Monthly Archives: March 2011

Social Dynamics: What is it? How do we measure it?

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Q: How do we define Social Dynamics?

Thoughts: Social dynamics is the ability of a group of people, be it a society, a culture, an organization, a family or a team (at work), to successfully adapt to the nature of change in their system of function, purpose and governance.

What is very clear in the study of work is that the nature of performing work today has less “independence” in the activities leading to business results than in the past.  People need other people to complete their work, either from the standpoint of transactional work or creative thinking work.  The task delivery process of work (make this widget or fill this order) has been rebalanced with creative problem solving work process (solve this unique problem or create this unique solution).  Isn’t it telling that two of the most common work behaviors used to define work today are ‘collaboration’ and ‘innovation’?  Innovation can be, and is often, achieved by an individual working alone.  However, with the pace of change and the demands for results, innovation can be increased when exemplified within the social dynamics of a TEAM at work.  Collaboration and innovation involve superior levels of social dynamics, accentuating the need of a group of people to respond successfully to the nature of change to solve problems and create solutions.

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Evolution of Tools

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Like it or not, the availability of tools we can use to alter our world is always affected by current events happening on the global stage.  I’ve been involved in the architectural profession since the mid-1980’s and the design of laboratory and process environments since 1989.  Yesterday, I saw a presentation made by one of our laboratory planners related to fumehood technology.  It got me thinking about why we use the tools we use, what events cause the tools to change and why the change takes so long to evolve.

Take the standard chemical fumehood.  For as long as I’ve designed laboratories it’s been the go-to tool to protect people from hazardous experiments.  Even though today they can look pretty high-tech and sophisticated, they were pretty much just a dumb box working on ancient principals of convection, just like the fireplace in your house, right up to the oil crisis of the 1970’s.  After the oil crisis of the 1970’s engineers got serious about the fluid dynamics involved in a fumehood and focused on a tool that would use less energy.  By the mid-1980’s these hoods had reached the mainstream and were marketed as “low flow’ hoods.  By the time I started designing labs the oil crisis of the 1970’s was a distant memory and I can distinctly remember being told by engineers and owner’s safety officers to never use them.  A fumehood should be designed to protect people from hazards, not to save money.  I honestly don’t think things would have changed were it not for events affecting the world stage.

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