Collaborative Tech: Must-Haves For Workplace Flexibility

Cubicles and 9-to-5 schedules are becoming relics of the past in today’s highly competitive labor market, where top talent demands a new paradigm.

The Capital One 2019 Work Environment Survey found that 61 percent of professionals expect their next employer to offer flexible hours, and 54 percent expect the ability to work remotely.

“Flexibility to work outside traditional business hours and the four walls of the office is no longer just a nice-to-have for today’s professionals–it’s an expectation,” says Stefanie Spurlin, vice president of workplace solutions at Capital One.

To meet those expectations, business leaders must make smart technology choices, especially in the area of collaboration. Employers must provide solutions that make it easy for employees to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the office and to collaborate with their coworkers while they are traveling or working remotely.

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSibTbzQ4YO2lFxmk1jBHkLJQH_ap7OJ0HuC9udcNbvP4a_rFZ9&sVideo meeting and conferencing solutions, real-time collaboration tools like chat services, and internal mobile apps are becoming the office products of the new workplace, as ubiquitous as fax machines in the pre-digital age.

“The goal is to find tools that build connectivity across geographies and locations, allowing teams and individuals to work as if they are sitting together,” Spurlin says.

While pursuing those objectives, business leaders must also keep in mind the type of work being done, especially the distinction between synchronous (people working at the same time) and asynchronous (people working at different times) work, says Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

“When you think about project-based work, there’s usually some combination of the two involved,” she says.

The Time Zone Challenge

Employees working in different time zones often have limited opportunity for real-time communications. This geographical divide drives a need for technology solutions that enable workers to clearly record what they’ve done and organize information so their coworkers can find it easily and pick up where they left off.

“Documents should allow threaded discussion in the text by enabling comments and allowing users to ask questions so colleagues can come in later, look at the document, and catch up easily,” Woolley says. Robust document storage and threaded conversations on chat platforms are also important.

Whether employees are separated by thousands of miles and multiple time zones or just a couple of floors in an office building, technology plays a critical role in helping them to maximize their job performance. When asked which technologies would improve job performance and success at work, 75 percent of respondents in the Capital One 2019 Work Environment Survey cited video meeting or conferencing capabilities and 74 percent mentioned real-time collaboration tools.

“Putting the proper technologies in place to help people connect just as easily with their colleagues when working remotely as if they were in the office together gives employees the freedom to work away from their desks without feeling like they are sacrificing interaction with their coworkers,” Spurlin says.

Helping Leaders Meet Management Challenges

Technology also helps business leaders meet the challenges of managing a multi-geography workforce. When employees are working in multiple locations, extra effort on the part of managers may be required to make sure those employees feel connected.

As Spurlin explains,“they should feel empowered to approach the manager digitally, perhaps via chat or a quick text, the same way an employee in the office may swing by a manager’s office to ask for a few minutes to check in.”

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Making video rather than phone calls–the default means of connecting for check-ins or status meetings with employees working in different locations–is one way business leaders can leverage technology in this effort. Doing so ensures that valuable face-to-face meeting time is regularly scheduled.

“People management is one of the things that is really changing as the workforce becomes more and more distributed, but technology enables managers to bridge any gaps and facilitate different management styles or needs,” Spurlin says.

Flexibility is an increasingly important consideration for today’s employees when evaluating job opportunities and comparing prospective employers. Eighty-one percent of respondents in the 2019 Capital One 2019 Work Environment Survey cite flexible schedules as one of their top two reasons to stay with a company.

“With that in mind, companies can gain an edge by putting technology solutions in place that will help to foster a collaborative work environment and better work-life integration for employees,” Spurlin says.

By: Capital OneView

Source: Collaborative Tech: Must-Haves For Workplace Flexibility

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The Driving Force of Free Markets Is Empathy, Not Greed

Both capitalists and anti-capitalists frequently accuse capitalism of being a system driven by selfishness and greed. Capitalism’s defenders sometimes say: “By nature, man is selfish, which is why socialism will never work. Capitalism better reflects the fundamental characteristics of human nature.” Anti-capitalists claim that capitalism promotes the worst characteristics in man, especially greed.

But are greed and unbridled selfishness really the driving forces of capitalism? Human self-interest is one—not the only—driving force of all human action. But this has nothing to do with a particular economic system. Rather, it is an anthropological constant. In capitalism, however, this self-interest is curbed by the fact that only the entrepreneur who prioritizes other people’s needs can be successful.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that empathy, rather than greed, is the true driving force of capitalism. Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand another person’s feelings and motives, and this is the most important characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.

Take Steve Jobs as an example. He came up with the iPhone and other products because he understood modern consumers’ needs and desires better than anyone else. Under capitalism, consumers can (and do) punish companies that behave selfishly and lose sight of the needs of their customers.

The same applies to Mark Zuckerberg, today one of the world’s richest people. He created Facebook because he knew better than other entrepreneurs what people wanted. Like all successful entrepreneurs, it was consumers who made Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg so rich.For many years, the Albrecht brothers were the richest people in Germany. They earned their fortunes from the food discounter Aldi, which was founded on the principle of offering good quality products at very reasonable prices. This was the same recipe for success followed by Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, who was consistently one of the richest people in the United States.

Consumers’ purchasing decisions confirm that Jobs, Zuckerberg, the Albrecht brothers, and Sam Walton had correctly understood their customers’ desires, needs, and emotions.

Of course, under the capitalist system, there are also examples of companies that have acted selfishly and lost sight of the wants and needs of consumers.

One example is Deutsche Bank, which has faced thousands of lawsuits. Such companies are punished under capitalism, not only by the law but far more so by the market. Deutsche Bank lost its position as one of the world’s leading banks because it put the interests of its investment bankers above those of its customers and shareholders.

Even companies that appear omnipotent today, such as Google or Facebook, will not retain their power forever.

A company’s most important asset is its image, and companies that behave like Deutsche Bank end up incurring massive damage to their images and reputations; their customers lose confidence and flock to their competitors.

In socialist systems, on the other hand, consumers are powerless and at the mercy of state-owned companies. If a state enterprise acts with no regard for the needs of consumers, they have no alternative under socialism because there is no competition.

Under capitalism, consumers can (and do) punish companies that behave selfishly and lose sight of the needs of their customers. Every day, customers vote on the company with their wallets—by buying its products or not.

Monopolies under capitalism are a temporary phenomenon. Even companies that appear omnipotent will eventually be ousted by new competitors as soon as they overreach their power and lose sight of their customers’ needs.

Ever since capitalism has existed, anti-capitalists have criticized the system’s inherent tendency to create monopolies. Lenin wrote over 100 years ago that imperialism and monopoly capitalism are the last stages of capitalism. But the monopolies he criticized at the time no longer exist. Even companies that appear omnipotent today, such as Google or Facebook, will not retain their power forever. Other companies and ambitious young entrepreneurs will seize the opportunity as soon as Google or Facebook starts to act too selfishly.

What is strange is that socialists who criticize capitalism for its tendency to form monopolies are in favor of state-owned companies. After all, the state is the most powerful monopolist of all, with the ability to brutally trample on the needs and wishes of its citizens through its means of coercion and because there are no alternatives for the customer.

The fact that people and companies pursue their own interests is the same in every society. This is not a specific feature of capitalism.

Under capitalism, though, only those entrepreneurs and companies who prioritize their customers’ interests rather than their own self-interest will achieve success in the long-term. Companies that fail to understand and respect what consumers want will lose market share and may even disappear entirely as they are driven out by other companies that better meet their customers’ needs.

Empathy, the ability to recognize the desires and needs of others, is the true basis of capitalism—not unbridled greed and selfishness.

Source: The Driving Force of Free Markets Is Empathy, Not Greed

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Workplace diversity creates a business better suited to meet its goals. Through Eudaimonia and acceptance of differences, empathy is a path to business success. Matthew Gonnering is the CEO of Widen, a marketing technology company founded in 1948. Blessed to work with highly intelligent, playful, self-starting Wideneers, Matthew has reshaped his role into “Chief Eudaimonia Officer.” His mission is to create happiness, health and prosperity for his colleagues, customers and community. Matthew joined Widen in 2000 and became CEO in 2009. His team solves marketing and creative problems with digital asset management (DAM) software. Under Matthew’s leadership, Widen has become a WorldBlu Freedom-Centered Workplace™ and a Madison Magazine Best Place to Work. His ongoing commitment to faith, family, education, and nonprofit work shape his desire to ground organizational culture in humanity. Matthew and his beautiful wife Sarah have five energetic children and reside in the Madison area. He lives a eudaimonious life and encourages others to do the same. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

How Empathy Can Help Your Company Get Ahead – Michael Ventura

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Michael Ventura is quick to dismiss the notion that empathy is some touchy-feely emotion that makes leaders seem soft. In business, he argues, empathy is what can help a company vanquish the competition, gain loyal customers, retain innovative employees and elevate itself from good to great. Ventura, founder and CEO of strategy and design studio Sub Rosa, has put the lessons he’s learned from working with major brands into a book titled, Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership. He recently joined the Knowledge@Wharton show on SiriusXM to discuss why this particular emotion is becoming paramount in the business world.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: When did you start to see empathy as an important element in leadership?

Michael Ventura: I think that it really was a slow burn for us. It wasn’t a thunderclap kind of moment. We went back and looked at about five years’ worth of work that we had developed and asked, what made all of this work well? Why was this work landing for our clients in such a way? When we dug into it deeply, we started to see it’s not about sitting in a room and shutting the door and getting high on your own supply. It was when we got out of the building, got into the minds of the people we were trying to reach and really took their perspective, really got into their shoes and saw the world from their standpoint. When we did that and brought that insight back, the work got exponentially better. We latched on to it at that point and started to make a practice and a methodology around it.

Knowledge@Wharton: In today’s corporate culture, how prevalent is empathy?

Ventura: I think it is getting more important, but the problem is that there are a lot of misconceptions about what it is. There are a lot of people who hear empathy and equate it to being nice or being compassionate. Those are often side effects of empathy, but that in and of itself is not empathy.

Empathy is a fairly objective, perspective-taking process where you are aware of your own bias, you try to step as far out of that as you can, and you try to see and understand from someone else’s point of view. When leaders inside organizations do that — and that doesn’t mean just the C-suite — they are able to connect better with their teams, connect better with their customers or their clients, and ultimately deliver more well-rounded solutions.

Knowledge@Wharton: In the book, you call empathy a “squishy word.” Why?

Ventura: I think that because of that misconception we were just talking about, a lot of people have their own version of empathy. One of the clients we worked with early on using this work was an enormous, mulitnational manufacturing operation. We sat down with a member of their C-suite and said, “We really think empathy is an important aspect of how we are going to make this work successful.” We were almost laughed out of the room. We had to say, “Hold on. Before you judge, let’s talk about what this really means.” Fifteen minutes later, the exec said, “This is exactly what we’ve been looking for. I just didn’t know that it was empathy.”

“Empathy makes things harder before it makes things easier because it requires patience and re-commitment.”

Knowledge@Wharton: Your company has worked with West Point (the United States Military Academy). What did you learn there?

Ventura: That’s a fascinating little digression. We got out into the world and started doing this work with corporate clients. We also ended up going to Princeton University, which had reached out to us and asked us to create a curriculum. We taught three semesters there using this framework, this applied empathy process. One day the phone rang, and it said West Point on the caller ID. I answered the phone, and they said, “We’ve been listening to your podcast; we’ve been hearing the work you’ve been doing, and we would love you to invite you up to talk with us.”

I thought that was going to be the toughest room I was ever going to be in. I thought that these were going to be the skeptics of the skeptics. I walked in and I started talking about what we do, and heads were nodding, people were leaning in and taking notes, and they were asking smart questions. In the end, I went over to one of the generals and said, “I stand corrected. I thought this was going to be a really tough room.” He said, “The misconception with us is that we are very closed-minded. But we are a leadership development academy, and we are dedicated to creating lifelong learners here. This is something we are voraciously consuming as a topic right now, so this is a good place to be.”

Knowledge@Wharton: You also talk about empathy being a driver for growth and for innovation.

Ventura: Like innovation, empathy makes things harder before it makes things easier because it requires patience and re-commitment. One of the things that we’ve seen a lot in organizations is that they are committed to innovation when it happens quickly. But when innovation takes more than two quarters to turn a profit, they start second guessing.

We’ve got to keep writing checks for this? We’ve got to keep doubling down on this? Much like empathy, innovation does need this double-down mentality where we’re going to keep going for it because it will pay dividends. It just may take a while to re-orient ourselves towards that mindset before it starts to tick the meter in the right direction.

Knowledge@Wharton: In your book, you write that there are different facets of empathy: the sage, the inquirer, the convener, the alchemist, the confidante, the seeker and the cultivator. Can you take us through a couple of those?

Ventura: We created these archetypes as a way to understand how to put yourself into different ways of being empathic and gathering information. Thinking about it [personally], the convener is one archetype that I naturally tend towards. The convener’s behavior is to host. They know how to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing, and in so doing they learn a lot about those folks. Think about a focus group, for instance. You create a focus group environment where people are comfortable and willing to share, and you are ultimately able to get more information out of them and understand them better.

The biggest shortcoming of an organization without empathy in its DNA is that it starts to become very myopic, it starts to become very ivory tower.”

The alchemist’s behavior is to experiment, to prototype, to fail fast. Not my natural DNA. One of our clients that we have worked with over the years is Google’s Creative Lab, which is designed as an alchemist’s shop. They tell you on the first day, “We don’t want PowerPoints; we don’t want presentations. We want you to come in and show us what you prototyped, how it broke, what you learned from it, and where we are going next.”

In working with them, I had to get myself into a mindset where I could be a little more inclined towards being an alchemist and a little less inclined towards being a convener. These archetypes have been designed to help us try on different perspectives and see where our strengths are, see where our weaknesses are. We believe people are all seven, just distributed unequally. Once you know your strengths and your weaknesses, you can adjust accordingly.

Knowledge@Wharton: Do startups tend to fall in that alchemist category?

Ventura: Yes, I think they do. There is a tendency with them to make sure what they are doing is innovating within a category. They are always trying to be the game-changer or the shifter of perspective. But what’s interesting with startups is they often have a culture of “design by committee” early on because it’s three or four co-founders. They all believe in the same thing and sit around a room, so there is this behavior of real perspective-taking from each other early on. But when those companies grow at scale and exponentially shift from five people to 50 people to 500 people over the span of maybe 12 months, that culture doesn’t change. They still try to perspective-take to that degree.

One of the things we have done in working with startups is have them begin to understand that too much bottom-up feedback is going to slow you down. Too much top-down dictatorial behavior is going to [cause you to] lose your original culture. So, where on that slider do we need to plug ourselves into for the best outcomes of the business?

Knowledge@Wharton: Are you saying there is a negative side to empathy?

Ventura: I think the biggest shortcoming of an organization without empathy in its DNA is that it starts to become very myopic, it starts to become very ivory tower. For a while, that might be OK.

One of the cases I talk about in the book is the growth and massive heyday of Polaroid. They were living in a world where instant film was all there would ever be. Innovation had been happening off to the side, and people were saying, “Hey, we should pay attention to this thing called digital.” But the film business was so gangbusters at that point that there wasn’t really as much of an [incentive] to pay attention to it. Lo and behold, that led to their demise.

“When you start to become aware of how to … train the empathy muscle, you start to discover how your biases have perhaps held you back as a leader.”

Knowledge@Wharton: Kodak as well, correct?

Ventura: Yeah, exactly. They invented the first personal computer but were too busy running lease deals on photocopiers to pay attention to it.

Knowledge@Wharton: One of the firms that you have worked with in the past is eyewear website Warby Parker. What role did empathy play in their operation?

Ventura: If you think about the pre-Warby Parker era, going to get glasses was tantamount to getting your teeth cleaned. It wasn’t a great experience for anybody. We got a call from Neil Blumenthal, who is one of their founders, while [he and the other founders] were in their final year at Wharton…. He said, “Hey we’re thinking about doing this thing that’s going to be very disruptive in the eyewear category, and we want to sit down and talk with you guys.”

Our work early on with them was really talking about how their brand would show up at retail because their notion was they would never do brick-and-mortar. One of the first things they said was, “While we think that this is the right road to [go down], we can’t get caught unprepared for brick-and-mortar should that time come.”

Some of the early work we did with them was thinking about how we would take a really efficient and seamless online experience and translate that to a physical, real-world environment without losing the magic of it. That really came down to empathy. It was about understanding the consumer’s lack of grit in that process and asking, what would make a physical experience the same as digital? Not waiting for someone to take the eyeglasses out of a glass case for you to try them on, to let you just walk in, grab them, put them on, look in a mirror and decide for yourself. Putting the agency in the hands of the consumer.

Knowledge@Wharton: It is incredibly important right now for a company to give the customer the best experience so that they can retain them. It’s all about the relationship, right?

“When you look at organizations that are really nailing it in terms of understanding their consumer, their stock price rises, their employee retention rises.”

Ventura: Exactly. But the tendency with a lot of organizations is to think about those in silos because that is the way they are typically organized inside of the organization. You will have a digital team who thinks about the digital experience, and you will have a retail team who thinks about the retail experience. But consumers don’t say, “I am going to now go be a digital consumer, and later on this afternoon when I leave the building I am going to be a physical, real-world consumer.” They are just a consumer.

We have these false walls that we build inside organizations because it serves hierarchy and it serves reporting structures and it serves growth plans and things like that. But it doesn’t serve integration, it doesn’t serve cross-pollination of ideas, it doesn’t serve the collaboration that is ultimately what makes something work.

Knowledge@Wharton: Is empathy is also a way for companies to look at themselves differently?

Ventura: Absolutely. We have seen that time and again with this work, even looking at our own team. When you start to become aware of how to perspective-take and how to train the empathy muscle, you start to discover how your biases have perhaps held you back as a leader. If you have a tendency to not ask deep questions because you don’t want to get pulled into deep conversations with people, if you kind of just want to make a decision and usher people into action, that is going to limit the level of depth you get to with some of your colleagues. As we work in different ways with these leaders, they come to find that learning how to do this with others helps them learn a lot about themselves.

My hope is that this is the evolution of human-centered design in our world. This is something where we have put the consumer first in some of the best companies in the world. When you look at organizations that are really nailing it in terms of understanding their consumer, their stock price rises, their employee retention rises. All of those key metrics that you want to see are on the rise.

However, we are living in a more eco-systemic world than ever before, where things rely upon each other in a way that is much more dynamic and much more entangled than it was even a decade ago. Our view is that as organizations start to adopt this mindset and this way of thinking, it is going to allow them to not just think about the end consumer or the problem just at hand, but maybe perhaps something slightly adjacent.

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