The Dot Loop, the simplest process possible

From those examples you can notice some interesting details:<br />
those are all loopsthey exist at very different levels, often one inside the other (think about a living being and its own cells).those can be all synthesized in three phasesevery loop is short in its contextHence, we can abstract it and call it the Dot Loop: do, observe, think. This loop exists everywhere you see something that works.

Source: here

The Attention Question in Social Business

The challenge is this: by simply increasing the efficiency through which people connect and collaborate, we may paradoxically consume even more of their attention because it is now easier for them to connect with people. This can lead to a depletion of their ability to do useful things with their new connections because they will be too busy monitoring, maintaining and developing their networks.

Source: here

Blue Sky Thinking (literally)

The space you’re in affects how you think. Kaisen acknowledges this by providing a way to deal with clutter. And some interesting research seems to show that the height of the room you’re in affects things too. [thanks to Gina for the link]

“When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly,” said Meyers-Levy. “They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics.”

I’ve got to get myself a Georgian house with a tiny attic.

12 questions for measuring Engagement

Over at scale|free, Anu is having a healthy reaction to fluffy bunnys, bloggy goodness and non-quant analysis.

“I think measurement is essential, otherwise all you’ve got is a warm fuzzy story that may actually be completely incorrect. It’s a little like the “New Economy” of the dot.com era, where profits didn’t matter as long as you had a good story to tell. Bzzzzzt. Didn’t work that time, and won’t work this time either.

The question really is what do you measure, and how do you measure it.”

Now, this may not seem relevant at first sight, but bear with me … Yesterday, I was having a chat with a colleague about warehouse staff and logistics, specifically for the retail industry, and the different styles different companies had. What I learnt was is this:

  • Those that invest heavily in technology don’t necessarily do particularly well in terms of efficiency
  • The best performer is extremely professional in its role allocations: regimented, tightly managed and OK technologically. It does, though, suffer from warehouse staff not turning up
  • The second best performer is less professional, but makes up the ground with an abnormally high employee turnup. It manages to do this by focusing on employee engagement

[Let me double check to see if I can say the names and then if yes I’ll fill them in]

Anyway, back to Anu’s point, one metric which is suitably quant but managed through non-quant means is employee engagement. From the above, there is a very basic productivity boost achievable simply by getting people engaged, and I see no reason why this shouldn’t apply to more typical knowledge worker environments.

And as to its measurability, take a look at an article by Steve Crabtree of Gallup. It’s called Getting Personal in the Workplace
Are negative relationships squelching productivity in your company?
. Gallup have developed 12 questions that help them assess employee’s levels of engagements.

# Do you know what is expected of you at work?
# Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
# At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
# In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
# Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
# Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
# At work, do your opinions seem to count?
# Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
# Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
# Do you have a best friend at work?
# In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
# In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

[For more on this, there is another Gallup article called “Feedback for Real” by John Thackray.]If you can make a definite link between engagement and productivity (which I think you probably can) and a definite link between whatever brand of bloggy goodness you’re trying to implement and engagement, then you may well be there in terms of, ahem, ROI.

Coping before e-mail

Last night at dinner, a merchant banker called John Stancliffe told me how companies he worked with used to cope with “overload” before there was email (in the 1960’s at least)

  • Letters/telegrams used to go in and out of the organisation every day. Lots of them.
  • Each morning a couple of women would precis the communiques
  • Those summaries would then be sent to the people in charge so that they could stay on top of things

For groups of a hundred – there or thereabouts – managers/directors could be on top of everything that their staff were doing and the decisions that were being made. Beyond that, three factors made the process unwieldy.

  • The summarizers’ jobs became more time-consuming (though this could obviously be alleviated by growing the precis team)
  • The summary document became too big
  • The directors didn’t know the people under them well enough to get the most out of the summaries

The Science of Flow

Fascinating article here.

[Update: thanks to Steve for pointing me to the new URL: http://dev.cast.org/castweb/udl/Research602.cfm]

Educationalists have known for a while that people engage most when there is an optimal level of challenge difficulty to a task. The challenge spectrum (from pathetically simple to makes you feel pathetic it’s so hard) is what Vygotsky called his “Zone of Proximal Development”. Where to position a task on the challenge spectrum, though – and so how to maximise the amount people engage is the hard part.
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Tea & the Four Elements

Thinking about coffee houses led me, naturally, to thinking about tea breaks. The Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford have done some work on tea breaks and builders (DIYers specifically). It might be stretching things(!), but I think you can draw some interesting conclusions about about the secrets of successful groupwork from it.

1)Tea is social glue:

“Tea is a means to professional inclusion”, “I feel as if I’m part of the workforce if I’m drinking tea with them.”, “It’s a bonding thing. Everyone drinks tea, no matter what you are. So it brings everyone together.”

Equally, there is no gender divide when it comes to making tea. Putting the kettle on depends more on levels of activity than sex, with men more than happy to make tea “if it keeps her busy.” (As an aside, tea seems to have been socially neutral since its arrival in Britain. In the seventeenth century, while coffee houseswere chiefly for men (e.g. Lloyd’s of Bank of England fame) , tea was introduced as a drink for both men and women, of all classes.)
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Excuse Me, Admiral

New research has shown that multi-tasking is counterproductive. [via Timeris via Jennifer]. Knowledge workers typically bang away at their word processors, answer phones, talk to colleagues all pretty much at once, but they may be wasting hours every day by trying to do too many things at once. So how are we meant to deal with information overload then? Dealing with one task at a time isn’t particularly flexible. Well, the flipside of multi-tasking is interruption, and thankfully someone in the United States Navy is taking interruptions seriously.
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Kirsh & Cognitive Overload

David Kirsh has A Few Thoughts on Cognitive Overload. The main ones for me were:
a) the distinction between information overload and cognitive overload, and
b) the broader context (overload is not something that just happens in your computer – phone calls, letters to sign, meeting arrangements all contribute).

His thoughts are very much worth a read if you have time.

Kirsh’s essay identifies cognitive overload as distinct from information overload, and then asks how our better understanding of it can be used to develop better work environments – again, not just software but environments as a whole. I’m not convinced he gets too far in the second, but it’s the framing of the question that he scores on.
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