What Good Design Can Teach Us About Motivation
It may be tempting to think that if you want to be innovative, your office has to “have all these weird things going on." Not so, says Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. The real power comes from shaking things up.
What's the Big Idea?
Google keeps flamingos in the courtyard of one of its campuses. Pixar’s studios have more in common aesthetically with a theme park than with the cubicle-and-filing cabinet arrangement that has come to symbolize the soullessness of office drudgery to anyone born after the 1960's. So it may be tempting to think that if your work is creative, your office has to be "designy," to “have all these weird things going on," says Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, a global design consultancy whose client list includes Seventh Generation, 3M, and the US Department of Energy.
But there's more to design than a fresh coat of paint. Organizations can also be beautiful. "Design thinking is simple," says Brown. "It’s about applying the principles and methods that designers have developed over decades to a broader set of challenges faced by business, government and society," and finding human-centered ways to solve them.
Design thinking provides a deeper, more meaningful way to address the increasingly pressing issue of employee engagement than the quirkiness of some modern office spaces would suggest. The real power in an innovative and playful work environment comes from shaking things up, interrupting calcified expectations about what life as a grown-up is like.
In Brown’s words:
Increasing the creativity and productivity... in a workplace is not about having policies. It’s about behavior. It’s about leaders showing that they are engaged in the challenges that their teams are trying to tackle. It’s about sharing ideas. The more the space can be transparent, [the more] people [will] give advice and give help.
The more people post their ideas up on the walls or on computer websites or somewhere internal to the company, the more transparent you can make the flow of information, and the more likely it is you’re going to get help from somebody who has a good idea but hadn’t known what you’d been working on... A large part of how you get more creative productivity out of people is having people feel good about working in teams [because] teams are more effective at solving complex problems.
What's the Significance?
So how do you make the leap from fun to meaning - from installing a ping-pong table, to giving employees the tools to collaborate and contribute to your organization? Brown has two words of advice:
1. Don’t sit in the background. Show intense interest in knowing what your customers do, what your users do. Don’t expect others to do it for you. If you’re in retail, then spend time on the shop floor. If you’re a manufacturer, go spend time with your customers and understand how they really use your products. If you’re a service organization, spend time on the front line understanding how the service really gets delivered.
2. Take an interest in the progress that your teams are making. Don’t wait for them to bring the final idea to you. Understand the journey that they are going on. Bring your amazing experience, to help them come up with better judgments.
This post is part of the series Inside Employees' Minds, presented by Mercer.
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We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.
In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.
Image from the study.
As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.
Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.
"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.
It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.
Image by authors of the study.
Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.
The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.
“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."
Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.
- Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
- Recent glacial melting, caused by global warming, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
- While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.
The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned nicknames.
For instance, the image above is of "Green Boots," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him- many presuming he was the famous corpse.
A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "rainbow valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."
Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Sandy Irvine, the partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full thirty years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it.
Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the nineties without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and Kodak says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irving is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting.
As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell.
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