing, if it cannot survive without constantly being guarded from outside attacks, then it is arguably not worth much in the first place. Surely good ideas or products have wider purchase because they work, and work very well.
In any group with a common interest, such as the workplace design and occupier community, there is always the danger that those who think alike gravitate together into a clique, where they will henceforth encounter opposition only in the emasculated and limited form of trade conferences, branded seminars, ‘broadcast-only’ blogging and bland corporate tweets from faceless logo avatars. The outcome is that the absent are easily refuted, complacent industry dogmatism thrives, and differences of opinion are often embittered and further entrenched by group dynamics and hostility. Each interest group, whether formal or informal hears only the worst that the other groups can say. Information exchange is based upon filtering noisy output from the other, whilst perched precariously on your own flimsy soapbox.
Outside of commercial interests, we should engage more often, approach each other and say hello, I think I have a different opinion from you, could we share some thoughts and find common ground. I think we could all have something to gain from the experience. We surely want to bring the best from all sides together in the workplace forum in order that we all benefit, and move the big picture agenda forward to the next subject. The agenda itself remains to be written, never mind agreed of course.
Economies and livelihoods depend upon our collective recognition that we have evolved since the industrial revolution to become increasingly interdependent, not only with nature and the environment, but with each other in business and in a wider social context. The lofty ideal of a single symbiotic system, where all connected will benefit, is still a hippy dream, but it’s a good one, and sooner or later I suspect it will happen.
In the meantime, I would contend that those businesses, organizations and individuals that do not debate or engage with their detractors, customers and employees will fail. Individuals, organizations and their markets are more interdependent now than at any time in human history. It defies logic that anyone in this digital age does not take advantage of social media and the web to engage as much as possible, rather than merely broadcast their narrow self interest agenda. It’s an old school mindset in a new more complex game. A vivid analogy might be that of the folly of a majestic cavalry charge in the new mechanized conflict of World War I. We all have access to new communication technologies now, and our ability to capitalize on them is restricted only by our imagination, and arguably our social skills and desire to engage.
Given the pace of change in this declining global economy, unprepared businesses will evaporate almost overnight. If your hoping everything will be OK in a year or two, and things will just pick up, they won’t. The global economy has changed forever; there is no going back. We can’t undo the banking crisis, the housing collapse, the Eurozone debts or the death of the high street, with the rise of the online marketplace and social media. It is doubtless already too late for some. On an almost weekly basis now we are seeing big traditional businesses calling in the receivers and declaring bankruptcy, or selling themselves cheaply to keep a few core jobs. Although an over simplification, the overheads of the old economy are too high, and better-designed higher quality products are increasingly available within hours from anywhere in the global marketplace. The same applies to news, entertainment, and other information services. I think we’re seeing the tip of a huge iceberg, and the ‘Titanic’ mindset of some is still piloting full steam ahead slicing through cold clear blue water, hoping all is well.
The insular dynamic in many businesses is also tragically due to the short-term profit motive of those on the board, and other shareholders who benefit from annual dividends and bonuses, at the expense of the sustainability of the business. Problems are also due in part to the rare but often-powerful moronic luddites who still think it’s funny to say ‘I refuse to use a computer’, and worse that ‘Social Networking’ is just for kids and the marketing department. In reality these people are not making any positive change to their business at all or addressing how their organization grapples with new concepts, idea generation, communication and more dynamic ways of tapping into the intellectual wealth of their people, and their customers.
A conversation on the mechanics and processes employed in any business, that may lead to material change and reconfiguration is understandably a concern for any executive, but if you don’t engage with your people to make your changes now by choice, you will be forced to emulate the market leaders, and pay lip service when arguably it will be too late anyway. The choice and responsibility is yours.
Whatever your business, this particular ‘Workplace Consultant’ and ‘Blogger’ would like to say ‘Social Media’ and the ongoing ‘Workplace Design’ debate is more than the sum of it’s parts. When you understand how it can connect ideas and people it will evolve your business model, and open up a world of (Profitable) possibilities.
‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ courtesy of The Beatles…