Pssst! Your coworker isn't perfect...and that's okay!

It is natural to want to maintain some privacy and distance between home life and work life - between who you are to your friends, to your family to coworkers – but it might be costing your company.  

The myriad reasons for this distancing are understandable and to some extent beneficial.  Differences in politics, preferences and tastes can create social friction stimulating emotional tension, hostility and ultimately lost productivity as energy and attention is directed to resolving personality differences.

But when it comes to conceiving, designing and executing products and services this distancing begins to hurt.  If the organization’s decision makers are reluctant to discuss their own faults and foibles – their own humanity – then how can they empathically discuss the faults and foibles of their customers?  And without frank and compassionate consideration of these issues, how relevant can these decisions be to the people they will ultimately affect?  

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Is competence material or immaterial?

”Do you think competence is immaterial or material?”
The question posed to me by Håkan Mitts over lunch caught me off guard. 

I’ve always thought of competence as immaterial, acquired gradually over the years. It becomes refined through systematic learning, trial and error, and encounters and discussions. 

“What if the company has a three-member R&D unit? Doesn’t that mean these people hold competence? And as such it isn’t material?”

The provocative questions put to me by Mitts, a Program Coordinator at Aalto University, make me see why competence could be seen as material in some organizations. 

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Interdisciplinary You

Value creation in today’s rapidly shifting technology and market landscape calls for interdisciplinary people.

This makes sense if we consider the business climate that we face today (and most likely tomorrow). New technologies are arriving at an exponentially increasing rate. Each new technology changes what is possible.  And each evolution of possibility brings threats and opportunities that have literally never been seen before.  It is increasingly becoming obvious that it is impossible to develop an expertise today in what will matter tomorrow.  It’s not that expertise is not important…it’s just not enough!  

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What if you worked together with your family and best friends?

I love to play around with new ideas, especially when they are solving different kinds of problems. That is the way how the whole Office Nomad concept emerged back in 2009. 

I recently played around with the idea of reversing the default expectation of work place. The key idea is that the current default, "we normally go to an office to work", would be changed into "we normally work from home or a place close to my home" or equivalent. I have discussed that idea with many, and even though it may seem like an utopia, there is something really interesting in it. One of the advantages of this thought would be the possibility to work where ever and with whomev

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What can working life learn from the the young?

We all know how important friends are when you’re young. But there are other things besides friends, that the young value, especially when it comes to work: they value meaningfulness and doing good to other people.

Interestingly, the attitudes of the youth in Finland today – and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case in the rest of the world as well  – are closer to values of the generation that is now retiring than of those still in working life. This was told by Tommi Laitio, Director of Youth Affairs at the city of Helsinki, who was the guest speaker at Pause by Office Nomad event last week. His team has conducted extensive research on the values of the young people in Helsinki, so he knows what he’s talking about.

It seems that there is a stark contrast between what our youngsters value and what the working life today really offers. Let’s face it; the working life isn’t exactly characterised by altruism and giving, but rather on competition and competing personal interests. Little thought is given to helping others, unless it is bringing in money. And even if we wanted to be more helpful, we’re struggling to find the time for it.

However, according to Adam Grant, professor in organizational psychology at Wharton, helping others is not only rewarding in itself, it is also the key to success in working life. Helping others can also give much-needed meaninfulness at work. “In corporate America, people do sometimes feel that the work they do isn’t meaningful. And contributing to co-workers can be a substitute for that,” Grant says.

Adam Grant’s research is interesting also in the sense that it has financial backing. In his research, Grant brought a graduate student, who had gotten a grant to cover his tuition fees, to tell his story to the organisation, which was responsible for collecting money to pay young people’s tuition fees. A month after the graduate’s testimonial, the workers were bringing in 171 percent more revenue.

So, although we may think that the young may be a little be idealistic or even naiive in their thinking, reseach suggest that helping is not just for the idealists and gullible.

If meaningful, altruistic behaviour promotes success in working life, then perhaps our young people already hold the key to a building more successful workplaces. If so, then the minimum we should do is to make sure that we don’t take it away from them.