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

Welcome back to our Friday Faves for another year! It’s been a wild start to 2021 in terms of world news and current affairs, while covid continues to wreak havoc. Even in places where cases remain low like Australia, it steadfastly refuses to fade into the sunset. Yet, 2021 also brings with it some hope as vaccination programs roll out and we start to think in more practical, real terms about what comes next – do we return to the office, and what does that look like? Are hybrid work models the ‘for now’ or the future? How will organisations go about finding the right balance between business need, health and safety, and employee preference? Will the attraction and retention of talent be ever more focused on flexibility and choice?

There are so many questions to grapple with and, hopefully, many lessons to be learned from 2020. But I think most of us can agree on at least one thing: our hope for better things to come in 2021.

Bring it on.

Tech that aims to improve meetings

Anne says: 2020 (good riddance) was all about coping and resilience. We were all working remotely, from home, under all sorts of disruptive structures with plenty of distractions. BUT – we still managed to get our work done! Looking back at our posts from 2020 and the discussions we had in our Remote Working Meetup group, we embraced the challenges, coped with the conditions, shared strategies and kept looking forward – towards 2021.

Well, 2021 has arrived. It’s already started as a crazy kind of year. I wonder if we hadn’t been through 2020 how we would be thinking? This year is going to be different. There is no new normal. There’s just difference – although we can be hopeful that it’s a positive difference.

This year, we’re going to be working differently. Remote work will remain with us in varying degrees, some organisations more so than others, some countries more so than others. But we do know that a new way of remote working will need to be developed, or perhaps refined from the ways we approached it in 2020.

If we have hybrid models of working, where some members of a team are in a physical location (we used to call them offices), others might be working in a shared location, some may be at home. But we will likely be distributed for much of our working times – and even times could be shifted. If we accept the nature of this flexible model, and acknowledge what we learned from 2020, we need to accept that our traditional ways of collaborating and communicating will need to change. We need to find new rhythms and technologies to support us, new mindsets to guide us, and consider these differences as new ways to create meaningful experiences for everyone.

And so, this article sounded like it might align with these principles through improving endless video call meetings, with mixed attendance formats and devices. However, the technologies described immediately disturbed me. Technology that analyses a worker’s posture and behaviour to determine engagement levels, tracking facial expressions to measure reception of messages, AI-powered moderators to manage the flow of the meeting, and others we’ve discussed in previous posts. All of these feel distinctly like surveillance.

If someone is not engaged in a meeting, there appears to be an underlying assumption in the design that the meeting is relevant and worthwhile, and that people are encouraged to participate and engage. Perhaps evaluating why the meeting is being called and determining if there are more effective methods for collaborating on ideas before the meeting is called might save investing in posture and facial reading software. And is there an obligation for the employer to advise their employees that they are being monitored in this way? Is the data being saved and collected as part of performance management? Lots of implications that would need to be assessed against privacy and employment laws.

Although there are some interesting aspects of the developments being described in the article, I still need convincing these tools are the best way to improve meetings. What do you think?

BTW – the graphics accompanying this article provide a great visual application of the scenarios being described. It’s worth looking at the pictures, even if you don’t have time to read the article!


Why empathy should be the key ingredient in products

Jakkii says: We’re big fans of empathy here at Ripple Effect Group, not only because empathy is important in virtually every aspect of life as social beings, but also because it’s a critical tool in any designer’s toolbox. Unsurprisingly, then, this article’s headline jumped out at me immediately.

Now, it should be noted before diving in that this article is focused on Snapchat while being ‘brought to you by Snap’, making it an advertorial of sorts. However, I think it holds up on its merits regardless as in the end it’s largely based on a talk the VP of Product at Snap, Jacob Andreou, gave during The Next Web’s (virtual) conference last year, essentially more akin to knowledge sharing.

It’s a relatively brief read, discussing the link between empathy and innovation, and empathy and adaptation – both particularly relevant concepts when grappling with a pandemic, ‘next normals’, and the (eventual) aftermath. What stood out for me most, though, was the ‘empathy imperative’, defined by Andreou as “a template for building with the needs, preferences, and safety of real people as the primary focus.” This people-first, people-focused approach is exactly what we at REG believe is essential to success for us and for our clients, whether it be work in the digital workplace, with intranets and enterprise social networks and collaboration, or work in learning, or work in engagement and community.

The article gives four guiding principles for the empathy imperative:

  1. Honour your core product value

  2. Emulate the Walt Disney Company way of doing things

  3. Be the ‘right kind’ of global

  4. Innovate openly and encourage competition

You can read the article for a little more detail on each. While this has a very tech and digital product focus, each of these principles is easily adapted and applied to other ideas of product – or other concepts entirely – such as tools and platforms in your digital workplace. Centre your people, their needs and preferences and you’re already on the right path. Applying empathy and basing decisions on evidence-based contextual understanding of your people and you’re a long way down the road towards success.


Friday Five

Five stories that caught our eye this week:

This is interesting: The Facebook group where it’s always 2009

Sydney Business Insights: The Future, This Week Podcast

This week: generalising from unicorns, schadenfreude, self-help manifestos or true eye-openers, we review for you 2020’s best business books.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

01:40 – A closer look at the top business books of 2020


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