What's your "productivity style"?

Carson Tate thinks that there are 4 Types of Productivity Style:

The Prioritizer – A Prioritizer is that guy or gal who will always defer to logical, analytical, fact-based, critical, and realistic thinking…

The Planner – The Planner is the team member who thrives on organized, sequential, planned, and detailed thinking…

The Arranger – An Arranger prefers supportive, expressive, and emotional thinking…

The Visualizer – A Visualizer prefers holistic, intuitive, integrating, and synthesizing thinking…

For each of these styles Tate gives a more detail explanation including a definition of their contribution to a team and set of tools that support their productivity style. A Prioritizer might like 42Goals or Wunderlist whereas a Visualizer might like Lifetick or iThoughts HD.

The main focus of Tate’s post, I think, is to highlight that different people are productive in different way, which is something I would wholly agree with. Four styles of productivity feels a bit too restrictive though. Personally, I think I can be all four of the above and sometimes all of them at the same time. I don’t think that I fit any of them as a primary style (perhaps those of you who know me a bit better can let me know which one they think I am?)

The thought that different productivity styles mean that people prefer different tools to support their style is logical, but demonstrates a problem for teams. Teams are best when they are made up of different personality (and productivity) types. Creating the appropriate tooling for a team is, therefore, a challenge. How do you coordinate when one person is using Wunderlist, another 42Goals and yet another Lifetick? I’ve seen many teams where they have tried to mandate a particular tool for collaboration, this has generally resulted in low levels of engagement with the tool. People prefer different things and if you want the best out of them then perhaps you should let them use those tools.

On a different topic, four seems to be a popular number of this kind of assessment and aligns quite closely with many of the personality type assessments. How many of you know your Myers-Briggs personality type, which is also a set of four characteristics? Do we use four because we like quadrants because that’s how we think?

Is my job going to be computerised? Another view: The 'Jobless Future' Is A Myth

I’ve written a few post now on the impact of computerisation and automation on the jobs market:

Both of these posts highlight the jobs that are likely to be replaced by computers and/or robots.

Steve Denning adds another viewpoint: The ‘Jobless Future’ Is A Myth.

This article is primarily a response to the book The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment (May 2015) by Martin Ford.

As you may have guessed Martin Ford’s view is that the robots will take over and that Steve Denning is taking issue with this viewpoint. I’ve not read the book so can’t comment on it, but I was intrigued by Steve’s viewpoint as a counter-point to the other articles the I have read.

Denning outlines what he regards as a number of flaws in Ford’s reasoning (extracts):

One flaw is the underlying assumption that whatever is feasible will occur…

A second flaw in the reasoning is the implicit assumption that computers with miraculous performance capabilities can be developed, built, marketed, sold, operated and replicated at practically zero cost and that they will have zero secondary employment effects…

A third flaw is the failure to consider how the marketplace will react to the computer as a new market entrant…

A fourth flaw in the reasoning is to assume that when machines replace human capabilities, as they have been doing for thousands of years, nothing else changes…

As a technologist myself it’s great to hear a viewpoint from someone who isn’t. Denning’s perspective is that many of the symptoms that are being assigned to computerisation are also effects that would result from other challenges in the employment marketplace.  He list seven different issues including shareholder value theory on which he has written extensively.

Denning concludes like this:

We need to stop agonizing about an apocryphal vision of a “jobless future” and to focus on the pressing real issues that we can actually fix.

There have been many technologists commenting recently:

My gut feeling is that we are going through a significant shift in employment and what it means to be in a job, but I’ve never felt comfortable with a dystopian view that the machines are going to completely take over. History and experience tells me that we humans will muddle our way through and use our incredible adaptability to find something else to do.

Standing Target: Four Hours a Day! How am I doing?

The Guardian:

Office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work – building up to an ideal four hours – in order to avoid the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, according to a study co-commissioned by Public Health England.

The Telegraph:

Office workers should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day during working hours, according to the first official health guidelines.

The guidance, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, warns that UK sedentary behaviour now accounts for 60 per cent of people’s waking hours and for 70 per cent of those at high risk of a long term condition.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine:

The derived guidance is as follows: for those occupations which are predominantly desk based, workers should aim to initially progress towards accumulating 2 h/day of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of 4 h/day (prorated to part-time hours). To achieve this, seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work, the use of sit–stand desks, or the taking of short active standing breaks.

I’ve written before about sitting killing us, so was interested to hear that an official organisation like Public Health England are undertaking research into how long we should be standing to be healthy and starting to form guidelines.

The key points are that we should be starting from a base of 2 hours of standing a day, during the working day, building to 4 hours a day.

It’s worth clarifying that the studies weren’t just about standing, they were looking into “getting workers to stand and/or move more frequently”. It’s not just about going from sitting still to standing still; the point is to become more active generally.

I don’t, personally, have any great metrics on how much I stand, or sit, or move around during the working day. I can make some good approximations though.

My iPhone runs Moves which tracks my activities when I move with the phone. So I know how much time I spend walking, with my iPhone, but that’s not very accurate at work because I tend to leave my iPhone on my desk when I do all of those small movements in the day – get a drink, go to the loo, etc. Assuming that those activities account for less than 30 mins a day I’m still left with about three and a half hours of standing or movement left to do. With that in mind I went back through my activity log in Moves and realised that I have a long way to go – the amount of movement recorded during the working day is tiny. An example of a week’s movement during the working day: Monday – 11 mins; Tuesday – 12 mins; Wednesday – 39 mins (I went for a walk at lunchtime); Thursday – 4 mins; Friday – 10 mins. Oh dear.

I sometimes stand next to my desk while on a call, but it’s not three hours a day!

Most mornings I go for a 40 minute walk before going to work. I could cheat a bit and include that in my target. Then I would be down to needing an extra three hours and a few minutes of standing or moving to get to a total of four hours.

However you look at it, I have a lot of work to do to get close to the two hours, so building to four hours is going to take some effort.

Apart from getting my employer to invest in a stand-sit desk do you have any great activity ideas for me?

One thing I had thought of was taking more calls on my mobile and then walking.

"The Rise of Dynamic Teams" – Alan Lepofsky and Bryan Goode

Continuing my review of some of the sessions from Microsoft Ignite 2015 the title The Rise of Dynamic Teams caught my attention.

When I saw that the presenters were Alan Lepofsky and Bryan Goode it was definitely going to be one to watch.

This session has an overarching question raised by Alan:

Could you be more effective at work?

Well of course I can.

All I had to do is to think back to the last time I was frustrated at work and there clearly presented was an opportunity to be more effective.

Promised Productivity

Alan also highlight that we’ve been promised improved productivity for decades now, but in his opinion not really been delivered it.

My personal opinion is that we have improved our productivity, but mostly by doing the same things quicker, rather than working in different way. A good example of this is email where we send far more messages far quicker, but definitely less effectively.

Framing the problem

Many of us can recognise the issue of information overload. We use many different systems and are fed information all the time.

Alan frames a different problem which I also recognise – input overload. This is the problem we experience when we think about creating something and can’t decided what it is we are creating or where we are putting it – Which tool should I use? Where did I post it?

The point is that we now have a multitude of choices of tools so we don’t necessarily need more tools, but we do need to tools to be simpler and to collaborate together.

Best of Breed v Integrated Suites

Alan reflects on two distinct approaches to collaborative tooling – one which focusses on the best of breed capabilities and one which takes a suite of collaborative capabilities.

These are illustrated below:

Best of Breed Collaboration Tools

Suites Collaboration Tools

The key to the suites approach is the content of the centre combined with the ability to integrate third-party capability and have data portability.

I’m not sure I would put everything in the centre that Alan does but I wholly agree with the principal. One of the significant challenges with a suite approach is that by choosing a suite you risk creating a lock-in situation. This lock-in isn’t necessarily one of data lock-in, what’s more likely is capability lock-in.

Intelligent Collaboration

Alan explains what he means by Intelligent Collaboration:

“This is poised to be the coolest shift we’ve had in collaboration tools we’ve had in 20 years”

“The ability for us to start doing really cool things based on intelligence is really going to dramatically change the way we work”

In the Microsoft approach this intelligence will initially be focussed on the individual, but will then extend to teams and organisations.

The systems that we have today have a very limited view of context and what view they do have they tend not to use with any intelligence. Take the simple example of email build-up during a holiday period. You can set up an out-of-office response, but wouldn’t it be great if something more intelligent happened.

If we take that simple example and add onto it all of the sensors that will soon be reporting on our well-being and location. You can then imagine getting a response from your bosses intelligent assistant asking you to attend a meeting on her behalf because her flight back from holiday has been placed into quarantine due to an outbreak of a virus for which she is show the initial symptoms.

Adding to the context will enable many more intelligent interaction.

Imagine a digital assistant system that made decisions based on – location, time, time-zone, emotional state, physical state and many more.

The Rise of the Dynamic Team

This is the point in the session where Bryan Goode adds the Microsoft perspective. He does this by focussing on:

Modern Collaboration

The perspective defined by Bryan is that teams will continue to utilise many different tools and will be increasingly mobile.

Microsoft are also investing heavily in meeting experiences, something that is in desperate need of improvement for all of us.

Intelligent Fabric

In order to enable modern collaboration Bryan talks through the Microsoft view of the need for an Intelligent Fabric.

Two examples of this fabric being built are Office 365 Groups and Office Graph.

Office 365 Groups provide a unified capability across the Office 365 tools for the creation of teams. A group created in one of the Office 365 tools will be visible in all of the other tools – Sites, OneDrive, Yammer, Exchange. Doing this makes a group a fabric entity rather than being locked into any particular tool.

Office Graph brings together all of the signalling information from the Office 365 tools and any other integrated tools. It’s role is to bring together the meta-data from different interactions and activities.

Personalised Insight

An Intelligent Fabric is one thing, but creating value from it is the important part.

In the presentation Bryan demonstrates Office Delve which utilises the signalling from Office Graph to create personal insights.

The personal insights currently focus on the individual, but they are being extended to provide insights for groups and organisations.

“Teamwork is becoming a first-class entity across our products”

Bryan Goode

I’m not going to explain the demonstrations other than to say that they are worth watching, as is the rest of the presentation.

Conclusions

Productivity and collaboration are going to be a defining features of future organisations as can be seen from the posts that I wrote on the Productive Workplace.

Microsoft is in a position to generate a lot of innovation and disruption by building on top of the Office 365 ecosystem. Groups, Graph and Delve are just the start of that. Having released themselves from the shackles of delivery by Enterprise IT organisation they can potential move at a pace that places them ahead of the pack.

More…

The presentation and video for this session is here.

The video is also embedded below:

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Ignite/2015/BRK1106/player

Millennial are just like everyone else! No surprises there then.

Millennials (also known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates when the generation starts and ends. Researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

Wikipedia

Millennials are everywhere, both literally and figuratively:

They get characterised in all sorts of ways; the Pew Research Institute allows you to take a survey to assess How Millennial Are You? This survey includes the following questions:

  • Do you have a tattoo?
  • Do you have a piercing in a place other than an earlobe?

(I’m not very Millennial, but that’s not surprising as I was born in the 60’s which are nowhere near the 80’s and I’m lacking any bodily adornment)

Time Magazine characterised them as the Me Me Me Generation.

Recently IBM undertook some research to see whether all of the characterisations were true. You can perhaps imagine some of the findings by the title Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths – The real story behind Millenials in the workplace:

In a multigenerational, global study of employees from organizations large and small we compared the preferences and behavioral patterns of Millennials with those of Gen X and Baby Boomers. We discovered that Millennials want many of the same things their older colleagues do. While there are some distinctions among the generations, Millennials’ attitudes are not poles apart from other employees’.

Our research debunks five common myths about Millennials and exposes three “uncomfortable truths” that apply to employees of all ages. Learn how a multigenerational workforce can thrive in today’s volatile work environment.

(Emphasis mine)

What were the myths:

  • Myth 1: Millennials’ career goals and expectations are different from those of older generations.
  • Myth 2: Millennials want constant acclaim and think everyone on the team should get a trophy.
  • Myth 3: Millennials are digital addicts who want to do – and share – everything online, without regard for personal or professional boundaries.
  • Myth 4: Millennials, unlike their older colleagues, can’t make a decision without first inviting everyone to weigh in.
  • Myth 5: Millennials are more likely to jump ship if a job doesn’t fulfill their passions.

Remember, they are called myths because they aren’t true. In the main the research discovered that the Millennial generation is just like the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations in all of these traits. There are some situations where it’s the other generations that are different – “Gen X employees use their personal social media accounts for work purposes more frequently that other employees” – but there are no polar differences between the generations.

So why is so much being written about the differences that the Millenials will bring, some of it is also research based, but I’m sure that there is a good deal of confirmation bias to it also (but perhaps I like the IBM research because it confirms my bias).

Video: Three Walls by Aeon Video

A really interesting video from Aeon with the wonderful subtitle:

Is the office cubicle actually designed to crush your soul? The strange history and significance of a much-loathed space.

‘We drive to work in a box, we work in a box, we go home and watch a box and, before we know it, they bury us in a box.’

Lot of us have worked in them, but how many of us knew that they weren’t supposed to be what they have become:

Three WallsI’m writing this post from my deck which is not in a  full height cubicle, but is in a set of low height partitioned desks. The featured image at the top is from a weekend walk in the mountains of the Lake District.

 

Struggling to think creatively? Try going for a walk outdoors!

I spent much of this year on this blog looking at how we create productive workplaces. One of the articles talked about a holiday cottage company taking its work outside for the day and walking meetings with a colleague. While the event described in the article was primarily, I’m sure, a publicity event, there’s a lot to be said for the idea of getting outside to work.

A recent study has looked into the correlation of creativity and walking outside and this is what they concluded (read the bits in bold for the summary conclusion):

Four experiments demonstrate that walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after. In Experiment 1, while seated and then when walking on a treadmill, adults completed Guilford’s alternate uses (GAU) test of creative divergent thinking and the compound remote associates (CRA) test of convergent thinking. Walking increased 81% of participants’ creativity on the GAU, but only increased 23% of participants’ scores for the CRA. In Experiment 2, participants completed the GAU when seated and then walking, when walking and then seated, or when seated twice. Again, walking led to higher GAU scores. Moreover, when seated after walking, participants exhibited a residual creative boost. Experiment 3 generalized the prior effects to outdoor walking. Experiment 4 tested the effect of walking on creative analogy generation. Participants sat inside, walked on a treadmill inside, walked outside, or were rolled outside in a wheelchair. Walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies. The effects of outdoor stimulation and walking were separable. Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity

In other words, there’s creative value in walking, there’s extra creative value in walking outdoors. This conclusion isn’t particularly novel, or new, to many it would seem to be axiomatic – “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” said Friedrich Nietzsche back in 1889. That being said. it’s good to see more study based evidence added to our understanding.

It’s another situation where “there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does”. There is a strong correlation in organisations between sitting at a desk in an office and working, hence, if you are not sat at your desk you’re not working. What organisations should be doing is encouraging people to get away from their desks and go walking outside. If an outdoor walk isn’t possible they should be providing treadmills because there’s still value in that. That’s assuming that organisation want their people to think creatively?

And while we are at it, you might like to know that all of that sitting is probably causing you psychological distress too.