The World’s Most Average Workplaces 2014

surveysA new survey report published this week by ‘The Institute of Activities’ has revealed that the worlds 25 most average workplaces have much in common.

The report states that the highest ranked workplaces are visually characterized by a number of recognizable features; their low rent densely packed open plan bench desking, white walls, mineral fibre ceiling tiles, grey floorcoverings, and seating in the corporate colours of the company logo.

To qualify for top 25 ranking in the prestigious ‘average’ section of the institutes annual survey, employees in the businesses surveyed should physically work very closely together; sit in near silence, and in an atmosphere of fear mingled with humility and hope. “Much like the passengers of a jet landing in a storm at night” as the CEO of one surveyed firm put it.

Also, organizations in the survey were singled out for their offices limited daylight or aspect to the outside world, although fluorescent strip lighting was noted as plentiful in each workplace. Most of which worked intermittently in a range of whites from blue to the red end of the spectrum. On a related point, 50% or greater of employees in the organizations surveyed had to complain of stress, headaches and respiratory conditions in order to make it into the top 25.

Professor Guff-Smith who supervised the survey and report has said “In order to achieve top 5 ranking this year, the organizations listed have demonstrated an impressive array of inconsistent short term draconian policies that support a total disregard for individual autonomy or self expression by employees, including a complete ban on social media, and for instance, limited timed access to what surveyed executives referred to as the ‘Electric Interweb Machine’.”

Jacque Le Mac, CEO of Misinformation Inc. ranked 1st in this years survey has said “We recognize that it’s not enough to give everyone a one metre wide strip of work surface; Its imperative not only to restrict legroom but also communication with colleagues and the outside world as much as possible. We must maintain the delicate balance between investment in the workplace, our people and profitability, whilst maintaining large annual dividends. Therefore we find it eminently sensible and easier to encourage our people to remain at their desk all day and every day.”

“We used to let our employees walk around the office freely and meet with colleagues face to face, but we had too many health and safety incidents. Folks were walking into each other or worse, walking into the walls, and causing a facilities management nightmare.” Le Mac also said “We even piloted that home working thing for a while, but nobody seemed to come back to the office after they started daily reruns of The Rockford Files on BBC2. We thought a form of ‘Hot Desking’ or booking free space would work too, but soon discovered the unpaid interns were in league with the mail room boys and were selling the unoccupied desks to any takers off the back of the goods-in bay.”

Mr Le Mac continued “Forgive me, I digress, there are activity based working (ABW) policies we do encourage at Misinformation Inc. and that’s to take advantage of the twice daily permitted toilet breaks, and at lunchtime we recommend the excellent burger van facility only 17 minutes brisk walk from the executive car park. Equally by locating our offices in a business park setting at least 30 minutes walk from the nearest transport links, cafes and retail outlets we actively encourage our employees to remain fit and healthy, if not a little tired from time to time, but our people value the sense of teamwork, security and belonging that comes with a highly structured and disciplined environment.” Mr Le Mac added, “With the improvements in speed and efficiency of our internal network, nobody ever has to leave their desk to attend a meeting, or chat with colleagues in person, never mind leave the office. He concluded, “It’s very efficient you know!”

28-year-old Wilma Jones, Misinformation Inc.’s longest serving employee was quoted as saying in the comments section of her 10-page ‘Most Average Workplaces’ survey questionnaire;

I have been asked to say, I have had 12 long happy weeks at Misinformation Inc. I never thought that after qualifying with a degree in Economics and an MBA in Business Analytics that I would be where I am now. I had been job-hunting for 6 years following my graduation, and in this very challenging post recession economy it was more than a little character building, I can tell you. I have however, now found my perfect job in my perfect workplace. Life has never been better for my colleagues or me, and we are so grateful to work in such a sinister well-managed environment in an atmosphere of complete trust and openness. We all work in the open and as our manager can see us all the time, he really trusts us.”

Professor Guff-Smiths’ next project at ‘The Institute of Activities’ will be to examine the business psychology behind balancing false-economics and ecological imperatives in the retail sector. He will conduct the first detailed study into the combined number of supermarket carrier bags actually needed to perform the intended function of one. His white paper will be entitled  ‘Do you want me to double those up’.

Post gratefully inspired by the good folks at @InsightOnWork who posted a great little commentary article linking to the strange and apocryphal source publication The Worlds Best Multinational Workplaces.

ChromaNet – 1. The Chromatagon

It is 3.59am, June 18, 2084. Having just shifted from laying on his left to his right side, Mike Sand had once again become immediately aware of an array of interconnected monochromatic patterns filling his entire field of view, or were they in colour? He wasn’t quite sure. He didn’t know what he was witnessing. He momentarily observed shapes in white, orange, red, blue and green, but then all the colour merged in an instant leaving only white lines, forming 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional shapes, he had never seen or imagined before. The thin white lines formed a myriad beautiful fixed patterns before his eyes, they seemed to undulate gently upward, downward, and slowly from side to side, as if they were being drafted by an invisible force upon a vast heaving black ocean, which spanned the horizon as far as he could see, into a silent clear but moonless night.

Mike Sand thought the sky and the ocean, and the very air itself was now composed of floating white iridescent wireframe line patterns. He could almost see definable structure and form, but the patterns never formed up long enough to create an identifiable or familiar object or form.

Was he asleep or awake? Whether Mike Sand was asleep and dreaming or conscious and aware, he was transfixed by this beautiful display of indefinable shapes filling the dark void in which he found himself. ‘How wonderful!’ he thought at first, breathing slowly and quietly, lest the shapes became aware of his presence, and vanished.

It was as if he had floated weightless into a state of hitherto unknown consciousness, which was about to reveal to him the true nature of the universe and all it’s forms of energy. It’s design; it’s purpose, its beauty and its infinite possibilities. He was convinced he was beginning to see the basic building blocks of everything. It briefly occurred to him that he and this universe might indeed be the product of someone else’s subtle but complex creative vision; perhaps brought about by a technology so far unimagined by the human race. It was a revelation to Mike. It was both exciting and frightening, and it was sadly his subconscious fear that had awoken him moments before all the hidden secrets of the cosmos and life itself were revealed to him.

With no more than a little disappointment however, as though he had anticipated it, he quietly mumbled under his breath ‘Oh well, back to reality’. It was five more hours until network login at ‘Project 8’, and Mike resented being awake at 4am, especially for what seemed like the one-hundredth day in a row.

A ‘Red’ level Archon from ChromaNet had initially approached Mike seven years earlier to work on ‘Project 8’ when he was only fourteen years old. It’s extremely rare that any ‘Red’ on the Chromatagon will deign to interact with a ‘Green’ in any context. Especially one as young as fourteen, but to have been requested to train and work on ‘Project 8’ by a ‘Red’ and even more remarkable, a council ‘Archon’, was even more of a revelation. In fact it was unheard of at the time.

Mike’s mother had been immensely proud, and when his Father Jack is woken from cryogenic stasis in 3 days time on June 21st, he’ll doubtless be extremely proud too. His ship, the ‘Northern Star’ will have completed the journey to the Alpha Centauri B system in less than 7 years. Twice as far and four times as fast as any previous ChromaNet data mapping mission.

Archons, it should be noted are the most senior ChromaNet councillors, and network thought leaders, and are elected for a minimum seven-year term by their ‘Red’ level peers, or at least those already sitting on the ‘ChromaNet’ council. The council itself consists of 27 elected ‘Red’ members representing all global districts. Only ‘Reds’ are permitted to participate in council elections, in fact it’s mandatory.

Mike, then as now was blissfully unaware of his immense potential. His gregarious and generous personality had often inhibited his capacity for what most would define as achievement. He was a sucker for fun and frivolous distraction when it suited him, and he delighted in a more personal definition of achievement.

It’s common knowledge upon graduating to level ‘Blue’ from ‘Green’ at age 21, that you can interact with anyone else on ‘ChromaNet’, no matter what their designation on the four colour ‘Chromatagon’. You could still interact with a younger ‘green’, or youthful twenty something ‘Blue’ like Mike, or an adult ‘Violet’ of 35 years plus or an older and wiser ‘Red’, who were typically 49 years and over.

Although, there were exceptions to all ‘ChromaNet’ designations on the ‘Chromatagon’ scale. It just depended upon four key factors. Firstly, your age which was categorized as either under 21 (Green), 21 – 35 (Blue), 35 – 49 (Violet) and 49+ (Red). Secondly, your DNA markers, any tested faults indicating unreliability mentally or physically? Namely, were you likely to develop any diseases later in life, or were you genetically prone to violence or addictive behaviours? Thirdly, but arguably most importantly, your intelligence rating defined by ‘ChromaNet’ standard neural testing, and lastly your educational attainment through the ‘ChromaNet’ learning regime.

Following Mike’s initial three year ‘ChromaNet’ project 8 induction training, he had now been working full time as a design tech for four years as a ‘Green’, and as today was his birthday he was intrigued to know what new knowledge and insights would be revealed, if any, at 9am, when he moved up the ‘Chromatagon’ scale to designation ‘Blue’.

He needed to calm himself down, and stop thinking about the new possibilities afforded by the higher network colour designation. It was dawning on him what the source of his weird dreaming might have been.

Mike looked toward the opposite end of his long curved living space, raised his head and his voice and stated clearly, purposefully and without hesitation; ‘Music: Bowie, Track: Moonage Daydream’. In less time than takes to breath in and out once, the rich sharp emphatic opening chords played out as if ‘Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars’ were actually in the room. The energy and expansive sound filled the entire apartment.

Mike swivelled upright in his bed, and ran his right hand, with fingers outstretched over the top of his head and through his shoulder length dark brown hair, resting the palm of his hand on the back of his neck, which he squeezed once to relieve a little muscle tension, and at the same time placed his feet on the dark oak floorboards, which felt cool against his warm feet. The sensation was soothing. The gentle hum of the air conditioning can be heard in the background. He clenched his toes for a second or two before standing up in his black briefs, and walked slowly, tilting his head left and right, which satisfyingly caused two distinct but muffled cracking sounds. He shuffled his warm feet across the cool wooden floor; and sauntered through the open plan space toward the kitchen. He sat on one of the four white leather stools at the curved breakfast bar, which was facing the window and courtyard below, and hunched forward, wearily and bleary eyed, he lay his sleepy head in his left hand.

While moving his left heel up and down in unison with the music. Without thinking, he also tapped out the slow steady beat with the outstretched fingers of his right hand as if the muscles on his right thigh were a tightly tuned drum. He mouthed the lyrics without singing until the song reached the spacey enigmatic chorus, which he blasted out at the top his voice;

‘Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe’

‘Put your ray-gun to my head’

‘Press your space face close to mine, love’

‘freakout in a moonage daydream…Oh Yeah!’

It soothed Mike’s anxious early morning sleepy thoughts to concentrate on the music for a few moments. He knew it would inject him with enough ambient energy to kick start his day. He often relied upon music to raise himself up or calm down and reflect.

Lost in thought, he glanced out of the south facing kitchen window in front of him, and cast an eye across the apartments on the other side of the communal gardens. The eight-storey block of 144 apartments was planned in a long smooth curve, arcing from left to right, and emanating from a central circular core. The mathematical geometry proportioned to follow the ‘Fibonacci’ number sequence, notably found in nature.

This is a number sequence pattern that begins with 0 or 1, where the next number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two numbers. Namely; 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,24,55,89,144 etc. A good visual example would be the arrangement of seeds on a sunflower, or the beautiful symmetrical structure seen in seashells, and even aurally in a more subtle form, such as the tonal composition of the most highly structured music, such as in a Bach Partita.

Nobody ever asked why the community hub blocks were always built in this shape, or indeed why the central mega hubs were built to the same design, albeit on an altogether much larger scale. It was beautiful to look at, and unarguably space, light and energy efficient. That’s just the way it was, and everyone accepted the uniformity.

Each individual block in plan view was designed as if one of three blades on a propeller, each linked into a circular lobby and services core, and served by three lifts and a staircase. The three apartment blocks or blades of the propeller were separated from the next by a carefully maintained Japanese influenced garden.

There were eighteen living spaces per floor, across eight floors, arranged around three central landscaped gardens. The gardens were composed of undulating well maintained lawns, flower beds of white, yellow and orange roses, silver birch trees and an ornamental fountain set within a shallow black polished granite pool. The circular pools in each of the three gardens, adjacent to the entrance lobby were the focal point for five long curved oak benches, and were arranged to architecturally follow the same gently curved shape of the glass fronted apartment buildings. Internally, the lobby floors were laid out in dark oak floorboards, with cream coloured plaster walls. Although, the curved wall facing the open oak staircase was in fact a full height ‘Luminos’ view screen running ChromaNet ads 24/7.

The first glowing nano post Mike noticed displayed in the glass of the upper left apartment opposite was ‘Did anyone see episode 73 of ‘The Field’ last night, I missed it?’. Mike smiled to himself and made a quiet grunting snort as he laughed inwardly, ‘What a loser!’ before shaking his head from side to side in disapproval. He then cast his eyes down a level and across three apartments to a window that displayed ‘Got to get up at 5am tomorrow’. Mike raised his eyebrows and acted out a fake shiver for his own personal amusement. He struggled with the small hours of the morning. Anything from 4am to 7am, he felt that these hours were so offensive that he couldn’t bring himself to even say them out loud, and he stopped anyone else mid sentence should they utter any time close to sunrise. He was more a self-confessed afternoon person or more accurately a night owl, and unashamedly a member of the ‘Parliament of Owls’.

He looked at the ‘Luminos’ screen in the centre of the apartment, which was formed of a continuous thin blue-white line of laser light. It was as thin as the edge of a sheet of paper. It ran discreetly and neatly across the floor, running the width of the apartment, up one wall, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall, meeting seamlessly at the floor again. It was always on, mostly running ads of the same type run on the lobby screen. Ironically, an annual contract to ChromaNet for network connection and services was 90% cheaper if you opted to have the always on function enabled, although you could mute the volume and dim the light level at night, between 9.00pm and 7.00am.

Mike spoke aloud, ‘Display time’.

In the centre of the room, two-foot high green numerals phased up. The time was superimposed upon the current broadcast, an advertisement, which was the case more often than not.

‘Upgrade your Chromachip to the new C7S before the compulsory rollout on August 1st and earn 10,000 bonus bits towards an early Chromatagon upgrade’. ‘Experience the fulfilling wonder of new knowledge, new connections and new friends on a higher colour designation’. ‘With a voluntary 7S upgrade, you won’t have to worry about anymore cumbersome or time consuming verbal instructions on ChromaNet’. ‘Benefit from our new 24/7 ‘always-on’ two-way communication to the network’. ‘If your busy concentrating at work, talking to friends online, or watching an old movie, even sleeping or just relaxing, the new Chromachip 7S works silently and instantly accessing not only your conscious choices like previous ChromaChips, but also for the first time your memories and subconscious too’.

‘No more forgotten facts or personal memories, no more struggling to find the right words to express yourself’. ‘You think it, ChromaNet supplies it’. Like every ChromaNet ad it always ended with the softly spoken words of the corporate mission:

‘ChromaNet, Your Rainbow of Possibilities’.

The phased up clock numerals were semi transparent but clearly defined and easily readable. Their green hue cast a light without a shadow upon the dark wooden floor, giving it the impression of glowing violet, lilac and purple. The numbers read 04:03.03am, 04:03.04am, 04:03.05am, and then faded out again as quickly as they had appeared.

The 30 second long ChromaNet advert continued to run in a loop, as it had done for 5 minutes at the start of every hour on every comm channel and ‘luminos’ device.

Mike couldn’t help but think he was increasingly uncomfortable about the forthcoming cerebral chip upgrade. He had initially considered getting the early upgrade from his old C6 chip when the ad campaign started back in January, but with one thing and another it had slipped his mind, ironically. As winter became spring, and spring became summer he had been focussing on other things, and considered it less and less important. Besides, the local community med-centre would install it by legal mandate after August 1st. Although 10,000 free bits toward an early ‘Chromatagon’ upgrade would be nice. He felt that he was banking a good amount of credits through his exam results and ChromaNet project work.

The truth is that Mike wasn’t entirely convinced that a permanent two-way network chip installed in his brain was as good an idea as the ads had been making out. There was no doubt that he had found the C6 chip extremely useful over the past three years. He had been happy to access ChromaNet in a conscious one-way choice scenario, through thought alone. However, a compulsory two-way connection with no off function, even if it were running in the background, made him feel instinctively ill at ease. If not downright worried. So far he had managed to dismiss any thoughts of it actually happening.

Given there was only 6 more weeks until the end of the voluntary upgrade period on August 1st, and then the 7 day warning period before ChromaNet cut him off from the network. Mike found himself forced to confront the long-term reality of a lifetime literally being a living part of ChromaNet at a neural level.

© Adrian McNeece 2014

Conference Wars – Episode IV (New Hope)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

It is a period of civil war. Rebel
workplace blogs, striking from a hidden
base, have won their first victory
against the evil Corporate Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed
to steal secret plans to the Empire’s
ultimate weapon, the workplace conference, an
armoured space conversation with enough
power to destroy an entire building.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents,
workplace consultants race home aboard the
tube, custodians of the stolen plans
that can save their clients and restore
freedom to the galaxy…

Darth-Stewie-Family-GuyIt’s that time of year again when the evil corporate empire gather their storm troopers in preparation for yet another assault against the workplace rebels. The massed ranks of uniformed, suited and booted workplace troops share their evil plans to stifle and crush the rebels ideas, once and for all. The corporate empire has the resources and discipline to mobilise huge forces against any unconventional opposition. Chief amongst their weapons is the combined power of all their spread sheets, info graphics and survey results into one almighty focussed workplace conference, capable of immense destruction on a massive scale.

Will the corporate empire achieve their evil financial goals of increased productivity, whilst at the same time reducing property overheads? Will they demonstrate through the sinister use of a donut graph that peace in the galaxy can only be achieved through an easy to complete satisfaction survey? Will they increase flexibility in the galaxy by removing your home planet, thereby allowing you to collaborate with alien intelligences, and use any unoccupied planet?

Has the empire finally cracked the rebels’ communications code, will their leader, darkly cloaked, and masked in self-reverence, reveal that the workplace rebels will fail if they cannot produce their own ultimate info graphic. Will the rebels lack of peer-reviewed data be their downfall, or will they win the battle of good over evil by harnessing ‘The Farce’, the invisible energy that binds every workplace conference together.

Credit: George Lucas & Family Guy.

#Twitter Proves To Be #Absurd

twitter-buttonsOn June 3 I wrote a post here entitled ‘#The Absurdity of #Twitter’. It was my personal view of two aspects of Twitter, or more specifically how it is used. It was a complete generalization and non-specific to any individual or organization, and was in fact prompted by my need to redirect my creative energy and attention away from the frivolity of Twitter, and direct it toward a truly creative and productive personal endeavor. Indeed, a wise man once said that nothing significant was ever written in less than 140 characters. My energies directed elsewhere will hopefully generate both income for me and my family and much enjoyment for the general public, and maybe even you.

The first of my two motivations in writing my last apparently controversial post, was prompted by the increasing number of frankly inane repetitive hackneyed old clichés popping up again and again about #workplace issues, which is incidentally my historical field of endeavor as a lifelong workplace design consultant (27+ Years). The reality is that the repetitive nature of many tweets stems from the fact that the tweeters in the field of #Workplace, #FM or #HR, (including supplier and support industries) are sadly a very small group in the UK and further afield. Almost all of whom are great individuals or organizations, with a wealth of experience in their own field. Some are even fun and entertaining, and present a genuinely personal viewpoint devoid of any wider insidious and prosaic corporate agenda.

However, when it becomes apparent that a personal or business agenda has run it’s course, many often revert to the beginning of their short agenda and fire it all out again. This is the enemy of creativity and I would argue is a misuse of what we term a ‘Social Media’. It stifles debate and open discussion of the new and emerging ideas. Corporates spew mundane guff on Twitter, they don’t converse or debate. It’s not commercially in their interests.

Although, repetition of the bleedin’ obvious in itself is not such a bad strategy for some, especially in business, as all they are trying to do is draw in the passing chance observer, much like a good window dressing. Twitter feed after all contributes to your Google search ranking results. “Come in and have a look at our product, it’s great! it’s a quality product and yes you’ll love working with our creative and highly professional team”. It’s what business does, and in a sense you can’t blame them. Corporates aim for the centre of the proverbial bell curve graph of what’s normal and generally accepted. That’s where the big numbers are, the big bucks. They’re aiming for mass appeal, not peripheral ideas or unproven concepts, not the weird or revolutionary, as Seth Godin details in his excellent book. ‘We Are All weird’.

We can’t blame the corporates or their wage slave lackies. Although isn’t that our prerogative in an otherwise free society, criticism of philosophies, religions, business practices and general BS. It’s an outlet of personal expression, which I for one greatly value. I would argue it also serves a free society, and the wider world, very well indeed.

Sadly, the Twitter medium is often used as simply another channel or conduit to direct traffic to one’s charming little website or business. Some use it creatively to draw readers to their blogs, and those who do, more often than not have fascinating, informative and even groundbreaking views. Often quite inspiring! You know who you are. If that last sentence ended with a split infinitive, I’m not sure? There are those out there in the Twitter sphere who will helpfully point this out to me for my benefit, or is that their or they’re benefit? You’re free to make up your own assessment about the motivations of the self appointed grammar police, or should that second use of ‘Your’ have been ‘You’re’. I’ll leave that to those who care deeply about such issues. I’m recently informed my English grammar notably undermined my argument in my June 3 post. Yawn!

However, speaking exclusively for myself, and not for any others on Twitter who may be offering a professional service. I really do know recycled corporate BS when I see it, and I also know when some are punting a service or insight as new and informed, or as heavily researched, so apparently valid. Even if the premise is all-wrong. When in fact, given my experience I genuinely do know what is marketing hype, and founded upon misunderstood concepts driven by commercial imperatives. If you read any of my previous posts you’ll note that I don’t write in support of the status quo or big business. What would be the point or indeed fun in that?

I write for myself, and in order to be an informed #workplace rebel, and to challenge prevailing viewpoints, whether they pertain to industry specific seminars, research databases, workplace concepts, psychology or data gathering techniques. I even deliberately poke fun and derision at my own erstwhile industry, ‘Workplace Consulting’. I hasten to add; I do so because so few challenge the status quo, especially if you’re in the employ of another, or if you have a commercial interest in the outcome of your tweet agenda. I have no commercial agenda, and I’m not beholden to a corporate marketing strategy, and it’s a privilege and a joy! My independence is my strength, and hopefully once in a while a source of mirth and occasional insight.

My second motivation for my June 3 post on the ‘#Absurdity of #Twitter’ was to address the plethora of unending happy clappy ‘like me’ type tweets that serve no purpose at all, other than to reaffirm the existence of the tweeter as an all round good egg. The flaccid liberal output of those limp bores who think that being overtly courteous and polite, and jolly is worth reading. It isn’t. It’s plain dull, and a waste of time and effort. I obviously use the term ‘effort’ very loosely. Don’t get me wrong some of my best friends are polite and courteous, and they would say I am too. However, we don’t over emphasize the basic courtesy between us, which any decent human being employs in social circumstances. I, and my friends, clients and colleagues just converse freely. It’s a bit of a given, once one learns the basics of reading and writing and social skills. We speak openly, honestly, humorously and one hopes in an interesting and engaging manner. We laugh, we concentrate, we work and collaborate (Much as I detest the word), we disagree and ultimately we grow and just get on with our lives. It really is a short life we have isn’t it? (I’m feeling it now) Getting one’s point across is a gift, and often a relief, and shouldn’t be halted for lack of a smarmy insincere ingratiating social platitude, like ‘What a beautiful day, happy Monday everyone!’. Uurgghh!

My use and quote in my previous blog of the ‘Ricky Gervais’ phrase ‘Oh for f*&@ks sake’ was clearly my injection of a little humour to illustrate the context of recognizing and responding to a flat disappointment. That’s all. I’m fairly certain that was accepted by everyone bar one commentator on my previous post. Tiresome though this is….I don’t personally identify with the shallow prejudiced character Gervais plays in ‘The Office’, ‘David Brent’. What a nonsense! I would like to think that when I use a cultural reference to make a humorous point, it isn’t hijacked as proof positive that I lack any subtlety or depth. Please?

I will conclude by saying that this tragic post was prompted by reading an overtly insulting post on July 11, which was of a personal nature by someone who at time of writing has not yet apologized for their numerous insulting comments about me (Their post is now deleted, due to my intervention with their employer). The delightful boss of the individual in question has graciously apologized ‘unreservedly’ for their employee’s misplaced personal diatribe. Which was self evidently prompted by my June 3 post. Which you must remember as I said earlier, was about nobody in particular, and linked to no one else’s blog or site or twitter page. This errant individual thought the post was about them specifically, and so they bizarrely launched into a personal attack on me. Oh dear.

You would reasonably think that if I had successfully had their post removed within 4 hours of its publication, what’s the big deal? Well I would usually agree that it’s no concern, as the post has indeed been removed. What if the post though were about you, and it had been tagged in a tweet by the writer to their 6,000+ Twitter followers and had been retweeted on multiple occasions in that 4 hour period, and the post had directed 43 click through views to your blog? Attracting multiple negative comments. Would you not say to yourself ‘Hey, hold on a minute this is really uncalled for’?

The now deleted blog in question had said amongst other elements of character assassination…

…No, I’m not playing that game. It’s at this point I say I am not going to republish the several personal insults levelled at me and which sought to undermine my character. I trust you will believe me when I say that this individuals post was indeed removed because it was wholly misjudged and of such a personal nature that it undermined any wider point they wished to make.

Suffice to say, we are all entitled to make any point we feel motivated to make on any subject, but should never maliciously target any individual for our own petty purposes. By all means disagree with anyone’s point but you only make a fool of yourself if you make it personal and insulting. Also, if you know you have made a mistake, and caused injury and offence, the least anyone can do is say I’m sorry, I was wrong.

The Diary of Horace Wimp courtesy of ELO…

The #Absurdity of #Twitter

Despite the hype and inescapable omniscience of social media, perhaps like me, your not entirely convinced of the merits of using Twitter; the literary equivalent of having chronic dysentery, which you feel duty bound and compelled to enjoy.

TwitterI guess I started tweeting nearly a couple of years ago, and did so because quite frankly it was just there, and I was intrigued. I also noted that there were a couple of great people I knew who had started a few months before me. So I thought I’d give it a try and see what all the fuss is about. Apart from crafting ones own 140 character monologues, the game is one of attaining a large number of followers in order to broaden the reach of your little nano thoughts, which in turn broadens your reach etc. There is no stopping this game until everyone on earth is following you. (Apparently). Most of your followers however will never read, interact or retweet anything you say, although your large number of followers will look as if you are worth following, and so the game plays on.

It wasn’t long before I had a few hundred followers myself, and I was conversing with wild digital abandon with total strangers on all manner of workplace and related subjects. My preferred topic though was often on the subject of music, books or movies. The sharing of views on our more personal passions is often an opening into our true and more authentic selves, even in workplace design, HR and FM circles. The act of being genuine on Twitter is expressing yourself without artifice and affectation. Knowing your subject is less than half the story of anyone’s abilities in a commercial workplace context. Not being a predictable, prosaic bore also plays a big part in attracting followers and dare I say admirers of your output. It’s funny how folks who are charmless boring idiots think that they can become debonnaire and interesting on twitter. Eh, ‘fraid not. Once a chump, always a chump.

How often have any of us read or heard some idiot say I’m really passionate about workplace design, or people or HR or FM. Oh seriously! Give us all a break! Anyone who exclaims they’re passionate about anything is generally passionate about bugger all, and is a very poor sales person besides. I’ve been practicing in workplace design since the early 1980’s and there are many many achievements and yes, even mistakes and errors of judgement along the way, but I can say that despite vocational interior design training, focussed diligence, great projects and working with great firms and people, I am NOT passionate about workplace design. I know it, understand it, communicate it well and work hard at it. It’s often even enjoyable, but very often deeply frustrating and difficult, for many reasons. Not to forget poorly paid too.

Passion for anything occurs within us and works silently on us driving our actions and thoughts. Saying out loud that we are passionate is like waving a big red flag and declaring your shallow credentials. “Ooh! Like me, follow me! I’m passionate and really really nice too!” Whether design, FM, HR or my personal favourite…”people”. Who on earth says they’re passionate about people? Pass me the sick bag.

The Office - Series 2Ricky Gervais for me coined a perfect phrase in a Christmas special of ‘The Office’ a few years ago. His character David Brent had arranged a blind date at a local bar in Slough, and upon realizing that the unattractive woman walking towards him was his date he turned to camera and in that same instant, looked to us the viewer and exclaimed under his breath “Oh for f&@*s sake!” We can’t quite make out the expletive because he didn’t actually enunciate the word, but the impression is that he did. It was a perfect and quite shameless comedy reaction to his disappointment at recognizing that he was obliged to see the date through. He was trapped socially, and had to feign interest and devote polite time going through the motions. I often have the same reaction on reading some of the self congratulatory Twitter bio’s of others, and indeed much of the tweets. See if you think Ricky Gervais little reactionary phrase works on these twitter pearls;

“What a beautiful day. Happy Monday everyone”

“Workplace design is critical to effectiveness”

“Satisfaction statistics key indicator of productivity”

“Quiet spaces critical to concentration”

“95% of workers rate their chair as very important”

“Collaboration spaces key to encouraging creativity”

“Gen Y & Millennials have different expectations”

“Retweet if you love what you do #business”

– Oh for f&@*s sake! Right? The most irritating tweet above for me is actually the most innocuous as it sums up the utter pointless stupidity of Twitter. “What a beautiful day, Happy Monday everyone”. Someone firstly had the thought, they then logically concluded I’m going to publish this thought on twitter to my 5,000 followers, or whatever it is, and then they’ll read it, and some will even retweet it, and that retweet will be retweeted again. Add up the time and resources employed in publishing this joyous little harmless statement and millions like it, and their millions of retweets and maybe you too will say to yourself “Oh for f&@*s sake!”. Why?

Although, don’t get me wrong if your having a conversation on twitter it’s slightly less cringe worthy, but no less pointless than exulting ad nauseam the merits of your most recent witty and intellectual nano post. There isn’t an hour in any day that you cant track a pointless circular argument between two people or more who are generally using different words and phrases to assert (Passionately?) what is essentially a commonly held point of view. Etiquette demands of course that you don’t really say what you think as that wouldn’t be playing the game. It’s OK to debate openly on Twitter if you accept that there is no subtlety of tone or expression to support and finesse your point, no normal social interaction, it doesn’t really work the same way on Twitter as it does in real life. If you do find you’re in opposition to another’s viewpoint and you feel strongly, it’s nigh on impossible to see the discussion through to a logical and reasonable conclusion. So best to just lightly oppose where you feel you need to; better still just agree with everyone or avoid those with whom you are likely to disagree. That way you will circle your wagons with like minded individuals who share your values and preoccupations. OK, so once in a while just for appearances sake have a debate with a follower about a topic that you think you have opposing views upon, but lets be honest you know you don’t really care. Your just glad someone is talking to you, and found you mildly interesting for a few fleeting moments.

Dale CarnegieI’m now convinced that Twitter is predominantly a channel for celebrities, governments, and corporations to punt their latest offering. For the rest of humanity I have a quote which ironically comes via Twitter from Andrew Lewis “If you are not paying for it, your not the customer; your the product being sold.” Good huh? Equally, It used to be said that nobody would want the phrase “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” carved on their headstone. I think the same is true these days of Twitter use.

Take a break for a while, trust me you’ll still get more followers, that’s how daft it is, but more importantly you’ll also get more stuff done …in the real world!

The Office courtesy of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant…

Zoom! What was that?

In responding to the HR Carnival blog challenge set out by @DougShaw1 in his recent post ‘The Carnival is Coming to Town’ on the theme of ‘Beginnings’, it occurred to me that this is potentially all about action. ‘Begin’ is a verb, it’s language to describe the creation of something, or to set some event or thought process in motion. The start of something new. Although I suspect like some of my other blog posts, and perhaps life itself, it never ends the way you plan it at the beginning.

Start GridWith this definition in mind I want to comment upon the immense challenge in beginning anything. A new job, fitness regime, diet, a new business, or perhaps writing a book or even just a blog.  Perhaps you just want to explore thinking in a new way. In any event, it’s immensely difficult to begin anything under our own steam, and with only our initiative and shaky motivation to get us started. It may be that circumstances dictate that others force beginnings upon you, out-with your control; and that may be a good or bad thing, depending on what’s coming your way. If it’s having a baby woohoo! Congrats! But you’ve only yourself to blame for that really. Maybe your new beginning is following a devastating redundancy notice, or perhaps more seriously you have suffered bereavement or a life changing illness.

Whether you want it or not, like it or not, beginnings are also about dealing with change in one form or another. It’s said that change when done to you is distressing, and when done by you is exhilarating. There may be some truth in that, but either way dealing with change when you have to begin on a new path, ordeal or adventure is for me about personal responsibility. Being responsible for ones actions given any set of circumstances is the beginning of wisdom. It is the acceptance of things as they are, and not making your experience any worse or more challenging than it need be, or for that matter any less enjoyable.

BuddhaIf you dip into Buddhist philosophy on this point, you’ll discover that inner peace and understanding derives from recognizing reality, accepting that you can’t change it to suit the desires of your ego, and that in any event why would you want to change anything, if your not in any pain or discomfort. Much happiness or contentment is derived from casting off desires for things or circumstances, which you think, make you happy. Not withstanding love of course, which is unconditional and entirely life affirming. By all means have desires and surround yourself with stuff you don’t really need, but don’t get too attached to it, because it’ll all be gone soon enough, and then you’ll know it was all meaningless decoration. In a nutshell desire is at the root of all unhappiness. For it is all about wanting something you don’t currently have, or wanting someone else to think the way you do. How daft is that?

Equally you may have desires for others to understand you and ‘get you’! So many people seem to need approval for their existence instead of just taking action where it’s necessary and getting on with life. Approval from peers, bosses, colleagues, friends, parents or even kids is really not necessary. Why would your own contentment be consequential upon the approval of others? It’s simply not real, and is a psychological construct allied to your ego and it’s insatiable need for approval, control, satisfaction and irrational need to be right all the time. Thoughts of this nature are merely inhibiting fearful little mischievous ego traps to prevent you doing anything of worth for yourself. Such thoughts are self-defeating negative voices which tell you that you are nothing special and are incapable of doing anything of any value on your own initiative.

Fear-nosferatuWe seem to live in a state of self imposed perpetual fear of change. Its often even terrifying to think of things changing, it can even make us ill. At a deeper instinctive level, as biological animals we tell ourselves subconsciously, that we only need food, shelter and security, and an environment in which to breed with a suitable mate. Life is of course far more complex for humans than other animals because of our complex cognitive and creative abilities. So our imaginative desires are often at odds with our more simple needs. Hence the conflict, and often mental turmoil within us all. It’s a bugger isn’t it? Meaningful beginnings are possible only by recognizing that you must take responsibility for your thoughts and actions. Be mindful and psychologically present in your endeavours, and especially when dealing with others, in whatever context.

Beginnings are also only owned by you when your clear in your own mind what it is you want to achieve. Without that clarity of purpose, personal responsibility and focused mindfulness, what are you doing with your life? Are you where you want to be right now? Or are you drifting with all the other flotsam and jetsam? Is this part of the plan you had for yourself, or was there no plan? Has life been having you instead of you having a life? Regrettably, that’s true for most of us to a large extent, so perhaps today, right now, is the beginning of taking control of your as yet undefined destiny through personal responsibility and clearly defined action.

Toddler taking steps on a beachStop giving credence to fearful little thoughts inhibiting your confidence and self worth. Accept your circumstances as they are right now and get on with being you. You are capable, talented, funny, loving, industrious and inspiring! Whatever your circumstances, be they sad or joyous, remember that the most surprising and wonderful experiences we have in life are in the little daily gems of our shared humanity, which as I said in a previous blog is bonded through our common fragility on this fragile earth.

In concluding, its well worth noting that given there is in reality no past or future, and only ever now, every waking moment is a chance for you to create a new beginning for yourself. Give it a shot; you might like it! …Oh wait a second, just before you go, if your afraid you might fail in this new beginning, that’s OK, you don’t have to do anything. It’s probably safer that way.

“Zoom! What was that? That was your life, mate”

Fawlty Towers Clip Courtesy of John Cleese.

The Ministry of Truth: 2+2 = ?

Newspaper SalesAs I made my daily spin through my incoming twitter feed this morning I noticed amongst other great little tweets that @officeinsight (Mark Eltringham) had announced that his ‘Workplace’ focused news site had achieved 1000 readers yesterday for the first time. This is a notable and significant landmark in readership for an online trade news source, that didn’t exist at the start of the year. Mark, Sara Bean and his other excellent contributors have achieved what larger equivalent print trade magazines can only dream of in terms of online reach. He has done this by not replicating a publishing model for the old order but creating a highly interactive and invigorating experience online. There are articles of interest for everyone whether FM’s, designers, HR professionals, property managers and fit-out sector suppliers etc. He has achieved this through effort of will and a determination to be relevant and interesting, and often highly amusing. So congratulations are in order, and well deserved!

Following some gentle ribbing that it was partly down to his 2 squillion daily tweets, some of which I and others have gratefully retweeted, I dangled a little retweet ‘fish’ of my own for him to retweet. Incidentally, who would have thought such a strange new word like ‘retweet’ would have such significance for global communication, publishing, social commentary and commerce. It’s the ‘retweet’ that has the reach, not the ‘tweet’. The dangling ‘fish’ for the little tweeting bird was a link to my last blog post entitled ‘Seminar Propaganda: The Emperor’s New Clothes’, which is essentially my energetic tongue in cheek commentary on the plethora of bandwagon seminars popping up that purport to espouse wisdom on all things ‘Workplace’. My point of view is that a combination of professional pride and commercial imperatives are stifling an open debate about what office occupiers really want, and need; especially in an environment of apparently increasing democratization in workplaces.

Head SandMark tweeted back to me rather than retweet the ‘tempting’ link to my radical post, which is absolutely fine of course, I tried at least, knowing it was a contentious subject. He responded though saying something that on the face of it seemed very reasonable and eminently sensible, namely that “I think we’re guilty of some of the things you identify in that blog, but that’s commerce”. He went on to say in his next tweet “Challenge would be to put together a conference solely with practitioners as speakers, telling the truth, free to attend but possibly sponsored by firms”. A very sound suggestion, and a point made to me by the excellent @SimonHeath1 last weekend. A commerce free debate on ‘Workplace’ issues and strategy is what I am all about in any event, as evidenced in my blog posts, but to read the deflating statement “that’s commerce”, it was like a big wet rank fish dumped on my lap. As if it were understandable and acceptable to trade in a black market commodity of misunderstood platitudes and half baked poisonous ‘Workplace’ recipes in seminars and conferences? It’s genuinely sad. Mark is of course correct though.

It’s OK however, so long as we retain the conceit that given they’re selling and your buying it’s fine to hold our noses and gulp down the big mouthfuls of apocryphal half baked stinky workplace fish. We all know its highly distasteful and may make you sick, but come on everyone; we all have to earn a buck. What is it they say about the truth getting in the way of…Mmm, this fish is lovely. Can I have some more please? Luckily there’s a plentiful supply.

So a reasonable question would be, do commercial imperatives stifle open and honest debate? or is the status quo perfectly acceptable for everyone except me and a handful of vocal others in workplace?

big_brotherIt would seem that with some notable exceptions, such as that of the socially engaging unconference style favoured by @Dougshaw1 in his What Goes Around Limited HR sessions, part of the problem is that the larger conference forums such as put on by the BCO (Madrid this year), or Workplace Trends or ‘Worktech’ are structured in such a way as to preclude actual broad and inclusive discussion and debate, even at plenary sessions, with no forum for broader points and challenges to be explored further for wider dissemination and peer review. Not withstanding any gratefully received live tweeting, everyone is facing the guy at the front, why has he/she got the floor anyway? There is a room full of experienced designers, architects, HR professionals, agents, FM’s, contractors and occupiers, with their stories. Most of whom sadly wouldn’t say boo! to a goose, when 200 colleagues are looking in their direction. That’s one for the psychology skills of Nigel @oseland perhaps both on the traditional structure of the ‘Workplace Trends’ gig and the missed opportunities to hear the great ideas and thoughts from the introverts and others in the crowd.

CorporateWorldSo what we have are annual ‘Workplace’ events sponsored by global corporations for elevated market profile, and speakers selling their little piece of whatever it is their selling this year, probably the same as last year, but repackaged with a social paradigm twist. Maybe it’s E-surveys (See my Living by Numbers post), or software solutions, books and consulting services? Can nobody see what is happening here? Is it really just me?

A final question, where and when is ‘Workplace’ strategy and design openly debated in a non-commercial, non-partisan setting, and if not, does it really matter anyway? I raised this topic in my previous post on Tomorrow Never Knows: Evolving Ideas. If in 1984, the ‘Ministry of Truth’ indoctrinates, tortures and brainwashes Winston Smith into believing that 2+2 = Five, who is he to disagree. Don’t dissent. It’s easier that way. Right? It certainly makes sense commercially. No question.

“Underneath the spreading Chestnut Tree, I sold you and you sold me”.

Important Note: In accordance with the RSPWP guidelines (Royal Society for the Protection of Workplace Pundits): No conference organizers or speakers were harmed in the making of this blog.

Closing scene of ‘1984’ starring John Hurt.