Podcast 188 — Social by Design vs Social by Chance

In 'Social by Design', an upcoming book from Mark Britz and James Tyer, the authors argue that we should purposefully build social connections within organisations.

Written by Ross Garner
Published 31 March 2020
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Podcast 188 — Social by Design vs Social by Chance

In this week's episode of The Good Practice Podcast, they join Ross Garner and Owen Ferguson.

In the episode we discuss:

  • The serendipitous nature of many workplace social connections
  • The opportunities created by digital tools
  • Impact of coronavirus on social connectedness.
Ross Garner

Hey. Welcome to the Good Practice podcast from Emerald Works, a weekly show about work, performance, and learning. I'm Ross Garner, and here's a thing I realized this morning. I haven't hosted a podcast this entire month. How did I manage that? What did I miss? Anyway, I'm back at the helm and taking orders once more from shipmate Owen Ferguson. Hello, Owen

Owen

Hello, Ross. Obviously, your extended period away from hosting the podcast has resulted in a particularly energetic introduction

Ross Garner

You're the first people I've spoken to in two weeks. And this week we're talking Social By Design, an upcoming book from Mark Britz and James Tyer that aims to promote social connection within organizations. Of course, that just got a lot harder. Many of us are now facing the prospect of months of physical separation from our colleagues, thanks to coronavirus. So what's to be done? Can we still structure our organizations to be social by design, or are we left to hope that they become social by chance? Here to discuss are the book's authors. Mark Britz from The eLearning Guild. Hello, Mark

Mark

Hey. Nice to see you.

Ross Garner

You were going to welcome me to the podcast, weren't you

Mark

I really was! I've done a couple of these.

Ross Garner

And we're joined by consultant James Tyer. Hello, James

James

Hi. Thanks for having me on.

Ross Garner

You're very welcome. Mark and James, your book is written to, I'm going to crib your blurb here, ""shake up the relationship between individuals and their organizations, to create stronger and sustained connection in workplaces through better design."" Suddenly everyday social connections have been fractured by coronavirus. So what does our response to the pandemic tell us about the social connections that exist in our workplaces

Mark

Good question. James, do you want to lead

James

Well, I just have to clarify. It's being written. We're getting close to finishing it. We found writing a book is much harder than we thought. So the goal is to have it done by the end of the month, or rather next month

Ross Garner

Are you frantically rewriting? I'm wondering.

Mark

No, no, no. Not so much. It's really just about finding and carving out that time. And we have a habit, I think, of overthinking things as we develop it

Ross Garner

I see. So even the impetus for having this book makes me think that you don't believe organizations are social by design.

Mark

I argue they're not. They're not designed for social connection at all. I think one of the big things you'll find is, smaller organizations tend to be social by chance, as you started with. It's just something that people do innately in that organization. But as they grow, they lose that connection as they look for more efficiency, and there's process brought in, and the actual design of the organization cements, and we lose that connection. So it just becomes a secondary activity in our organization, versus building our organizations to make sure those connections are there

James

And I think, especially if we're looking at all the companies going remote, and you look at what people are posting on LinkedIn, the thing they're all trying to work out is how do we keep connected. Everything from Zoom Chatroulette, which seems maybe a good idea at the time, but I don't think random meetings is what anyone ever does in an office. And what we seem to be doing is just taking what we've done that is quite dysfunctional in offices, and moving it online right now. Whether it's, let's take all our training online, or let's take every meeting we have and put that online, just doesn't seem to strike me that we're thinking about... We're now a virtual organization. That means things are different. Instead we're a physical organization that just happens to not have an office right now

Owen

I guess the comparison between smaller organizations and larger organizations is interesting, because I would argue it's easier in a smaller organization, purely through the fact that there are a smaller number of people that you're having to deal with. Larger organizations, I think you could probably argue that within functional departments or within teams, that are social by their very nature, it's creating those communication lines, those interactions, across silos, across functional or team boundaries, is where it starts to get challenging. So I guess it happens naturally in smaller organizations. It doesn't seem to me that you can simply take the way that smaller organizations work, and say bigger organizations should do that. So, what should bigger organizations be doing, in order to create more of those social connections, to become more of a social organization

Mark

For me, one of the things we've seen over the years has been an emphasis on behavior change or one-offs. Let's get our leaders to do and be more open and transparent. Or, let's work with this small group to share on some enterprise social network more. And that's really a slow process. And sometimes it doesn't even take off, it just chugs along and it becomes something added to the organization, versus really baked into the DNA. And I think what we're trying to say is that overarching organizations, small or large... There's organizational design principles. Like, we know there's going to be leadership and management, and we know there's going to be talent development approaches. We know there's going to be rewards and recognition. All these elements are the same, in every model of organizational design. The question is, we need to look at those systems that influence behavior in an organization

And then obviously when behaviors change, then beliefs start to change in the organization. So I would argue that in smaller organizations, they're not conscious of the social behavior that's happening. It just happens. And what happens over time as they get larger numbers, process comes into play, and the communication drops off. And how leaders view what work is in an organization changes, in terms of their measurement of that. So I just feel, in a lot of ways, we're talking at a larger scale, like how do we change these organizational design elements to encourage more social behavior, more openness and sharing in the organization, versus plug in a technology, versus get our leader to do this

Ross Garner

So the reason that you have lots of social connections with a small organization is that everyone knows each other. And oftentimes they're collocated, or will be sat in exactly the same room. When you have a large organization, there's almost two organizations that exist, almost like a sort of Star Trek parallel universe thing going on, where you have the organizational structure of who reports to who, but then layered on top of that, you have the social connections that exist sometimes completely independent of it. So the natural pivot point in that formal structure might be the mid-level managers, but within this weird parallel universe you might have someone who, for whatever reason, they're sociable, or they play on the football team, or take part in various social activities, they might be a connection between lots of different parts of the organization. And for whatever reason, a lot of the communication channels go through them, and they hear about stuff, and then they build those connections. But that happens by accident. And it's a serendipitous thing, it's a useful thing. But it sounds like what you guys would want to do is make that a bit more deliberate

James

What you just said, Ross, reminds me of a picture. There was a book called The Connected Company in 2012 by Dave Gray, from XPLANE. And he had this great picture. On one side was hierarchy, and then the other side was a hierarchy with a bunch of arrows going everywhere to say how the company actually works. And I think companies function anyway on a social, informal layer. So if you think about it, you're working in a big organization. Do I go to ServiceNow and submit an IT ticket, or do I call my friend who happens to work in IT to fix my issue? That may or may not be a good thing in that situation, but we all have a social way of doing work. And I think what gets in the way is companies try and formalize so much. And when you're a growing company, you do need to hire HR people, you need to hire finance people, all that kind of stuff. But the processes start to dictate that you only go up and down, rather than keeping all this fluidity that can help you

Mark

I was just going to add to that real quick. We talked about, management can be this key artery, right? They're a big piece in this. And unfortunately I think in large organizations, the organization as a whole subscribes to a system of what management looks like. And that management often is measurement and control, versus what a manager... What we want is that element of a manager, but we want that manager to be somebody who breaks down barriers. We want that manager to be more of leading the charge for mentorship and coaching in the organization, and be a connector of people. And that changes the whole idea of what a manager does in that system, versus what they've traditionally done in the system

James

And if we were talking about systems and things. If your promotion structure and reward structure is based on expertise... And I've worked in companies that are changing, but PwC when I was there, which is about 15 years ago now, how good you were at tax determined whether you got promoted in tax. So you had a bunch of maybe not the best people managers in charge of people, because they were great at working out tax legislation. Is that the best way? Or if you are wanting people to be collaborative in sales, yet you only individually incentivize them, why would they work together? Unless it's some kind of more altruistic something within them that thinks that that's a good thing

Owen

Yeah. So many things come to mind. One in particular, so I'm going to make a confession here. Some people who I've met may know this. I am a former smoker. And about 20 years ago, that actually led to quite a lot of benefits to the organization that I was working for. It was a large organization. You'd go outside, have a cigarette, quite often you'd bump into the same people. Over a period of time, you'd build up relationships with them. It was amazing, the stuff that you would find out, and the problems that you would solve, during a 10-minute cigarette break, that would never have happened if you'd been following the strict organizational structure and communication channels

And the other thing that I reflect, when you mentioned the management development, a lot of the time, I have found in the past, management development programs that I've been a participant on, not that I've run as such, and the benefits are the social connections that you build. Actually the material that's covered off and the models and all the rest of it, only a small proportion of that stayed with me. But the connections that I made, and knowing who was working in which areas, that cross-pollination was one of the most valuable things that came out of that. So I wonder to what extent are you guys talking about creating the conditions where that is more likely to happen? I'm not suggesting that we make everyone a smoker, that would be a terrible idea. But can you create the conditions where those kinds of social connections outside of the strict hierarchy or organizational structure are more likely to happen

Ross Garner

I would add to that question as well, because we're in a different world now for the next few months. Let's say it's going to last a few months. And there seemed to be a degree of sniffiness around the Zoom Chatroulette approach of forcing serendipitous connection earlier on. So how does the pandemic influence that ability to create that connection

James

I should say that I don't think it's a bad idea. I just think it's not a sustainable idea, because people are focused on, ""How do I do my work right now?"" And we can play video games together, we can watch a film together, we can do Chatroulette together. But that doesn't help me actually do my work. And one of the things in a lot of these situations is, you're not talking to anyone about work. Whereas Owen, in the bus shelter, or I occasionally would join the smokers in places I've worked, because of exactly what you said. You don't have that same conversation. Because you probably will go out there, you'll probably moan about work a bit, and everyone's moaning. And then someone goes, ""Ah, I know the SVP of that, let me get you in a call with them,"" and your problem's solved. So I don't think it's a bad idea to connect people in this artificial way, but you're probably not talking about work so much

Ross Garner

I would go further than that and say I deliberately am not talking about work when we do these things.

James

That's a good call.

Ross Garner

Because we've talked about this on the podcast a few times recently. We have this Slack bot, Donut bot. It pairs you up once a fortnight with someone from the business that you rarely talk to on Slack. And I deliberately try not to talk about work on these calls. Because it doesn't feel like the purpose of it. So now we've introduced a mechanism to increase social connectedness, and outlawed discussions about work

Mark

There's something to be said for that, though. I think it was Harold Jarche who's often said that connected people collaborate. You've got to know people on a personal level, to be able to do work with them. You've got to like them to be able to do this. I think historically, when people would see or leadership would see or management would see this idle conversation going on physically in the organization, they would pooh-pooh it as, you're not on task. But those relationships long term are so critical to getting work done, and quickly, and a lot of trust building. So we haven't answered any of your questions

Ross Garner

No, I know you haven't. I'm waiting for some great insight. You're writing a book on this, guys

Mark

So the first question, if I heard Owen correctly was to make the... Owen, I'm going to have to ask you to repeat it, because we went down a rabbit hole there

Owen

I think what I was asking is, are you guys advocating creating the conditions where those social connections are more likely to happen? You can't force the issue, but you can create the conditions in which they are more likely to happen. And what kinds of things are we talking about

Mark

Yeah. So yes, the answer is yes. So the structures that we work within drive that, I mean, James hinted to it before. How do we recognize and reward in organizations? We typically look for the output, and we look at that hero. And we look at that one individual and they brought forward. But we know behind that is collaboration. We should be talking about is, being better at recognizing teams and teamwork and the inputs that go into things. We can see all the work now, better than we've ever seen before, especially knowledge work and where it can reside

So if we start to emphasize in that one small space of org design around recognition or rewards, and we start to emphasize really looking at how people connect and collaborate to get work done, then the whole is greater than those parts. And then I think what takes place in that is that people start to recognize that this is how things are done in the organization. This is what moves us forward economically in the organization, if that's what's important to me. And I'm more apt to be that person in the organization, I'm more apt to be social and share my knowledge versus hoarding my knowledge, would be a perfect example

Owen

I can see there's an immediate difficulty there. And I think again about our own context at Emerald Works. Because I can think of someone at Emerald Works, I don't think they'd appreciate me naming them, but they are very quiet in the office. I think if you came in, they wouldn't be the person you'd probably end up serendipitously talking to. But whenever you have these anonymous, ""Who's helped you this month?"" things, where you nominate people for awards and stuff, this person consistently is named by all sorts of people. Because although they're very quiet, they are one of those focal points that they're involved in all sorts of projects across loads of different teams. And what you're talking about sounds like you could end up rewarding the people who are visibly collaborative, versus the ones who are actually the person that's getting the work done in the organization. You talk about systems quite a lot, so you're again introducing this weird new incentive to be what the Scottish would call a gobshite at the center of the organization

James

One of the things we talk about in the book is what do we want people to be talking about. And that's work, as opposed to, like we were saying, just anything. And I think that means it's different. It's pretty obvious if someone just spouts off about work, as opposed to someone solving your problems about work. And part of getting systems right is, how do you recognize that? So what we've done in the book is done a series of principles. Because we don't think we should tell you exactly how to do it, because every company is the same, and what's gone wrong in a lot of places is every company said, ""Oh, let's get IDEO in, and they can show us how to do design thinking, and we'll be Google. And we'll just do that."" We took a step back and thought, if we have principles, small things like ""Think about people before technology,"" or ""Start small, test what works, and scale it if it does,"" then you can work out what works best for you

And I guess your fear there is, I would see that when HR go, ""Well, we're not very social, and we don't like talking to people that much, but now we've got to work out of a process of rewarding people? Well, let's just go with who gets the most amount of smiley faces in Slack, or who is the person that I would really like to be, who holds forth in a meeting,"" or something like that, rather than it being a bit more critical. I have a lot of fears of some HR departments suddenly trying to run or support remote teams because of these things. The goal of interaction and connection is to reduce friction in your work

And I think that answers a bit about the gobshite who talks too much. They're adding friction in your work. They're not bringing you solutions, they're not helping you, they're just spouting off. And the way I always think about it to compare the two is, they're the equivalent of when you go to a party and they start drinking way quicker or earlier than everyone else. And by the end of the night, they're talking loudly in one corner of the room, and you and everyone else has moved over to the other side of the room where you're having your meaningful conversations. And I think they stick out like a sore thumb. They're just making your work worse

So where are the ways that we add friction? For example, our leadership development. Let's take the entire 12-month course where we get you in person, you have online chats, you go get sent out to coach... We're going to make it all e-learning now. And you're just going to sit in front of a computer and learn how to be a leader. I would call that a lot of friction, and that's going to make it much harder for me to go and apply it and test it and see if it works. Whereas if you strip things back and be like, ""What's the least amount that people need to get going?"" and then support from there, and like Mark said, mentoring, coaching, all that kind of stuff, then I think that makes your job more enjoyable, easier, and you can get stuff done

Ross Garner

It's like the situation that you're talking about, a face-to-face management program, and it's getting great results, and you think, ""Well, we could save money if we moved this online."" And then it turns out that it was getting great results despite the material. Setting that aside, it was just because people were in the same room. But we're not in that position now, because now we're all in different rooms. And I'm going to keep coming back to this pandemic thing, because it is different now. And so how do we adjust what you said to take account of the fact that we're all now virtual

Mark

One of the things that comes to mind is, one, we're really so early into this that it's hard to say. I don't think we've had enough length of time. Because I think nobody wants this to last, I'm not arguing that at all. But I'm saying if it does last, there's going to be new realizations about how people are working, where they're getting information from, who they're connecting to. But it's also kind of foolhardy for us to think that people weren't connecting all along, on the back channels at work. Everybody's got WhatsApp or they're tapping into their SMS texting and whatnot with the people that they care most about, where they get their answers from

So I think what can change, or what has to change, is there has to be this huge increase in trust. Because a lot of times in physical organizations, people would look and say, ""So-and-so is here, so therefore they're working."" Now it's got to be much more about, ""I can't see them. I have to trust that things are being done."" Now we're hearing some horror stories out there of, ""Put your cameras on and work all day with your camera on,"" which is a story I heard the other day of a business, where the management wanted to see people in the fact of checking in on their work, which is insane. But those types of things I think are hopefully the abnormality, but I think management is truly going to be challenged in this

James

I was just going to say really simply, both our backgrounds are all social learning. Part of that is modeling. And who do you look to, to know what makes you successful in an organization? It's the leadership. So if they are saying... I'm guessing, Mark, maybe from that example, it's also, ""You've got to keep all your cameras on, but I might not do that."

Mark

I think I'm just going to add to that. I think if anything, we're going to find that the pandemic is going to expose our social systems. Because even though people are scattered, we're going to be able to see better how good or not good our connections in the organization were, based on the measures of, are things getting done? Are the right people involved? Are we making sure that's how it always happens? And that's a great starting point, I think, for a lot of companies, to afterwards go, ""Can we sustain this? Is this good for business? Or do we have to make some serious changes?"

Ross Garner

I think the other thing you could do is... I don't know what the ethics or rights issues might be around social network analysis, but now that all of our communications are digitized, it would be interesting to use that, and see who are the conduits for information. And also who's being avoided. To James's point about the removal of friction, as this being our core objective if we're going to create a social organization. For a very long time, you had a lot of larger organizations who were doing their best to put as much friction as possible between the organization and then the ability to work from home. And almost overnight, they've pivoted, and now they're putting all of their enormous resources into making working from home as easy as they possibly can. And it will be interesting to see the impact that that has, both during however long the self-isolation lasts, and then also once we return to work in the office

James

See, I'm going to push back a bit on that

Ross Garner

Yeah. Push back.

James

I don't think they're trying to make it as easy as possible. I think they are just putting that onus on each individual. Because they didn't have work from home policies, and they didn't think about remote working, and they didn't think about themselves as, how do we operate virtually? And all the big consultancies, some of the larger firms have done this for years, and it works for them. But I think most companies are, ""We don't know what we're doing, but we're not really going to work it out either, we're just going to do our best and then it will all go back to normal."

Ross Garner

That's a very bleak outlook. It might be true, but it's a bleak outlook

James

Occasionally my British upbringing comes back and spouts out when I should keep it down.

Ross Garner

So you consult with large organizations. So is that your experience? That's what you're seeing with your clients?

James

I think it entirely depends on the organization. I think I can name names, but Coca-Cola, who I worked with late last year, they seem to be doing it really well. And part of the reason is, when I went to their office, everyone was talking to each other. You just heard the hum of conversation, wherever you went. Everyone was friendly, everyone was open. And I was quite surprised. I had formerly worked at Kellogg's where that was there, but for the time period I was there, it didn't feel like that from leadership, who sat in their own set of offices on their own floor. So I think that if your CEO walks around the office talking to everyone, then suddenly your company going online and virtual might work better. Because he or she has set that culture. But if you got a ball-breaker boss who just sends diktats down, you're going to be sitting at home going, ""How on earth am I going to demonstrate that I'm working, in a way that I could do in the office, where I sat there?"

One of the questions I've put out on LinkedIn, I've put out two this week. The first one is, ""How much work are you actually doing now?"" Productive work. I'm guessing maybe three to four, maybe five hours a day. And you've got everything done that you would have done in the office. And the second one was, ""And right now, what percentage of your homework expenses are being reimbursed by the company you work for?"" I haven't got many answers to each, but I'd be fascinated to know

Mark

Hey Ross, I think you said before about SNA, social network analysis, and organizational network analysis. And honestly, I think if a company has the wherewithal, this is exactly what they should be focused on. It's like this 90/10 flip for a lot of companies, where 10% people were remote, 90% were at the base offices. And now you've got this opportunity, through all the electronic means of phones and email and social networking tools, to basically see where those connections are. Because you couldn't do that if 90% were more physical-facing in the organization. Like I said, it's a great starting point for companies, if they can focus on that

Owen

I think I'm not quite as bleak. I think it will take a period of time for people to adjust. But certainly in the UK, I'm looking at this and thinking, this is at least 12 to 16 weeks. That's quite a considerable period of time. People are, in my experience, pretty inventive. I think they're going to figure some things out. The extent to which they're going to default back afterwards, I think, will depend on their level of positive experience once they've figured those things out

And like you guys mentioned, I think some of that will come down to the leadership and the expectations and the role modeling that comes from that. I certainly look at it and think, there's a great opportunity. Certainly people who have thus far not taken the opportunity to get to grips with some of the technology options that are there, are now being forced to. So you're removing at least one barrier, there's an element of fiction that is automatically being worked out, because there's only so many times that it's going to be acceptable for someone to say, ""I don't know how to get my mic working."" And they won't be able to do their work. Where there's the motivation, all of a sudden, when it becomes really important that you get the thing working, you will figure it out

Ross Garner

And there will be those that don't do an enormous amount of work at home, but they probably weren't doing an enormous amount of work in the office anyway

James

Speaking of friction.

Ross Garner

Yeah, exactly. But the ones that are actually wanting to get their work done, in the office, people were quite creative, they will work around IT friction. It's like, you banned Facebook on your computer and stuff, you just look into it on your phone. That kind of thing. Well, it's much easier to work around the IT department once you're remote from them. I'm not suggesting that anyone should do that, but I think that's probably what a lot of people will do, if it means getting their work done faster and easier. Because people tend to just do the thing that's easiest

Mark

I just want to go back to what Owen was saying over this period of time that we're looking at it, depending on how long it is. Because I think if people again, if organizations again, if key individuals in those companies have the wherewithal, they're going to be doing things like after the fact going, ""How did we measure productivity when we didn't have butts in seats that we could see? And more regular and honest communication, when that happened, what did that bring us? Did we see positive benefits?"" Was there a more humble leadership because, not only are we remote, but people are getting sick and people are dying that are close to your workforce. This is a whole level of anxiety that's different than just, ""My kids are down the hall and I'm trying to work."" So how did they respond to that in terms of the culture, and how that might change things positively

And the other thing from a learning standpoint is, when most of L&D work might have been in classrooms, and has moved more to online, in that effort to try and race to that, learning never stopped. Did successful L&D departments shift their focus over to helping people to share resources easier, helping SMEs to become the folks who produced assets in the company, to get them out there a lot quicker, versus bringing it all in-house and trying to ramp up as quick as possible to online learning, and it took weeks and they feel like were not of value

Ross Garner

James, is there anything you wanted to add before we finish up

James

Yeah. I don't want to be too much a cynic, it's just..

Ross Garner

You're going to end us on a down note.

James

No, no, I'll end on an upbeat one. I've worked remote full time for almost seven years, and part time before that for another two or three. And because we homeschool my daughter, life hasn't changed hugely for us, apart from, we just go out the house once a week to get groceries. And I do realize that for everyone, it is a phenomenal change, especially if you've worked in a very top-down organization who are trying to remain top-down. I think the potential is hugely there. And I think a couple of things I've noticed. We were talking about social network analytics, and I used to work for a company called SWOOP Analytics that did social network analytics for Yammer and Teams and Workplace by Facebook. And so I got to see some of the very best uses of social technology across the world. And you know that they are going to probably thrive, now that their competition is being slowed down from not knowing how to use these things

And SWOOP did a really interesting report on Teams, and we're talking about how people work and how they're already doing it in WhatsApp and things like that. And for now Teams' usage is 70% to 95% is chat, rather than using it for all the other huge amount of features it has. Staff on average are a member of three teams and active in just one, and 83% of teams are private. And I have a feeling that unless you're maybe under 50 people, Slack probably works pretty similarly, because it's chat rather than conversation. I've been in Slack instances with 200 people, and personally I find it quite painful to have a deep conversation there, whereas the slower tools tend to work

But I think if companies really want to get it right, is to definitely find someone to fill that kind of community manager role. Not like a social media manager. I'm never a big fan of the term community manager, but it stuck. But someone to be the glue that helps those conversations happen, and they know where they're happening, and they're the person that people can ask for help, even if they have to go and call up a manager on the phone and say, ""Please, can you help this person?"" You need someone or something that helps that flow of information and conversation happen

And through them, you can start to measure whether the wider conversations are increasing, because one of the things I guess that I hope all companies do, is find a place to talk about how we continue remote working. Because I would imagine, in time, most people will prefer it, rather than a two-hour commute to a city and those kinds of things. So, how do we have that conversation about vision and strategy, when right now we're focused on tactics? Of course we need to right now, to just make sure everyone's computer turns on and their audio works and those kinds of things. But how quickly can we start focusing on the opportunity, as opposed to what it's costing us right now

Ross Garner

The book is Social By Design. It'll be out once it's written. Let's now move onto our regular feature of What I Learned This Week, where we share something that we've picked up over the past seven days. Owen, do you want to go first

Owen

Yes. Something got me thinking about both the benefits and dangers of solved problems this week. So this is completely non-coronavirus related. Apple released its new iPad Pro, but they also released a couple of changes that were really interesting to me. So they've got this new magic keyboard that turns the iPad into more of a laptop-like device, with a keyboard and screen, obviously the main pad, but it's also got a trackpad to go along with that. And alongside that, they introduced a new cursor interface that's quite different from what you get on a traditional Mac or PC operating system, where it's the little arrow cursor. First of all, it's round. It changes shape and context as you hover over clickable elements. There's some really nice touches in terms of, as you're moving from one clickable element to another, it kind of pulls and then snaps across. And it keeps the best of that cursor experience from the PC, but I think it adds to it as well

So it got me thinking that something that seemed like a solved problem, that mouse and pointing interface, actually what they've done is they've looked at and they've enhanced it further, whilst at the same time, they've also recognized that actually that laptop form factor might be the best for high productivity, compared to just a piece of glass that you can touch. So the laptop form factor has been so resilient because it is a solved problem, but they've taken that cursor interface and said, ""If we were to start again, what might we do with that?"" Sometimes it makes sense to look at a solved problem and say, ""I'm just going to take that and I'm going to repurpose it,"" because it's a solved problem. And then other times, you get so much more when you look at something that appears to be a solved problem, but actually you can always enhance it

Ross Garner

Hmm. Have you tried the iPad, or have you seen a video demo of it

Owen

I've seen a video demo. No-one's had a chance to play with it.

Ross Garner

We'll put the video in the show notes, though, so if anyone wants to see what that looks like, then they can have a look. Mark, what have you learned this week

Mark

It's an easy one. I should have bought stock in Zoom a long time ago. But seriously, it's funny, because I have a little bit of an interest in marketing and what marketing does. And you typically think about brand development as something that takes a very long time. You build your brand over a long period of time, a lot of consistency in what you do in the messaging. And yet you have this product called Zoom, and I guarantee you it's the word that people use now when they're talking about video conferencing. ""Let's Zoom."" They're not talking about anything. They would call it Zoom like people call tissue Kleenex. And the bottom line is, it goes back to the whole friction thing that we were talking about, and James talked about as a key principle in the book, is that, it's easy, it's available, it's stable, and things that reduce friction, that reduce time for people, win. It's just a good reminder that I think on the back end of this, Zoom is winning

Ross Garner

Yeah.

James

It's funny. My mom uses it even though she has an iPad with FaceTime on it. You're really right, that it's just become the word, the Google

Mark

She'd rather Zoom.

James

It's true.

Ross Garner

James, what have you learned this week

James

I don't know whether I've come to any conclusions yet, but I was listening to the Recode Decode podcast with Kara Swisher, and she had the CEO of Social Capital on it. And I think he was being pretty bold in a whole bunch of economic predictions, but I've always thought, ever since I started helping companies with Yammer, back when they had a thing called Responsive Org, that we all want to be responsive, agile organizations. And I know that companies would take that the wrong way and think, ""We're just going to do everything really quickly and cheaply,"" but it meant, ""How quickly can you adapt?"" And what he said is, he thinks that there's going to be a shift towards resilient organizations, which I think encompasses more. That's, like Mark just said, your brand strength, resilience in your supply chain, not just in the minute and quick as we can get it and as cheap as we can get it

And it actually got me thinking. I'm like, ""Mark, I got this new word for the book."" I think this actually explains what we're doing, because a socially connected company is more resilient, I think, in terms of, could we ask people to take a 25% pay cut in order to keep their jobs? They're probably more likely to say yes. So I haven't thought it through yet, but I thought it was a really neat term. And when I googled the idea of the resilient company or the resilient organization, there wasn't much on it. So it's not a new formed idea, but I like it. And I'm intrigued to see where it goes

Ross Garner

Hmm. One of the things I've heard a few people talking about is business continuity planning, in the past couple of weeks. And the business continuity plan was for if there was a fire or a burglary, not a worldwide pandemic and economic shutdown. No-one envisions this kind of thing. I know what you're going to say, Bill Gates did, but that's for another time

So this week I have, on account of a lot of Zoom calls, learned a lot about colleagues, clients, contractors, I've met their kids, said hello to their dogs. I found out that Mark has a dog, a small dog that likes to yap during calls every now and again

Mark

You got lucky.

Ross Garner

Yeah. Obviously this whole situation is terrible, but it has been really nice to learn about these people, some of whom I talk to multiple times a week and had no idea. And some of them for client organizations, I've asked them to turn their webcams on before and they have refused. This week, all the webcams are on. And so in some cases I've seen their face for the first time. So I've learned what their faces look like, and it's been nice. It's a nice building of social connection that wasn't there prior to this thing that we're all involved in

Owen

Yeah. I think that's interesting, isn't it

James

That's really nice.

Owen

Your norms are changing around that. And I think it would be a real shame if they just went back after we return to something that's more normal. There's certain things about working remotely or being on a video conference call that I just think should just be standard.

Ross Garner

And that's it. That's all from us. If you'd like to get in touch with us about anything we've said on the show, you can tweet me @RossGarnerEW. You can tweet Owen

Owen

@OwenFerguson.

Ross Garner

You can tweet Mark.

Mark

@Britz.

Ross Garner

And you can tweet James.

James

You have better names than mine. Mine's @jimbobtyer. Because my middle name is Robert, and all the others were taken

Ross Garner

It's a good name.

James

I like it.

Ross Garner

Do you guys have anything that you want to plug?

Mark

Just the book, Social By Design. We hope to get it out in the late spring. As we continue to write, we continue to also post and talk about it online. So we're not keeping it all in a book and big rollout. We keep dripping pieces of it out there for people to engage in on our blogs and on LinkedIn and Twitter

Ross Garner

Lovely.

James

Joining in anything we post on LinkedIn would be really helpful, because of course we don't want to put out a book with loads of bad advice. So anyone who can maybe give it a test for us or something like that..

Ross Garner

""These guys in their ivory tower!"

James

Exactly. Remote working for so long, they have no idea what it's like. Yeah

Ross Garner

All right. We'll link to your LinkedIn in the show notes as well, then. For more from Emerald Works, including details of our performance support toolkits, e-learning, and LMS, visit emeraldworks.com. You can also tweet @Emerald_Works. Thanks very much for listening. If you've enjoyed the show and aren't just listening to it because there's nothing else to do in quarantine, please do leave us a review. We'd really appreciate it. Until next time. Thanks guys for joining us today, and thanks everyone at home for listening. Bye for now

James

I came across as more cynical than I intended.

Mark Britz

Mark Britz

Author, 'Social by Design'

For more than 15 years Mark has led the design and development of solutions involving formal, informal and social learning,. promoting the use of collaborative technologies and user-generated content to extend training, enhance peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and encourage informal learning channels. His efforts have altered conventional beliefs about organizational development and have helped improve execution, increase agility, and the embrace of emerging technologies.
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James Tyer

James Tyer

Author, 'Social by Design'

James Tyer is a social collaboration coach for well-known tech and consulting companies, working with them to deliver the best value from their tools and services. Formerly, James was director of customer success at SWOOP Analytics and before that, the global social collaboration lead for Kellogg's, where he created its Social Center of Excellence.
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Ross Garner

Ross Garner

Head of Learning Experience, Emerald Works

Ross has been working in L&D for seven years and he heads up the instructional design team at Emerald Works. In 2019 he completed a Masters in Digital Education and was named Learning Technologies’ Learning Designer of the Year. He is also one of the hosts of the GoodPractice Podcast.
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Owen Ferguson

Owen Ferguson

Product and Technology Director, Emerald Works

A self-confessed nerd, Owen is passionate about taking an evidence-led approach to developing digital products that solve real-world problems. He is also a regular on our weekly podcast.
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About the author

Ross Garner

Ross Garner

Head of Learning Experience
Ross has been working in L&D for seven years and he heads up the instructional design team at Emerald Works. In 2019 he completed a Masters in Digital Education and was named Learning Technologies’ Learning Designer of the Year. He is also one of the hosts of the Good Practice Podcast.

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