Coworking – Independence, Collaboration, Community…

7 04 2011

Photo by Luc Legay, Paris, France

In my last post about the recent Intersections 2011 conference I mentioned some of the emerging global issues in society and business that are creating a new tipping point in our world. In response, our society and our world of work is changing. As our workforce matures and Baby-Boomers and Generation X are replaced by Generation Y (the ‘Millennial Generation’) it is becoming apparent that the straight-line thinking style of the industrial era is losing relevance. We are moving into the age of networks, enabled by rapid growth in global communication technology, mobile computing, etc, and fostered by the team-based and collaborative attitudes of this generation. This trend will accelerate as Generation Z (the ‘Net Generation’) who have grown up as ‘Digital Natives’ and who value their independence fiercely, begin to move into employment.

Within this generational shift we have moved from the concept of ‘a job for life’ through ‘a career for life’ and into ‘portfolio careers’. The economic crisis has resulted in massive unemployment, particularly within our younger generations, and recent public sector job cuts will soon add to our jobless figures. Whilst the economy remains stagnant a key societal response seems to be a renewed focus on entrepreneurialism where individuals are creating jobs rather than finding jobs, and governments are supporting this with programmes that encourage new businesses – like Startup Britain.

Over the last few years this shift in our type of employment has been accompanied by a shift in where we work too. Home working has risen steadily, and there has been a dramatic rise in coffee shop culture and the availability of free public WiFi networks. As a result we now see many more independent people working away on laptop computers wherever we go. The public sector is now starting to encourage this way of working too, as a way of reducing office space and cutting costs. Adopters of this lifestyle are quick to point out the benefits that this new-found flexibility in working offers them, such as less travel. However, after a short honeymoon period, they often begin to realise there are down-sides too, such as loneliness and lack of support, and this is driving a new and rapidly growing trend of Coworking as a modern style of working based upon flexibility, low space costs, and shared values including independence, collaboration and community.

Deskmag – a blog about coworking – recently completed a global coworking survey examining this trend. Over 660 participants from coworking locations across 24 countries responded to a questionnaire about why they like coworking, where they cowork, what they like and dislike, etc. The full results of this survey are documented in a series of blog posts starting with this one: Deskmag – The Coworking Magazine – Why Coworkers like their Coworking Spaces

It seems that the number of Coworking locations has roughly doubled year on year – and by end of 2011 there are expected to be more than 1000 coworking locations across the world, so it seems to be a successful concept. I began working out of a coworking facility in Birmingham about 12 months ago. Moseley Exchange used to be a BT telephone exchange – but now its been converted into a modern open plan office where members can meet, work, learn and exchange ideas. Its a place where collaboration and innovation go hand in hand and where 50+ interesting people and businesses work from. The culture is one of being independently minded, but collaborative at heart. The centre is managed as a social enterprise designed to create jobs and wealth and help to regenerate the local economy – and in this respect it seems to be a big success story.

Moseley Exchange - A successful example of Coworking in Birmingham, UK.

There is a wide mixture of business types based here including Architects, Designers, Film/TV and Radio Producers, Marketing Consultants, Programmers, Trainers, Arts Companies, etc. The benefits are many and there is a lot of interaction going on, working together with clients, assisting each other with specialist advice, passing opportunities and leads to others, networking, and socialising. Its like being in a larger corporate office but without the constraints. There is now an ‘International Coworking Visa’ scheme that allows members in Birmingham free use of similar offices in London, Berlin, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Mumbai and in nearly 200 other global locations. There are growing links across this wider network, and over 100 people recently attended a coworking ‘unconference’ at SXSW in Austin, Texas, where discussions included how to develop the global network further for the benefit of all participants. Big corporations are starting to realise that coworking offers opportunities for them too, including greater creativity and innovation within their employees. So expect to see more coworking locations popping up near you, and I suggest you might like to try them out sometime. Every coworking location I know of is more than happy for guests to drop in.

Contact me if you would like to know more about coworking and how you can find one close to you or even set one up yourself!

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer, CULTIVAR Consulting


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Intersections 2011 – Creative Business Summit

22 03 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intersections 2011 was a recent two-day conference at the Eden Project that explored the current trends driving business change and new opportunities for design practice. Over 200 delegates heard 45 experts, mavericks, entrepreneurs and thought leaders speak about key issues that are challenging businesses, public sector, and 3rd sector organisations.

Opening the conference, Jeremy Myerson, Professor of Design at RCA and Chair of the conference, began by looking back at the last Intersections conference in 2007. This was a similar event – a major UK design conference held a long period after any similar Design based conference. In 2007 the key message from the conference had been that the world had reached a watershed moment – and that complex times require designers with a greater repertoire. The key elements of this new design skillset was suggested as: –

  • Designer as Business Strategist – leading change via Design Thinking to tackle big issues
  • Designer as Co-Creator – rethinking the process to include wider disciplines and users to create more/better ideas
  • Designer as Rationalist – providing hard, technical solutions – believing humans can solve the problems of the world
  • Designer as Storyteller – Creating narratives that instill a vision of the future

It struck me that in 2011 Design Thinking has moved from theory into wider practice in the last 4 years. We still have the guru’s acting in the evangelist role for this school of thinking e.g. Professor Roger Martin of Rotman School of Management; Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO; and the UK Design Council. The public sector really has embraced design thinking and co-creation with some very successful results (DOTT Cornwall being an excellent example). However, large private sector companies seem to be getting left behind, and UK management schools seem to be lagging their North American and European counterparts in teaching the subject to future business leaders. This surprised me because in this post-economic-crisis period, large corporates and western governments have been promoting creativity and innovation as the way to re-invent western economies, and the way to compete against global competition e.g World Economic Forum, Davos, 2010 and 2011.

For me, the conference was inspiring, and six key themes emerged that I think will influence Business and Design over the next couple of years: –

1. ‘The world is at a NEW tipping point’.

4 years on from the last Intersections conference, and post economic crash, various speakers mentioned similar trends, including: –

  • A shift towards social values – social revolution not technological revolution – the emergence of Purpose within organisations
  • Public rejection of Capitalism and “Greed is Good” mentality
  • Asset Stripping is unacceptable and unsustainable
  • Fault-Lines are running through the world – creating ‘Wicked Problems’ (NB: this comment was made between the recent Egyptian uprising and the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami)

2. ‘No Straight Lines’.

Speaker Alan Moore of SMLXL captured this best, but again several speakers mentioned similar points of interest, including: –

  • Literacy and shared language across design / management disciplines is a limiting factor
  • Disruptive Innovations are making bigger impacts and embracing The Space / TheSystem / The Subjects
  • Value of diversity – The roles of MBA / Doctor / Entrepreneur / Product Designer becoming intertwined in developing solutions
  • There is no separate online or offline – only blended reality
  • Industrial Model was straight line thinking – Networked Model is a labrynth

3. ‘The Age of Networks’.

Nick Jankel of WeCreate introduced this theme on day one of the conference, but again other speakers referred to and returned to the subject, and key points included:-

  • Development of collaborative network tools – Cloud Apps
  • Networked Innovation is growing – within and across organisations
  • Collaboration IQ is becoming an important measure of performance
  • Collaboration across bigger networks is harder – but the results are bigger
  • Public / Private / 3rd Sector providers need to collaborate to solve the most complex problems in society
  • Use of Open Source and Creative Commons copyright is growing

4. ‘Visualisation’

Linked in many ways to the other key themes, speaker David McCandless championed the use of infographics and data visualisation to explore new directions for journalism and design. His talk demonstrated new ways that technology is enabling the presentation of data to support an argument. This is a key area where design can help management to ‘tell the story’ and create a vision for audiences. Key points in this theme included: –

  • Quantitative Information can be very interesting if presented well
  • Infotography – a new form of investigative journalism based on data trawling
  • Data is the new soil…
  • Visualisation supports the designer as storyteller model

5. ‘Nudge by Design’.

In his talk at the end of day one, David Kester – CEO of UK Design Council described how ‘nudge’ is growing as a discipline used to influence decision making, and referred to the recent book ‘Nudge – Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness’  by authors Thaler and Sunstein. Key points he mentioned include: –

  • Designers do this for a living – via providing Insights & Ideas Generation
  • ‘There is something in this Co-Design methodology’
  • ‘Hug a Politician’ i.e. gain political influence for your programmes

6. ‘Rethinking the Future’.

Speaker Josephine Green led in promoting this subject, but other speakers and the chairman referred to it as well, and it is probably the biggest take-away from the conference for most delegates. In this theme the following comments made the biggest impact with the audience: –

  • The world is in need of inspiring stories – The ability to tell them can be our greatest asset
  • There seems to be a British horror of the abstract, big-picture, strategic, philosophical thinker
  • We are moving from the hierarchical model of the industrial era towards the pancake model of the socio-ecological era
  • Social solutions and innovation are the challenges of our time – health; education; mobility

In summary, I think that Intersections 2011 was a very inspirational and important conference. The venue was superb – both practically and inspirationally. The speakers were excellent – thought provoking, entertaining and inspirational. The audience was an interesting mix of local, national and international visitors. But perhaps the biggest disappointment and surprise was that there were not more private sector and big corporate delegates at the meeting.  I believe that they have most to gain from adopting Design in the broader context of creativity and innovation that this conference presented. Maybe this lack of representation was due to event promotion that seemed to be focused on the design community – attracting independents, academics and students from within the discipline of Design – but not the CEO’s of the corporate world. Perhaps therein lies another opportunity, to take this message to a more influential audience – taking the key themes from Intersections11 and translating them into a language that the corporate/business audience can identify with more readily?

Note: The conference proceedings were recorded on video and should be made available to the public via the Intersections website shortly. For more info see: http://intersections2011.com

The first Intersections 2007 conference was recorded and podcasts from keynote sessions can be accessed via iTunes: –http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/intersections-podcast/id268553975

 

Why not contact us to explore how to approach these 6 key themes within your business / organisation?

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer, CULTIVAR Consulting


 





Room for inspiration?

14 05 2010

In my last post I wrote about the importance of work space in providing a work environment that positively encourages employees to be creative, innovative, motivated and happy. I would like to apply this thinking to the future of UK government.

Whilst much of the policy debate in the recent UK election focused on change for the future, both the Conservative party and Liberal Democrat party tried to engage voters with their vision of “what might be” if they were elected. In contrast to this however, the Labour party seemed to focus on the past rather than trying to paint a vision of the future.  Their key message was often “see what we have achieved in the past – so trust us in future” and, as we now know, this failed to engage the electorate and Labour lost heavily.  Was this surprising? Not for me… If you look at this set of incredible photos taken by Guardian photographer Martin Argles you can begin to understand why the Labour leadership seem stuck in the past: –

Gordon Brown – The last hours in Number 10

Isn’t it easy to see why the team using this office aren’t looking forward? Do these offices inspire you? No? So why would they inspire anyone to think creatively about the future? And what about their other work environment – the House of Commons? Lets take a look inside: –

We can get a sense of history from these surroundings, rich in heritage as they are. But do they inspire creativity? And do they foster the collaborative working environment that all parties say is important to deliver policies that will turn around the country following the recent economic crisis? How about the adversarial layout seen here – the “opposition” benches that are designed to position parties facing each other, and which we so often see bristling with hostile MP’s, and with the “Front Benches” full of big hitters.

As I think about the challenges ahead I wonder if these work environments support or hinder new ideas, new collaboration, and a fresh start for UK politics?  If you look at other coalition governments they operate in the round, and in modern buildings – see below for some examples: –

Inside the Welsh Assembly

Inside the Scottish Assembly

Inside the German Parliament

So will our new UK Government remain stuck in the past? Or will they be able to overcome the inertia of their surroundings? Will the Welsh, Scottish and German parilaments be more progressive with their modern, efficient, comfortable and inspirational buildings? What do you think? – why not post a comment to let us know….

Contact me for more information about how we can help bring design thinking, creativity and innovation to your business…

James Rock – MD & Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting





Inspired Thinking

29 03 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: LISTEN

If design schools are being hailed as the new business schools then perhaps we should be taking our inspiration from great designers instead of business gurus.

I was given a fantastic book for my recent birthday – its called DESIGN NOW! and is published by that great publisher of art books Taschen. I recommend it strongly…

DESIGN NOW! by TASCHEN Books

The book contains short biographies of todays top contemporary designers – global leaders in the field of cutting edge design, and covers some of their very best work.  Reading it is an inspiration, and some quotes from the top designers are worth reference – so here are my top 10 quotes that I think will inspire your Design Thinking :-

1. Werner Aisslinger – “design is creating the life of tomorrow – for me the most exciting profession”

2. Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – “our work frequently starts with an encounter”

3. Continuum – “we believe that design creates a relationship – the point of contact is an experience”

4. Stefan Diez – “one part of our job is making decisions between options – finding out what these are is the other part”

5. Tom Dixon – “I like to try to approach each project as a naive outsider… I work better when I am not encumbered by preconceptions”

6. James Dyson – “good design is about making something better than anything else that has gone before it”

7. Danny Venlet – “design is more than form and function, its a way of life”

8. Jonathan Ive – “we try to design and develop simple solutions for extremely complex problems”

9. Suntae Kim – “things communicate with us. I listen to, observe, and rearrange them”

10. Karim Rashid – “design is no longer a word or profession, it is a philosophy – a doctrine – a way of living – a modus operandi – a way of being – and will one day be seamless with existence”

I suggest you refer to these quotations as a source of inspiration when you are re-thinking about your business, its purpose, and how you can get more from it – in other words – think laterally…

For more information about The Art of Business Design, Authenticity, and Design Thinking contact me: CULTIVAR Consulting





Design Thinking and The Art of Business Design

3 03 2010

You can also get an audio version of this blogpost here: – Listen!

I have heard it said over the last year or so that Design Schools are the new Business Schools. Protagonists argue that this is because old school businesses are out-of-date, which is consistent with the “Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild” message coming from global business leaders at this years WEF Annual Meeting in Davos.

This trend will lead towards the growing application of Design Thinking in business design. This is a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result. In organization and management theory, design thinking forms part of the Architecture/Design/Anthropology (A/D/A) paradigm, which characterizes innovative, human-centered enterprises. This paradigm also focuses on a collaborative and iterative style of work and an abductive mode of thinking, compared to practices associated with the more traditional Mathematics/Economics/Psychology (M/E/P) management paradigm.

These principles are consistent with the adoption of Authenticity as a fundamental philosophy and culture around which a business can be designed in pursuit of its declared purpose. And by combining Design Thinking with Authenticity I believe we are seeing the rise of The Art of Business Design – creating the Avant Garde businesses of today, and most probably the successful ones of tomorrow.

However, businesses also need an architecture to provide structure and form, but by their very nature this architecture also need to be amorphous to a degree – allowing flexibility to bend to changing economic conditions, competition, emergence of new technologies, etc. So I advocate designing businesses and organisations using the “Authentic Business Architecture” – shown below: –

Copyright : Cultivar Consulting 2010

This Amoeba like architecture contains the essential elements of structure that are needed for a business to operate, but it recognises that when a business changes shape, then the constituent elements will all be affected to some degree, and need to flex accordingly.

So Business Design needs to be holistic, authentic, and abductive if it seeks to be creative and innovative in delivering its purpose effectively.

For more information about The Art of Business Design, Authenticity, and Design Thinking contact me : Cultivar Consulting





Stuff We Believe In – Howies philosophy for business…

1 02 2010

You can also get an audio version of this blogpost here: – Listen!

Dave Hieatt - Co-founder of Howies | photo courtesy of Mike Lusmore see: http://www.mikelusmore.com

Being Authentic means having a greater purpose than making money. This is what drove Dave Hieatt, founder of Howies clothing, to give up a career in advertising and set up in business doing something he was passionate about. His desire? To make people think about the world we live in. Profits come second – or should that be third, after mountain-biking

I purchased a tee shirt from Howies recently and found a tag which tells customers about their business – I like the  statement below which convinced me to buy more of their products in future – I really empathise with these values :-

Stuff We Believe In…

  • We believe in making stuff that lasts.
  • We believe in good old fashioned service.
  • We believe in sport. We believe in play. We believe in having fun.
  • We believe the environment needs more friends.
  • We believe in making people think.
  • We believe the glass is always half-full.
  • We believe higher quality means lower impact.
  • And we believe tea should always be made in a pot.

It seems to be working – the company grows from strength to strength – 90% of their business is done via their website and catalogue and with minimal advertising – customers keep coming back, and referring family and friends – so Howies must be doing something right.

What do you believe in? Are you doing something that you are truly passionate about? Is the company you work for as Authentic as Howies? If not then why not? You can always talk to me about how myself and my colleagues from Authenticis can help transform your work into something truly motivational.

James Rock – Cultivar Consulting

For more about Howies visit their website : Howies





David and Goliath – The battle for Authentic British Chocolate…

25 01 2010

You can also get an audio version of this blogpost here: – LISTEN

Cadburys Dairy Milk

US based Global Giant Kraft foods

The David Vs Goliath battle for ownership of British chocolate maker Cadbury now seems to have been won by powerful global brand Kraft Foods.

Employees of Cadbury, residents of Birmingham where its HQ is located, and the wider British public and press are generally up in arms about this planned take-over.

Their real concern seems to be about the Authentic legacy of the Cadbury brand, and fears that Global food giant Kraft will end the higher purpose and philanthropy that the British brand is famed for, particularly within the Bournville Village suburb where it was founded.

But is this fair? Kraft is recognised in USA as one of its most reputable companies, and Forbes Magazine recently ranked Kraft as number one USA company for sincerity i.e. doing what it says it will do; and number 3 for overall reputation. So why is the British public so concerned?

Recent economic events have created a great deal of scepticism regarding the blatant pursuit of profit – and much of the press reporting in this case has focused on how Kraft has borrowed heavilly to buy Cadbury at a time when the Dollar/Sterling exchange rate makes the purchase cheap. And traditional financial reporting has primarily focused on the profit motives of Kraft, and I have yet to see any journalist dig deeper into the values of the Kraft management team, and its social responsibility record or future strategies and policies. However, Kraft itself also seems to have failed to capitalise on its reputation, and its communication programme seems to have stumbled in todays world of word-of-mouth communication. Its management team has a duty to shareholders to pursue opportunities that meet its stated strategy – which this take-over is, but it has failed to engage the wider stakeholders and is now seen as a hostile enemy.

This leads me to conclude that Authentic businesses need to be GREAT at communicating their values and policies, to generate trust, and to make sure that what they do is aligned with what they say they will do. It also confirms a wider trend that I and my colleagues in Authenticis are finding – that people in general are more concerned about the greater purpose of brands and are shunning those who purely pursue short term profitability for economic gain. Kraft will need to beware of boycotts to both brands in the post-acquisition period.

What do you think? leave a comment below, or get in touch to hear how we can help your organisation in developing its Authenticity.

James Rock Cultivar Consulting

Member Authenticis Consulting Network