Monthly Archives: April 2018

Behavior by Design: Driving Design Transformation

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In the first article for this series, the focus was on the concept of behavioral design—or more specifically, design as it relates to workplace behavior. In particular, the message emphasized how important behavioral design is to workplace architecture. Recent studies confirm the direct impact behavioral design has on people’s lives, wellbeing, and on the quality of their interactions. As individuals continue to transition from a fully assigned work environment to a more behaviorally focused and agile space, design value is achieved once sentiments, fears, and expectations are acknowledged and addressed. For example, measuring how space is allocated against how space is used can fill change gaps in order to build design results consistent with observation. Equipped with the knowledge that where employees are stationed affects the way they think, the focus now moves to the “how-to” of behavioral design—methods for making it work.

What drives transformation?

Design for behaviors comes from knowing the conditions that drive the need for a shift in workplace design. These conditions come from three sources. First, and perhaps most surprising, are the analytics showing that less than half of those at work who reside in personally assigned cubicles can actually be found at their desks. Stated differently, observations indicate that possibly as few as 10 percent of assigned cubicle residents spend 90 percent or more of their work week at their desks. No longer are employees bound to their workstations. Because of the recent advances in mobile technology, cubicles and offices are generating less and less value for businesses.

Commons space designed for flexible and collaborative work

The second condition prompting design for behaviors deals with the reality of very low employee engagement in the workplace. Gallup, an international polling organization, has tracked this for the United States since 2000. The company’s surveys reveal employee engagement has barely budged in well over a decade. According to Gallup Daily Tracking, only 32 percent of U.S employees are engaged in their jobs and workplaces. Many report that this comes as a result of the hectic and often unpredictable nature of the workplace environment. Ultimately, low engagement can create negative actions toward productivity and negative attitudes toward organizational culture.

The third rationale that explains why work behavior design is reinventing itself is due to the increasing complexity of the workplace. For at least the last 50 years, employees were generally assigned work that was much more rote-and-response driven than is called for today. An employee had a skill set that worked to solve specific sets of tasks. Many employees worked solo. As a result, companies developed systems that lent naturally to a cubicle-intensive environment that fulfilled plug-and-play work behaviors. Now, work is largely people-problem driven, which tends to require more time and interaction when it comes to solving problems and building systems. Collaboration is at the heart of creative talent, and designers are catering to behavioral design accordingly.

Fear-based challenges

There are many merits to designing with behavioral change in mind. However, to design this way, before attempting to use knowledge of behaviors to transform work environments, first it helps to understand employees’ fears, uncertainties, and doubts. Some of the most common sentiments embodying this apprehension include:

1.  “I need a place to call my own.”

2.  “I need a place to put my things.”

3.  “I need to be able to find the people I need.”

4.  “I need a door for privacy and confidentiality.”

5.  “I need to belong to the office.”

One common theme among these five statements is where the emphasis is placed: on the personal needs of the individual. This is very natural; employees believe they must look out for themselves. Another shared sentiment is that each message indicates a loss of control. Although employees define “control” differently—depending upon their status at an organization—being in control over at least the basics (like where to put one’s things) must count for something. Finally, all five reactions come from to memories of former fixed and assigned workplaces that are still perceived as having value. Why? Given the chance, most people tend to fall back on what is familiar from the past.

Commons space designed for flexible work

This list of sentiments is telling. Behavioral design benefits from carefully and considerately restating individuals’ expectations in a changing workplace. Anticipate that disruption will occur as a result of the transition—especially when the difference is as dramatic as changing from a fixed or traditional office or workplace to one more behaviorally flexible. Changes in behavioral design require using one’s imagination to envision new ways of working in dynamic work settings. It is through imagining new work expectations and processes that employees can reset their perceptions and judgments toward behavioral design. For that reason, it is important to invest the time and learn the value of aligning memory of past workspaces to new visions of how work will be produced moving forward. In the end, more advanced work behaviors may evolve that have the potential to increase utilization, stimulate engagement, and reset disappointed expectations about adapting to a new workplace.

Supporting behavior by design

Recognizing the connection between space and human behavior, companies like Google, Intel, and Cisco are spending millions on redesigning buildings, knocking down walls, and rearranging conference rooms. For example, since the perceived value for increased collaboration has been driving design trends, awareness of perceptions and judgments from the employees involved in the process seem to accelerate change acceptance. Being engaged in the behavioral design process helps employees move beyond deterrents and closer to acceptance.

One tactic in supporting behavioral change through design involves how the news of the imminent design change is delivered—explaining each step as it occurs—in real time. Making sure the key stakeholders stay abreast of the what, when, and whys of a changing workplace empowers teams. Another approach for supporting a staff in transition is reassurance. Making certain that everyone sees the positive vision behind designs for new behaviors goes a long way toward easing the pain of a transition. Another way to relieve transitional stress comes from helping employees envision what success in this new environment might look like.

Last but not least, one straightforward way of igniting employees’ imaginations is with storytelling. The reasons why workplaces are underutilized, why engagement continues to be low, and why the complexity of work continues to increase are best discovered and understood through the story of people who are working. Behavioral design can benefit from the power of, “Once upon a time” and “Happily ever after”.

Individual Cubicle Group

Modern workplace makeover

Modern workplace makeovers are a fact of life. It’s taken plenty of time, but the workplace is now becoming far less individualized. The traditional systems and beliefs that standard cubicles and offices propagated for so long are being shed and replaced with behavioral design standards that favor collaboration. As the sophistication and value of this trend increase to better align with employees’ work behaviors, transitional tactics will continue to be developed to support and ease the changeovers. Keep in mind: the best behavioral designs will not only encourage teamwork and boost engagement, but they will do so with transparency—while simultaneously catering to a human’s capacity for imagination.

 

Article originally published in Work Design magazine

Leading a Culture of Innovation and Creativity

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How can you make your organization more innovative, adaptive, and creatively competitive? After studying 200+ companies, global design firm IDEO has identified six essential qualities to drive innovation and creativity.  IDEO’s David Aycan shared a framework around these qualities, the data behind them, and stories of companies working hard to develop the culture, processes, and habits that drive innovation.

If you operate in the field of innovation or design, you are familiar with IDEO’s “User-Centered” design process and their earlier work with companies like Apple helping to design the first computer mouse and a “Grid” notebook style computer.

 

 

IDEO’s creative process experienced a shift with the on-boarding of anthropologist Jane Fulton Suri. The practice of observing before coming to a solution became a critical part of the design process. Another key strategy employed by IDEO was the pairing of business savvy thinkers and designers. This strategy helped them move into the realm of economics, making sure that the products they designed were marketable and desired.  IDEO operates under the belief that through design and prototyping there can be a greater understanding of what and how a solution should make an impact.

IDEO experienced growth by helping companies with Organizational Design. They have a passion for helping clients get over paralysis and have benchmarked hundreds of creative organizations and looked at factors that impact creativity. Here are the six essential qualities IDEO has identified to drive innovation and creativity for organizations:

Quality #1:  Purpose.

What to work on and what not to work on is a key element of purpose. The questions that need to be asked:  Is it useful? Does it help? Are we passionate about it?  Providing clarity on the purpose seeking process, Aycan shared the story of a large e-commerce company in Europe called Zalando. The company was struggling to find out what’s next for their organization. With the help of IDEO, they created a “Gallery Style” event that engaged all employees to uncover likes, dislikes, attitudes, and perceptions. This event helped the company discover that employees considered the organization a full member of the fashion industry and no longer a player in the start-up world. Through this, their purpose statement was born…”Fashion for the good of all”  with the goal to be a sustainable “Zero-Waste” organization. Aycan advises to “Use purpose as a prime factor in all major decisions it’s why purpose exist and organizations that have a clearly defined purpose are 20% more likely to achieve success.”

Quality #2:  Looking Out.

“Don’t get stuck on internal business like politics and attitudes. Connect with your users more than monthly.”   When “looking out”, Aycan says that companies have a 25% greater chance of being successful when insights are created more frequently. He shared a case study on LA County voting machines. There are 5 million registered voters in LA County.  The goal: make voting more accessible and intuitive. 1960 was the last time the process was improved. Voters were being excluded especially those with handicaps such as hearing, sight and language barriers. IDEO dove into these issues by talking to citizens and taking active videos of the voting process. Bernie Zorey, a blind man shared “I didn’t vote because I did not want to be a burden on the polling place officials.”  Another blind woman said she had to trust that polling officials were pulling the right vote for her. This research emphasized how important it is to “look out” and observe a variety of people during research.

Quality #3:  Experimentation.

There is a problem with looking at hundreds of ideas or challenges.  Aycan suggests that an organization should explore and test 5 ideas in parallel. Organizations that experiment before implementation are 50% more likely to experience successful outcomes. He shared the term “Cognitive Laziness”, meaning the brain is wired to protect ideas over time and after a while of this, it can slow down idea generation. The solution to this? Keep ideas fresh and don’t let them sit. The objective is to keep ideas flowing, experiment, and have three more ideas in mind before asking for feedback.

Quality #4:  Collaboration.

Collaborate across teams is key, and organizations that exercise this are 38% more likely to have successful outcomes versus those that employ a “waterfall” or linear approach. Exploring collaboration, IDEO created a “Co-Lab”; an “unholy alliance” of those who were teams but were really meant to work together. The goal was to leverage different skill sets, for example; Financial and Internet of Things groups came together to renew energy certificates on a blockchain or open innovation platform.  Energy companies were not excited about this, but teams wondered “Who might bring a different perspective?”

Quality #5:  Empowerment.

Another quality Aycan suggest is making problem-solving tools and skills available across an organization. Companies need to be transparent, fair and have a method that identifies tension and suggest improvement. Leaders of organizations need to provide autonomy and clarity of this process and foster an environment of support. When an organization makes it OK to challenge the status quo, they are 70% more likely to be successful. When communication is clear, and workers feel empowered high energy, goodwill, and project motivation will come naturally.

Quality #6: Refinement.

Organizations must keep the thread of vision alive.  Aycan shared the story of a city in Peru that was in desperate need of a better public-school system. Paying private school tuition was out of reach for most people in the area, so they wanted to emulate one of their higher-performing public schools into a school that more students could attend.  Some of the challenges they faced were the high cost of real estate, difficulty in attracting good teachers, the uncertainty of what technology to employ, and how to scale the system. IDEO was approached to help create an adaptive organization that can regenerate and constantly evolves.

In his closing statements, Aycan challenged the audience to think about:

  • What matters to you?
  • What makes your team different?
  • Create 5 to 7 design principles can constantly revisit them.
  • IDEO is successful because everyone was empowered by David Kelly
  • Looking Out need to be leveraged.
  • Rethink the purpose.
  • Reflect on you and your team’s strengths.
  • Identify areas for improvement.
  • Define a way on how to measure collaboration or creativity
  • Leverage teams or people, challenge them to think differently in order to identify hotspots

 

Written by Chris Lapata and based on a session at SXSW by David Aycan of IDEO.