Big Think Editors
More than half of all U.S. companies have banned employees from using Facebook at work. Dylan Taylor argues that on-the-job socializing is essential to the success of the modern enterprise.
Megan Erickson is an Associate Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, she taught reading and writing to ninth and tenth graders in NYC public schools and tutored students of all ages at the Stuyvesant Writing Center, which she helped launch. In her spare time, she worked in the communications department at the Center for Constitutional Rights and served as a mentor at the Urban Assembly, where she designed and led an extracurricular civics course on grassroots community action. She’s written on education, small business, and the arts for CNNMoney, Fortune Small Business, and The Huffington Post. Megan received her master’s degree in Education from Teachers College. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This idea was suggested by Big Think Delphi Fellow Dylan Taylor.
What's the Big Idea?
Recently, Colliers CEO Dylan Taylor reread a paper he coauthored ten years ago forecasting the strategic role of the physical office in 2010. “We got most of it wrong,” he says. But one idea still resonated: “If you offshore, if you telecommute, if you do anything to minimize your company's physical real estate, there are real consequences to its culture and cohesion.”
Telecommuting has been on the rise for decades, but more than half of businesses in the U.S. have banned workers from using social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. Taylor's argument is that on-the-job socializing is not just an important morale-booster; it's critical to a company's evolution. "Without it, there can be no shared value system. Creating a common identity [through conversation] is essential to the success of the modern enterprise.”
Which presents a problem for the world's fastest-growing multinational. Where do you find the money, space, and time to enable 15,000 workers across six continents to take one collective coffeebreak? According to Taylor, the next best thing to gathering around a box of Munchkins is meeting up at a "virtual water cooler" - an online network where employees are free to interact as meaninglessly, or purposefully, as they choose.
Colliers' web hangout is viewable only by Colliers employees. It was designed in-house and features real time text and video chat. (Keeping the conversation internal lessens the risk of over-sharing and the pressure to be discrete). But once the technology is in place, does anyone actually use it? Or does it slowly recede to the back burner, like the blog you always meant to return to when you had more time?
“It's like any other adoption curve," says Taylor. "You have the early adopters," and then you have everyone else. He estimates that it took about two full years for Colliers' system to catch on, but now 69% of employees participate. The trick is to start with the “connectors” in the organization: the people who bring people together, "influence mood, provide perspective on day to day events, and help create the common identity that people aspire to share.” Those people are not hard to identify - they've been on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for years, and are sending out invitations to Google's +1.
Now, "we intentionally launch the best projects and information using these tools so that the virtual water cooler is the only way some of the information can be accessed. We have several people promoting it" - but ultimately, it is Taylor and his marketing team who are responsible.
De-emphasizing hierarchy is more than good PR - it's a way of orienting a company around a vision that is both unified and adaptable. Taylor's advice: “Make sure you have a clear understanding of your values and intent, then use technology to enable that. What the tech wont do is compensate for a lack of strategy."
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The results come from a 15-year study that used ultrasound scans to track blood vessels in middle-aged adults starting in 2002.
- The study measured the stiffness of blood vessels in middle-aged patients over time.
- Stiff blood vessels can lead to the destruction of delicate blood vessels in the brain, which can contribute to cognitive decline.
- The scans could someday become a widely used tool to identify people at high risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?
- "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
- The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
- Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
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