Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

This is our final blog for 2019 before we take an extended holiday hiatus – we’ll see you for more Friday Faves in early 2020!

Through the looking glass


Anne says: As 2019 draws to a close, I’ve looked back across my Friday Fave posts. It’s difficult to summarise the themes but a couple are standouts; AI and ethics; and people in the digital workplace – or future workplace. 

How does this all come together? Firstly, the most popular article for 2019 from the publisher Kogan Page, Transforming business with artificial intelligence – AI. Most popular articles always attract me. Why? What’s so special about this article?

The article stakes it’s claim early: the most sought after human skills for 2020 (from the World Economic Forum): 

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity

And now the connection to AI – it will enhance these “superhuman” skills. 

“…we must remember AI is not only about the technology in of itself; it’s ultimately about how AI technology can be leveraged to assist in creating immersive and unexpected human experiences.”

The article, of course, presents a framework for how to use AI to enhance the digital transformation of the workplace. It’s all very positive, it’s very possible and it’s all good… except… what’s missing? The need for understanding the bias inherently embedded in the algorithms and the impact this may have on the superhuman skills. 

The author’s closing statement indicates his enthusiasm, but perhaps always the naivety that we could face if we openly embrace AI without asking some tough questions first:

“The opportunities for innovation with AI are endless. The only limitation going forward is our human imagination.”

And that’s when I came across this article from HBR: Create an Ethics Committee.

This was a refreshing perspective to capture some direction for AI and ethics in 2020. The need for some open discussion within organisations embracing AI. And it’s not just large organisations who could end up over formalising the process, it’s also about smaller teams having a process to challenge where ethics needs to be considered. A great question to pose:

“Are we all OK with this…?” 

Declaring assumptions, understanding our biases and collectively agreeing on a position that makes the process transparent. It’s only through these types of dialogues, with a diverse range of people represented that we might be able to ensure AI isn’t reinforcing current models, albeit unintentionally. It also connects to the article I reviewed back in April 2019 on AI and ethics

Now – moving on from the technological impacts – what about the people? My next article connects nicely with Christoph’s Emotional Baggage article below. 5 workplace and HR trends to watch in 2020 from Culture Amp provides a refreshing return to focus on people. Their 5 trends, not just anecdotes or personal opinions, are supported by data and insights from their own research into workplace culture. 

The 5 trends:

  1. Mission driven organisations
    Aligning people to purpose.
  2. Agile learning organisations
    Finally – others are talking about learning OUTSIDE of the LMS!! 
  3. Whole employee mapping
    Jakkii has written about this a couple of times this year – but it does beg the question, when did we forget the whole person?
  4. Remote organisations setting the standard for employee communications
    Even the use of labels like remote worker creates a polarised us and them – regardless of where people do the work, they’re all still people employed by the organisation!
  5. Fluid organisation design and teams
    And this isn’t about breaking the org structure – it’s about designing to support the work projects.

I strongly encourage everyone to review these trends (and the supporting data) and re-frame their HR approaches for 2020 to develop approaches that allow for new ways of working. 

And to add a splash of colour to the end of 2019 and to celebrate the start of a new year – I’ll leave you with Shutterstock’s colour trends for 2020.

Lush Lava: bold and fiery orange-red can’t help but demand attention.
Aqua Menthe: The bright, yet serene tone is perfect for conveying a playful, modern, and outgoing personality.
Phantom Blue: Darker tones communicate stability, trustworthiness, and sophistication, used in van Gogh’s Starry Night, it makes just as striking a statement with its sophisticated allure.


Emotional Baggage


Christoph says: Wow, what a thriller. I have probably never read a longer story than this one on a screen. But I was so fascinated that I could not stop reading it. In this article, The Verge provides a glimpse into the toxic work culture at Away – the hip and trendy direct-to-consumer travel company. To be honest, I had not heard of the startup before and only became aware of it when the news broke that Steph Korey, co-founder and CEO, was stepping down due to the backlash after The Verge article. 

To provide some context: Away was founded by Steph Korey and Jennifer Rubio in NYC in 2016. It is titled a Millennial company, primarily targeting that age group using celebrities and social media to build a strong community. In The Verge article, Korey has been accused of berating employees in front of the entire company, pushing employees to cancel paid leave, and making them work 14-hour shifts and longer without additional compensation. Only six days after these accusations emerged, she stepped down to be replaced by Stuart Haselden, an executive from Lululemon, a sportswear company, that faced its own toxic work culture issues in the past. Away insists that the search for a new CEO had been going on since spring this year though. 

I must admit I was torn two ways when reading the article. On the one hand, I consider her actions and words clearly unacceptable. It is devastating to read what employees had to endure under Korey’s leadership. On the other hand, I tried to imagine Korey as an ambitious woman that was so passionate about her company / her baby / her everything and had only the best for her customers in mind, that she completely lost sight of how to treat her own people. To avoid a lengthy article here are some of my observations and thoughts, when I read about the toxic work culture at Away in general and the behaviour of Steph Korey in particular: 

  1. Poor leadership does not know gender. There are amazing female and male leaders, just as there are amazingly poor female and male leaders.
  2. Corporate values need to aim at the well-being of employees and not only at the satisfaction of clients. From the article: “Away’s core company values: thoughtful, customer-obsessed, iterative, empowered, accessible, in it together. Empowered employees didn’t schedule time off when things were busy, regardless of how much they’d been working. Customer-obsessed employees did whatever it took to make consumers happy, even if it came at the cost of their own well-being.” In light of this I am really digging Richard Branson’s quote: 

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

  1. 100% transparency is not human. Away’s communication policy is that any communication needs to be visible to others, no use of email, Slack is the main channel but no use of direct messaging other than for example scheduling lunch with a colleague.  
  2. The right intention does not mean the right actions. Take the communication policy as an example. Korey and Rubio wanted to avoid any communication silos, as they had seen it happening in previous companies, and thus demanded transparent communication. Fair enough, but this should be achieved in other ways. Satisfying the needs of your customers should certainly be important but that should not come at the expense of your employees’ mental and physical health. 

Reading about the toxic work culture at Away, but also reading other stories about Uber, Amazon and the likes, it does feel like a modern form of slavery that comes with some additional perks like free lunch, kicker table etc. But I am an optimist. As we are heading into a new year and even decade, I am hopeful that we will see changes in the workplace. First, I hope that the focus on never-ending growth will shift back to a greater purpose for society and our planet. Second, I hope that more and more companies will live up to their claim that their people are their greatest asset and treat them accordingly. And if they do not, I hope that people have a choice to avoid these companies like the plague because they are soooo last century. 


So long 2019, hello 2020


Jakkii says: Well. That’s another year almost done and dusted! When I look back over the year it seems really long, even though at the same time I can’t believe it’s almost over already. As we wind down and hurtle towards the holidays, there’s a lot to reflect on over the year just past, and the year to come – a leap year, no less!

There have been quite a number of “end of the decade” articles coming out lately as well, which is weird because a decade runs 01-10, not 00-09. But, as with many things in the world, we can’t seem to collectively agree on these things and so for some next year marks the start of a new decade, while for others (and me), it will mark the closing of this one. But since some have already started reflecting back, you might be interested to read opinions on the best movies of the decade, the best non-fiction books of the decade, the most important apps of the decade, the 2010 decade in review (from a tech perspective), or the top 20 scientific discoveries of the decade.

As for 2019, as is always the case there are opinions out the wazoo: best moviesbest TV showsbest booksbest picturesbest travel photosmust-read booksbest songsbest albumsbest memesbest tech gadgetsworst-designed productsworst filmsworst albumsworst baby namesworst tech products, and the list goes on and on!  

And not to be outdone, there’s a couple of trend articles for 2020: hottest travel trendsbest places to go in 2020global key trends5 design trends UXers should knowCX trends in 2020consumer trends for 2020 (Brandwatch report, requires download) Fjord trends in business tech and design, and business tech trends

Finally, on the same theme of looking forward but in a different way: The Weirdness Is Coming: A glimpse of the near future as seen through the recent past. In this piece, you’ll find predictions about life in 2029 based on life in 2019.

For me, there’s been planned change and there’s been upheaval, and there’s been plenty of fun as well. I’m actually heading off on leave today for my first real break in 18 months and I’m really looking forward to disconnecting completely from work and properly recharging. I’m also looking forward to a strong and positive 2020, working with our clients – and hopefully plenty of new ones, too.

Have a great silly season, and see you next year! I’ll leave you with the YouTube 2019 wrap up.


Social media


To round off the year, a few pieces on looking back, and looking forward. 

  • 2020 social media predictions, according to 3 experts
  • Social media trends for 2020
  • Digital marketing tools we’re thankful for this year
  • Best Australian Tweets of the past decade
  • Instagram – how it looked at launch in 2010 compared to 2019

Stay safe this holiday season everyone! We recognise the holidays can be particularly difficult for some – please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you need help.

Happy holidays, and happy reading. See you in 2020.

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