Here’s A Wild Idea: Stop Pretending

Workplaces are funny things. If you’re anything like most people – then you have a ‘work mode’ and a ‘personal mode’ (with your personal mode encompassing everything that’s not strictly categorised as work). Hybrid and virtual working models are helping break down this distinction – but it’s still a very real phenomena.

The thing is that when we all put on ‘work mode’, we cast aside so many expectations and learnings from our personal lives and leave them behind. We are so afraid of crossing the streams…

…that we end up creating work bubbles.

You know you’ve created a work bubble when what you chat about at work is at a notable contrast with your experiences in the ‘real world’. Whether it’s sitting there staring at beige-coloured square monitors from the 1990s, or you’re chatting with your team about outcomes as if you all exist in a magical vacuum. Or, perhaps you’re rolling out a new project under the assumption that ‘internal employee costs don’t matter’.

Bubbles are dangerous because they dampen innovation. Your organisation exists in a dynamic and ever changing world, and your work and personal life aren’t separate beings – it’s all life.

So here’s the wild idea for the week:

Stop pretending that your workplace is its own microcosm.

Allow yourself and encourage your team to bring in learnings from the broader external environment as well as your own personal lives.

We’re all humans after all.

Something To Ponder: Tradition vs Efficiency

I’m sure you’ve heard of a Dutch Auction. You may also know that the term originates from the Dutch Flower Auctions, but for those of you a little less acquainted with it – famously the Dutch Flower Auctions sell flowers not by starting low and increasing higher, but by starting high and decreasing until a bid is made. This is done using a ‘price clock’. For a very long time the auctions looked something the below image, and often drew in crowds of tourists. Commercial buyers would turn up, inspect the flowers and then bid using this high→low clock system. Well at least, that was the tradition…

But when it comes to business, efficiency often trumps tradition – and for the Dutch Flower Auctions (who have a clearing house the size of the Vatican) – that’s certainly the case. They’ve kept the clocks, but it’s all online now. To enable scalability, one clock has become many, and physical flower inspections have been replaced by a seller reputation system.

And herein lies the problem with tradition → it’s WHAT focused. Tradition is the ritual, and we sentimental, emotional humans find comfort in that. In fact, the comfort of tradition can often be at odds with our rational selves. While researching the auctions, I found the perfect example of the type of cognitive dissonance that tradition spurs. Someone had commented:

“The mere existence of the internet ruined the clocks. Ironic, considering I’d never heard of them until being on the internet.”

The art of ongoing change is shifting priority away from the WHAT in favour of the WHY. The WHY should be steadfast and should be the anchor for your work. The WHAT can and will change – prepare accordingly.

Where is tradition holding your teams back? – and how strong is the WHY that underpins it?