When Space Matters: The Opinions of Thought Leaders and Practitioners

600-when-space-matters-read-the-opinions-of-thought-leaders-and-practitioners‘…In Aberdeen, free lunches were stopped as part of a cost-cutting drive in the early 90’s. The result? Packed lunches. People stayed at their desks. All day. Had anyone offered to the business unit leader that for a mere £3 per day he could significantly raise the level of collaboration, networking and sharing, and also deliver a resulting increase in motivation and productivity… He would have bitten their hand off!'

This vividly illustrates how a seemingly small action can have a really negative effect. It is one of many insightful quotations in a revealing look (ahead of a major conference I was chairing) into how today's workspace can have a dramatic impact on performance.

The 10th anniversary Knowledge Management UK conference in London brought together more than a 100 practitioners and thought leaders in the field to discuss Social and KM.

If you are wondering what the difference is, here’s a really interesting and provocative quote from a recent Gartner blog post:

  • ‘Knowledge management is what the company tells me I need to know based on what they think is important.'
  • ‘Social media is how my peers show me what they think is important based on their experience in a way that I can judge for myself.'

Having been involved in two Social Business Events the previous weeks, I was well versed going into the KMUK event in many of the innovative social media techniques organisations such as Philips and MasterCard use to engage with consumers and create the long tail sales experience that is critical for success in the networked world we inhabit.

These were some of my Social Business ‘takeaways':

  • Social interaction accounts for 50% of the performance of the team/We are now consuming more content generated by each other than generated by media companies
  • Brands are a natural community of people identifying with each other, with a shared set of beliefs. Advocates are the ‘tribe' who need motivation/incentives. Employees are the most important and need empowering to do so
  • Social helps to drive savings where knowledge management comes in

While the Social Business sessions focused on virtual space, they appeared to overlook the need for face to face contact.

So it was comforting to discover, when I was conducting the workspace research with the speakers (a wide range of organisations represented including, Citi, ERM, Ernst & Young, Dep of Education, AstraZeneca, WHO), that workspace environment plays a significant role in collaboration, innovation and knowledge exchange.

Here's a couple more snippets from the report:

Q) In your experience, can you ever replace real workspace with virtual workspace?

A) ‘Replicate rather than replace… Just a few minutes ago, I finished a Webex session with the UN, which had me allocating 30 participants to breakout “rooms” that contained materials and videos. I was able to visit each room momentarily to check in on progress, spot people raising their hands, share back the outputs on a group whiteboard. I was able to see people “smiling”, “laughing” and get votes and prioritisation from a group representing 20 different countries, before conducting an open discussion with everyone. I would go as far as to say that it was even more productive than the equivalent physical workspace.'

A) ‘No in my experience you can't. I have access to a range of collaboration tools to facilitate virtual working, and you can deliver using them, but nothing beats getting folks together face to face to build relationships and to accelerate delivery. I would always advocate some face to face work for a team or group that need to work together over the longer term.'

So, as I argued in a previous article for this site, space matters, as does the idea of Orchestrated Serendipity. If you'd like to read the report – here it is: When space matters (for collaboration, innovation and knowledge exchange).

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