Tag Archives: organization

The TSK Business Engagement Centre at Sheffield Hallam University – “a living research project”

I was invited to an interesting event at Sheffield-Hallam University business school (Sheffield, UK) on 15th March this week, which sadly I now cannot attend. But it is worthy of note, and a brief blog, especially as a “living research project”.

It is also worthy of note as it is sponsored by industry – the “TSK Business Engagement Centre”, in a partnership between TSK Group and the CFMD at Sheffield-Hallam. The facility was covered in FM World recently, and the full article is on TSK’s website. This extract explains the partnership:

The partnership between Sheffield Business School CFMD and TSK set out to produce a home for the business school’s executive, a facility for the CFMD and a living research area for TSK to test innovative ideas and new thinking and to understand the needs of the people that work in activity-based work settings to make them more intuitive and comfortable to use.

Therefore the consultation process is ongoing and no doubt the space will continue to evolve as the teams feed back their views.”

This is a great concept – why not? It makes sense for service providers in the industry to engage academia in real-world projects, where they can monitor the evidence and statistics.

Professor If Price( Linkedin ) is the leading academic and thinker at CFMD, and was named as one of BIFM’s 20 most influential pioneers of FM in 2008. He brings the scientific approach of a Cambridge-educated Geologist to the work of understanding the relationship between organisations, people and their spatial environments.

Look out for his new book, out soon (and I hope he send me a signed copy!): Managing Organizational Ecologies: Space, Management and Organizations, Routledge, New York comes out on 18th April

Advertisements

2011 IFMA Workplace Conference – Madrid

by Juan Luis de la Peña of 3G Office, Madrid (http://www.3g-office.com/inicio.html)

2011 IFMA Workplace Conference was held on 26-27th October kindly hosted by ENDESA in Madrid. All attendants (near 100 people) agree that it’s been an excellent conference with outstanding speakers and presentations as well as keynotes, moderators and round tables (plus a great catering!) where we all learned and shared real experiences, figures and trends regarding today’s ways of working and workplace solutions from several countries and business sectors.

Moderators:

Francisco Vázquez. President of 3G Office Group and Director of International Relations of IFMA Spain.

Leopoldo Alandete. Managing Director, LA & Asociados.

Xavier Llobera. General Manager, Microsoft Innovation Centre for Productivity Center.

All of them, Partners of the Workplace Innovation Group, played a great role in the conference, not only introducing the speakers but also questioning them and sharing their experiences and points of view regarding key matters in an open and frank way.

Conferences:

Introduction to Social Dynamics (by Francisco Vázquez)

Francisco made a clear introduction to how social dynamics are changing – dynamics that are mainly driven by technology, and new generations of people which are demanding new ways of working that suit their needs, and how companies are consequently adapting their workplaces to be flexible.

Agile Working in the UK (by Andrew Mawson, Managing Director, Advanced Workplace Associates Ltd)

Andrew introduced us to UK workplace trends, where there is some of the most expensive Real Estate in the world, and where most organizations are under pressure to reduce costs, but increase productivity. “Agile Working”, which is a dynamic way of working that frees people to work where and when it is appropriate for them and their organizations, pops up as solution. What is needed to support agile working are new layouts of office schemes with no owned spaces and overlapped areas with central or anchor points where groups gather around. He showed the today’s workplace situation by sector, from traditional (Legal, Retail) to mature (Telecoms, ITs). He pointed out that the change to agile working needs not only change management but “change maintenance” thereafter and that leadership from the directors of the business is the essential element.

Measuring the Value of Virtual Working (by Philippe Jimenez, Managing Director, Regus)

Philippe talked about a Regus research study based in big companies regarding measurement the benefits of the agility@work, a mix of real estate, commute, sustainability, technology, people and culture. The survey was done from three points of view: Virtual, AdVantages and Value, and showed results such as 63 % people still go to the office at least 4 days a week, 59% people takes more than 41 minutes to reach the office and the same to return home but only 12% want to work from home, and that 55% of the workplaces are not used. He also introduced the BYOC (Buy your own computer) model and the trend towards BYOW (Buy your own workplace).

Microsoft Milan (by Fernando Carneros, Real Estate & Facility Manager Microsoft Spain)

Fernando presented how Microsoft has evolved from “Bill’s Office” to a mobile workplace, by means of continuous research and, of course, technology. Before, team and individual settings were segregated and undifferentiated (highly hierarchical), today, a variety of team and individual settings mixed in clusters, with technology driving a multidimensional approach. He also introduced us to Microsoft Milan Innovation Campus (see YouTube) where new ways of work are continuously implemented.

Best Practices in the Financial Sector in London (by William Poole-Wilson, Director Pringle Brandon LLP)

William introduced his company and experience in the financial sector. He pointed out several general questions: Is London going to survive? What will be the landscape now? What does this mean for refurbishing? Numbers don’t stack up? Where is the money? Where is the space? And others more specifics: How can current available space be utilized for trading floors now and in the future? He went through several great examples of financial offices to answer the questions (case studies: Barclays, Macquarie) and showed the results of a survey conducted in trading floors users (for example they need faster communications and prefer clusters configuration of the space).

Importance of Measuring Workplace Spaces (by Carmen Ramos, Managing Director, Fama Systems)

Carmen, fromSpain, focused on the importance that new technology has in managing workplace spaces and the value of Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) software as a tool of measuring spaces and knowing exactly what there is in a building and so making easier to book and change spaces as well as move people when needed.

Measuring the activities in the workplace (by Germain Verbeemen, CEO, Wicely)

Germain, fromBelgium, started showing the evolution from “old” offices, passing by shared offices, to Activity Based Offices. He questioned how to conceive and manage Activity Based Offices. The answer is to measure occupancy and activities in an detailed manner with the right methodology and technology get trustworthy results that can be translated in “Activity Blocks” spaces that fulfill the needs of the people which are tuning in a “Generic Office Concept”. He concluded that an office must support effectiveness, flexibility, efficiency and attractiveness.

Measuring Productivity and Performance (by Tim Oldman, Founder and Managing Director, Leesman)

Tim gave a detailed presentation of what they name the Leesman Index by which they measure workplace effectiveness, the capability of workplace to support the productive activities of those it accommodates. He showed very interesting results from a study based on 5274 respondents, 22 surveys, 19 clients, 51 properties, c. 85,000 sq m and with a 70% response rate. He finally recommended that every company should ask themselves the following questions: what makes a workplace productive? What makes it unproductive? Where is it failing the occupiers? What interventions are required? How can it be bettered?

The office Code Project (by Catherine Gall, Director WorkSpace Futures Research, Steelcase)

Catherine presented a Steelcase Workspace Futures Study to know what the relationship between national culture and workplace design is. The study was based in 5 dimensions of culture: Power distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty avoidance and Long-term orientation. She showed how the result of the study gives different “Office Codes” for each country.

Understanding Cultural Issues (by Marie Puybaraud, Director of Global Workplace Innovation, Johnson Controls)

From the point of view of the “Multi-generations @ Work” Marie introduced which are the workplace characteristics by generation (Veterans, Baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y) and showed the very interesting, and sometimes surprising, results of a survey to answer the question of how important the workplace is in attracting, recruiting and retaining multi generations of workers with 8,800 respondents in total. The conclusion was that people and space should work in synergy and that the space design must be for flexibility, collaboration, performance and social interaction.

Social Dynamics Affecting the Workplace (by Kate North, Vice President, e-work)

Kate based her presentation in what she calls the “Big Bold Shift”: a move towards mobility with unassigned work space plus activity-based work environments, focusing in how important is to overcome the resistance to change and, particularly, how to help to the change and preparing the workforce for the new workplaces, processes, behaviors and tools. She talked about the trends in learning and change management and the role of e-learning has on them as well as the differences between generations.

Vodafone Holland (by Tjeu Verheijen, Project manager “the changing workplace”, Vodafone Netherlands)

Tjeu showed the pilot project done by Vodafone in the Netherlands that led to the optimization of the workplace used together to the fulfillment of the ways of work the employees (i.e. people) demand today: flexibility, mobility, freedom of choice and work and private life balance.

Nokia Berlin (by José Luis Sanchez, Workplace solutions manager EMEA & India, Nokia, and Niklaus Arn, Managing Director, RBS)

A very interesting case and best practice was presented by both, José Luis and Niklaus. They showed us how business growth made the company also grow in locations and, very important, change its workplace strategy. In that new way of working “the team is becoming the critical unit” where “new work cultures are merging life and work, requiring Nokia to provide locations and spaces that support those blurred boundaries”. They show us the lay-outs of the Berlin office, the reason behind them as well the improvements achieved, both for people and business.

Coming next

During next year we’ll work to find new best practices and speakers to have the 5th IFMA Workplace Conference even better than this one (a difficult goal!). Some organizations have already changed the way of working, many others are already thinking of doing so and all of them are interested in, so 3g office will be, by different means, continuously promoting the benefits of the flexible working and helping them to implemented it since 3g office is a consultancy firm specialized in this matter.

Juan Luis de la Peña, Head of Facility Management Consulting at 3G Office

jldelapena@3g-office.com 

CoreNet Global’s Chicago Summit 2011: part 1 – “The way we’ll live next”

I was very fortunate to attend CoreNet Global‘s Chicago summit last week, on two of the sunniest days the ‘windy city’ could offer its guests. I’m told that I was one of around 2,000 delegates, and there was certainly a full complement of leading end users and service providers in attendance.

This blog (‘part 1’) is based around the General Session 1, which opened the summit, in the spendour of the Ballroom at the Navy Pier. Greg Lindsay, an author and futurist, presented “The Way We’ll Live Next: New Frontiers of Globalization”.

New Frontiers of Globalization

Greg Lindsay looked at how urban living will be shaped by new frontiers of globalization, and took much of his fascinating material from his soon-to-be-published book, Aerotropolis. This is described as “a combination of giant airport, planned city, shipping facility, and business hub”. Essentially, cities built around airports at the centre – not on the fringes (or a long distance outside) as they most often have been designed in the 20th Century. And Mr. Lindsay gave several examples of mega-cities, current and planned…mostly in Asia of course!

Some interesting facts also emerged, that I certainly was not aware of. For example, Emirates Airlines is now the largest long-haul airline in the world – and it didn’t even exist 25 yrs ago! If Aerotropolis is to be believed, then this must surely make Dubai one of the most important cities now, and into the future? Not so much the economic ‘basket case’ that it has recently been perceived as being? But it appears to be in large part Chinese money that is driving this – at the 1.2km (yes, inside!) Dragon Mart (Dubai) Chinese buyers are trading in what Dubai World (its owners) call the “gateway for the supply of Chinese products in the Middle Eastern and North African Markets, offering Chinese traders and manufacturers a unique platform from which to cater to the needs of this sizeable market”.

In fact, Mr Lindsay talked of the “New Silk Route” – like the old silk route from Asia to Europe and the west – but now selling goods into the rich MENA region. This is immense – US$60bn china exports to the Arab world in 2010 alone.

But surely, I hear you ask, places like Dubai cannot possibly be leading cities of the future? You would be forgiven for finding limited ‘cultural satisfaction’ on a visit to Dubai over the last few years. But, like everything else, it is being imported….take Saadiyat Island, 500 metres off the coast of AbuDhabi, close neighbour to Dubai. The Cultural District is “set to become an internationally renowned arts hub, featuring the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Performing Arts Centre”. OK, it is not going to replace the sophistication of Paris, the history of London, or the buzz of cities like Hong Kong and New York. But as a business and travel hub, UAE is ‘user friendly’.

Cities are hubs for knowledge and innovation

Cities are also built around intellect and knowledge though, right? Developers of a new ‘Aerotropolis’ cannot replicate this knowledge culture, can they? The intellectuals of Boston, Oxford & Cambridge, or the Sorbonne will surely not want to drink their fine wines in a desert? Well, once again, we may be wrong – NYU Abu Dhabi opened last year. And Mr Lindsay told us that NYU will open in Shanghai in 2013! Harvard Medical School is also in Dubai.

In turn though, and as another example of reliance of airports, the UAE is a major ‘exporter’ of medical treatment to Bangkok and Singapore. For example, Mr Lindsay described the Bumrungrad international hospital in Bangkok, where operations cost 70-80% less than in the USA. Its a global hospital, which “just happens to be in Bangkok”. Singapore is also on leading edge of healthcare, and  “wants to be able to be a hub for this sector”. And in India, the Apollo Hospitals and Fortis Healthcare organisations are providing similar services.

“The brain drain is working in reverse” said Mr Lindsay, as Chinese and Indian doctors and medical staff see better opportunities for themselves in Asia.

How sustainable are these new cities?

Several examples were given, including the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, around 150km from Beijing, where “man living in harmony with his fellow man, with the economy and with the environment”. Another fascinating one is Mentougou City, again near Beijing, which is described as “a gorgeous new “Ecological Silicon Valley.” Located close to the urban metropolis of Beijing, the new city will combine research institutes for modern science and innovation with environmentally friendly and eco-efficient urban living
“. Back in the UAE, there is the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi – the zero carbon city, and “one of the most sustainable communities on the planet”. It is a pioneer of new clean and green technologies. And Living PlanIT valley in Portugal, one of a new generation of “intelligent cities”.

What about all the air travel? How can an Aerotropolis essentially be ‘green’, when flying is central to the model?

This is the real question that I was left with, and talked about with a few friends after Mr Lindsay’s session. Before entering the room that morning, I would have argued the absolute opposite of many of Lindsay’s points! I guess I’m now compelled to read the book thoroughly, and make sure I understand his arguments properly.

I would have argued that we only moved from an agrarian society a couple of hundred years ago, through the industrial revolution in the western world. And I probably saw ubiquitous technology and fast communications as a way for people to ‘spread out’ again across the global landscape. And key to this – to travel less, and to communicate using new technologies, which become increasingly like ‘real meetings’. But, I am swayed at least in part by the idea that people need to be together – socially, and in business. And cities are the solution to that need for ‘togetherness’ that is lost in remote communications.

The answer, I guess, is that as human beings we are all different – some will desire the quieter life and clean air of rural life. They will push the boundaries of technology to facilitate living and working in this way. Whilst others desire the hustle and ‘buzz’ of city life. But they too will want their cities to be eco-friendly as far as possible.

Cities, travel, and the real cost (and price) of carbon

The unknown factor, and for me the ‘elephant in the Ballroom’ last Monday morning, was the real cost (and price) of carbon. Maybe I missed this point in Mr Lindsay’s lecture? But I dont think so.

In the UK, the government is leading the way, unilaterally (to the frustration of many businesses, it has to be said) to be the “greenest government” anywhere. Schemes such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) have set a price for carbon trading, not just for the large energy-intensive industries, but “to cover all organisations using more than 6,000MWh per year of electricity”.

Currently, this is based solely on metered electricity use. But in the future one can see this being applied to air travel. If businesses had to pay for the real cost of carbon reduction required to mitigate their business air travel, flying would become very much more expensive…..this would kill the concept of the Aerotropolis as proposed by Mr Lindsay.

Maybe there is some middle ground..there usually is.

Third Places‘ now give themselves up for ‘Fourth Places’ – perhaps?

Lindsay went on to discuss the “disolving of physical plant”, where people come together when they need to, but we don’t need as much physical corporate-leased space. It was at a CoreNet summit in the US two or three years ago now that I first came across the term “Third Places“, a phrase and description first coined by Dr Ray Oldenburg. Third Places are “…nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ‘second'”

In Chicago, I heard the term “Fourth Place” for the first time – i.e., somewhere not at home, or the office, but actually designed for work (not like coffee shops, which are designed for coffee!). I have worked in one myself, regularly, for over two years – but I hadn’t heard the term before. Richard Florida may have come up with the term, in his article, where he said “Entrepreneurs and real-estate providers are increasingly recognizing the need for what I call Fourth Places—places where we can informally connect and engage and dialogue, but also where we can work. Places that freelancers or startups can use on an as-needed basis, or where travelers can set up shop temporarily”

What I heard from Greg Lindsay was a step on from this – where companies encourage workers to use these Fourth Places, and where “the entire point is to go outside”. He mentioned Eli Lilly & Company where they actually want to get people out into the outside world, to increase productivity. The company wants employees to meet people, not co-workers.

An example of a purpose-built Fourth Place is “The Squaire” at Frankfurt Airport, Germany. And its “New Work City”, aimed at providing a business facility for people with a common interest in great architecture & place.

An interesting idea, that fits more with my ‘ideal model’ than some of the larger eco-cities, is Mesa del Sol, a “place where work and home and school and fun are within walking distance of each other”

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, it is designed for around 100,000 people, and designed as a hub for creatives. Its essentially a city where you work from home! But it fits the Aerotropolis model of Lindsay’s, as it is also “only around 6mins to the airport – people fly to LA to the office occasionally”. The city has electric cars, and people typically work at home 3 days/week, often with some time up in LA. It is a 40/50 year project….interesting to follow!

What does all this mean for business, and specifically to corporate real estate and workplace professionals?

Like the ‘paperless office’ and other such myths, we can safely assume that the “officeless portfolio” is not going to happen anytime soon – and probably never. All large organisations will have a core of offices, and the chances are that in 10 years time many of them will look much as they do today…and will not be in one of these new eco-cities or an ‘aerotropolis’.

However, what is clear is that the corporate real estate portfolio, and the workplace/IT manager’s remit, is changing in a big way around the edges of the traditional ‘core’. Unless my predictions of high carbon prices (via some form of taxation) take hold around the world – and we see little sign of that so far – business flights seem destined to continue. But at the same time, people want to work closer to home, travel less, and hence ‘third and fourth spaces’ look likely to become permanent parts of the work landscape. So there will continue to be some core HQ space, and a need to provide employees with an agile working support to make best use of working in a variety of settings – from office, to home, to ‘third places’ and a growing number of specialist ‘fourth places’.

Mr Lindsay quoted the late CK Prahalad, who said that there was ‘no such thing as emerging markets or multi nationals’. He talked about organisations either centralising OR decentralising, whereas Prahalad proposed that organisations do both. He proposed:

20 hubs, no head office; not ‘run’ from anywhere

– networking of offices

– shared central economies of scale, such as R+D perhaps; other elements, disperse as needed

Where will these hubs actually be?

One would expect that some of the examples of ‘aerotropolis’ given to us by Greg Lindsay will become leading ‘hubs’ of the future. Much, I suspect, will depend on the relative growth of global-regional economies. I certainly got the strong feeling once again that all the growth is in the east – in Asia Pacific. Will that actually be at the detriment of US and European leading cities of today?

A McKinsey report, “Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities ” was quoted by Mr Lindsay. The report says, “Today only 600 urban centers generate about 60 percent of global GDP. While 600 cities will continue to account for the same share of global GDP in 2025, this group of 600 will have a very different membership. Over the next 15 years, the center of gravity of the urban world will move south and, even more decisively, east”.

Will more of our regional ‘hubs’ be in these cities in the South and East? Will some of our organisations in fact be taken over by Chinese or Indian multi-nationals? Will our US and European offices reduce in size, with a smaller workforce, whilst rapidly growing in China and Latin America?

None of us has the answer to these questions, of course. I only hope that more of the leading cities of the future spin off more places like Mesa del Sol as described above. Living a sustainable life (in all senses – ecologically, physically, and in social/family terms) must be our goal? Three days a week ‘at home’ or a local third place, half a day travelling, and a day in an ‘aerotropolis’ sounds like a better future ‘week’. Far better than the taxing schedule of daily commuting, 8-6 desk-bound working, and pollution that many of our corporate employees endure today.

Paul Carder  (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com)

http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

Social media facilities management for internal corporate collaboration – if IT lets you!

Workplace / Facilities Managers have a key role to play in bringing collaborative environments to life with collaborative social media tools

Is it just me, or do many people in large corporate and government organisations have more tools to communicate and collaborate OUTSIDE of their organisation that they do WITHIN it? Seems to me that some IT departments may be holding back ‘information’ rather than providing the tools to increase its ease of use…?

There are so many ways to communicate now, its a real problem when people have them all on their i-POD, but only email or phone at their desk! As an example, I only get a few messages a week via Facebook, rather than several hundred via my 3 email accounts – so my IFA used Facebook this weekend, as the one route he knew was most likely to reach me on a Saturday morning. Good thinking. I also get many useful web-links every week from people that I follow on Twitter. But LinkedIn is by far the most useful collaboration tool for me. Can 80m+ people be wrong? Its easy to find people, in organisations that you want to talk to, about subjects of mutual business interest.

So, why don’t organisations let their people use LinkedIn? and Twitter? and other useful social media tools? Security risk?

Now, here’s an idea – why not initiate your own INTERNAL version of LinkedIn or Facebook? It would help to encourage more communication across the organisation, between people who otherwise may pass like ‘ships in the night’ through the corridors and past the watercoolers of corporate environments….without knowing that they have something useful to talk about.

Just look at all the ‘Groups’ on LinkedIn – something for every area of interest in the business world, and much more besides I’m sure. How powerful would it be to have this facility INSIDE the organisation..? Groups for every idea and project under the corporate umbrella; with the ability for people to contribute who may have great ideas but would otherwise not be heard.

Who should deliver it? well, why not corporate workplace/facilities? We work hard to create spaces and facilities to support and encourage communication and collaboration. We create spaces for people to mingle, and hopefully talk – restaurants, queues, break-out areas, etc. But what is missing is always the human connection – you might create opportunities for people to ‘bump into’ each other, but mostly they will not know each other, so they will not necessarily speak.

A corporate version of LinkedIn adds the human connection of course – a photo, so that you recognise someone, and a bit of information about their career history, achievements, current role…even faily and outside interests.

Now, how many more “watercooler moments” would be created – and who knows how many useful business opportunities initiated as a result – if companies had their own corporate ‘in-house’ version of LinkedIn? And what better way for corporate workplace/facilities management and ICT departments to work together to respectively create collaborative environments, both in the physical and the information worlds….?

Who will be first? If you already do this, please let me know…love to hear about it (occupiers@ntlworld.com); regards, Paul Carder http://uk.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

The SECI model of organisational learning and its usefulness to workplace designers

An often quoted/used model in the world of organisational learning is the “SECI” model. It proposes 4 discrete learning processes.

The four processes are:
Socialisation: where tacit knowledge (that which is not written down) gets transferred from person to person
Externalisation: where tacit knowledge gets spoken out loud / written down / made explicit.
Combination: where explicit knowledge is combined with other explicit knowledge to make more explicit knowledge
Internalisation: where a person reads explicit knowledge and learns it, lets it seep into their world-view.

See: Nonaka_SECI_Model

Now, some debate the correctness of the model. If people want we could do that here. Tim [Tim Springer – LinkedIn] and I have been corresponding on it privately but perhaps it would be better to hold that discussion in the round.

My own view is that Nonaka’s SECI model is potentially useful to those of us trying to work out what a productive office is. If there are 4 basic processes at play in a firm that are making new knowledge, then we should all be trying to figure out how to encourage all 4 them. The processes are very different and so Nonaka’s model seems to imply that knowledge workers need more than one working environment. I describe 2 below.

Internalisation: this process involves the individual making sense of their work and the explicit instructions they have been given. To my mind this would be best done in an environment that promotes concentration and lack of interruption (visual or auditory). So an office would be good, as would a library.

Socialisation: this process is one individual “catching” an idea off another. To me this best happens in a social, buzzy place, where people talk, overhear each other, make friends. A place where culture is transferred. This would not be an office. It would be something like a skunk works or team rooms. I use dense kitchen table layouts to do this.

This post, and discussion, can also be found on LinkedIn at Occupiers Journal (group)

by Roland Openshaw, Global lead for innovative workplace strategies at Pfizer Inc.

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/roland-openshaw/2/a20/9a8

How do we build corporate culture, and mentoring, in a mobile world?

I finished a report on Workplace Mobility a couple of weeks ago – specifically ‘how to maintain the commitment to mobility after the project team has moved on…’  It followed our research, and a workshop, with the Workplace ‘PIN’ (performance innovation network) group of real estate occupiers in the UK  Workplace \’PIN\’

I should say, I am a passionate believer in ‘mobility’ – enabling work to be conducted in many settings around the office, or away from the office with customers, or at home, or anywhere…and our research has shown clear benefits in a number of ways, for organizations and individuals alike.

But one area that needs some work – and a collection of brains, from different disciplines – is how the corporate organization creates and maintains its culture in a mobile world. And also, perhaps a subset of this, how does mentoring happen when people are less often together in the same space & time?

Lets take one of the best examples of a productive, flexible and mobile working environment, at Microsoft Workplace Advantage, Schiphol (NL). It really is a great environment, with multiple settings for working in different ways and with different people. People love it, and its won awards – deservedly so.

The key question I have – and I dont have any predetermined answer, as I’d like to know your views – is how do you pass on knowledge when people are less often together? Or rarely together, in one place, at one time?

I guess the first, and most important, group are the ’20-somethings’. Either fresh from University (in most cases these days), or perhaps transferring into a second job, and learning about the organization, what it does, how it does it. And also learning how to do their job – packed full of knowledge from University, but this is now the real office environment, and they have to learn how to get things done, how to persuade and influence…or just how to work!

In a traditional professional training, there has been a heavy reliance on mentoring throughout the structure. Graduates are mentored by qualified professionals, the recently qualified are mentored by the experienced, and the latter by the business directors or specialist partners. People learn from many experiences, some even ‘subliminal’. Sometimes simple, like over-hearing telephone discussions, consciously or perhaps unconsciously listening to what was said, how a customer was dealt with, how questions were answered, and so on. Most, if not all, people who have gone through a professional training will have experienced the pain (and repeat it on someone else, usually) of sitting with a senior person who red-lines and re-drafts your lovingly prepared report. Or cuts 30 of your presentation slides leaving the 10 she really needs….all good learning!!

Everyone remembers a good school teacher – in the same way, we remember experiences that taught us crucial lessons in our professional or business careers. So, how does this happen in a mobile world?

Cities like London, UK, have expensive real estate, so pressure to increase the DSR (desk-share ratio) will continue. This is accepted in mobile teams, like accountants (auditors) and management consultants. But can it ever work for bankers, business operations, software developers and the like?

Maybe the answer is mobile teams, rather than mobility for individuals? If the team is mobile, and can ‘camp’ in various places in groups of 2, 3, 4 or more, the corporate culture and learning experience is maintained. But where individuals are encouraged to be mobile, how do they maintain that link to the organization, and pick up the crucial learning and development that we all need?

How does this work in your organization? I’d love to hear your views….

Paul Carder