If you are going to declare ‘open house’ at any point, it pays to think a little about a few things:
- How widely you are declaring this, and to whom (and how easily they might pass on the ‘invitation’)
- How you might encourage particular behaviours or shape the conversation
- The real nature of your reputation and broader public opinion
- How prepared you are to hear the comments you might receive
For individuals in their daily lives, the worst outcome is usually not as hideous as it might be: while we might find ourselves weeping into a ludicrously over-catered buffet while our ‘friends’ wash their hair or text flimsy excuses for their absence, our audience is normally restricted to our nearest and dearest. (Although these might not be the comparative adjectives we feel like using about them at the time.)
For an organisation, attempting ‘open house’ on a medium like Twitter is a rather different matter. Despite the lack of catering, there is considerably more scope for ‘egg on face’ moments and for them to be conducted with the blinds open and the neighbourhood’s cameras focused on you.
If, to narrow the example somewhat, you are JP Morgan, frankly you should think twice. The multinational bank has an unfortunate recent history of being on the receiving end of some eye-watering fines, and remains something of a lightning rod following the events of 2008/9. A prudent hand might choose to steer the tiller in the directions marked ‘clean the stables and be seen to do so’ and ‘otherwise keep head below parapet’. But it seems that the bank’s prudent hand was otherwise occupied, while a more cavalier set of digits was let loose on a social media app, and executed a very public version of hanging a sign round the bank’s neck saying ‘Kick me’.
I always appreciate getting updates from Mervyn Dinnen’s blog, not least as the most recent – In Praise of Experience During a Time of Social Media Crisis – pointed me at a fascinating brouhaha I’d not previously been aware of: the case of Cathryn Sloane and a Nextgen Journal article – Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25 – that inflamed rather a lot of passions.
We’ll note the title of the original Journal before we move on, as it illustrates a larger point: the web is an open medium – while we can use titles and names and brands to position ourselves as appealing to particular demographics, the rest of the world is only a click away from stumbling on us. The article title was, of course, the real ‘flamebait’ here, although the article’s tone didn’t help the writer’s case for anyone outside the magical demographic that she sought to ordain and claim. If you must diss everyone over 25, at least do it somewhere where they won’t find it: just realise that the social media you are trumpeting make that harder than ever to achieve.
Confucius famously cursed us to live in interesting times: reading recent blogs and newsletters, I’m picking up a rather different adjective – fearful. Even the usually cheerful Euan Semple started his most recent newsletter with the subheading ‘Paranoia’, although his specific reference was to online privacy and how you might take a few steps to maximise it.
Yet fear has the potential to stalk our working lives in other ways. The blog, The Illusion of Work, recently published a post by Ian Gee called The Tyranny of Transitions, looking at the Kübler-Ross Curve, widely used with reference to organisational change, but originally grounded in work around individual’s responses to grieving. Gee’s article ponders how far organisations may potentially overload individuals with dealing with the emotional transitions of overlapping cycles of change, especially where previous experience may have taught them to be wary or to anticipate difficulty.
Let it never be said that business is slow to respond: the inevitable ‘business lessons from the US Government shutdown’ articles have already started (and I am also about to stand guilty as charged). As individuals, we each have our own take on the world and draw our conclusions and our parallels. The unnamed writer behind a Mintek blog post saw circumstances in Congress as equivalent to a clash between sales and operations in the hotel industry (which, I suspect, they either work in or advise – we all tend to see the relevance of what we do, regardless of where we look). Jack Welch – who shouldn’t need introduction – sees a different lesson entirely: titling his argument Schmooze or Lose: How the Lost Art of Negotiation Led to a Shutdown, It might normally take a brave man or woman to disagree with Mr Welch, but a number of respondents have, including one who plain-speakingly said:
Negotiation? Over what? That train left the station in 2009 when the Affordable Care Act was voted on, passed, signed into law and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court. The time for negotiating has passed.”
ASK is not, of course, in the business of politics, although we are perhaps in the politics of business. Among the conclusions that might be drawn from looking across the Atlantic are not only that effective working relationships are important in any organisation (as another respondent on Welch’s article put it, “When one side takes the “my way or the highway” stand, then everyone loses”), but that sometimes the pursuit of a single, personal goal or agenda can become so determined that the broader picture gets lost. Indeed, a stance can be taken that so obstructs sympathy, that even the issue in question may be lost. As Public Policy Polling has shown, Congress’s approval rating is currently just 9%, and it is also less popular than head lice, colonoscopies, used-car salesmen and Brussel sprouts. This was – like the recent reaction to the Daily Mail/Ed Miliband scenario – not the response that was intended, but perhaps passion has obscured the wider view.
If you’re reading on a tablet or a phone, the opening lines of two recent Strategy + Business articles might raise an ironic smile. The first begins:
The “always on” nature of our society has generated a variety of warnings about the dangers of staying connected all the time.”
It proceeds to link backwards in time to the second, which begins:
Do you ever disconnect, even for just a few minutes? Think about the last time you used your “off button.”
If you haven’t already succumbed to temptation, you might however wish to read a third article: an interview with Loran Nordgren, in which “the cofounder of unconscious thought theory explains how taking a break and distracting the mind can lead to higher-quality decision making.” Perhaps you are already nodding in agreement – or perhaps your unconscious mind is silently thinking that you should.
The world, or at least the publishers of business related material, appears to have an untiring appetite for material that seeks to illuminate business and workplace behaviour by shining a light on a sporting arena. We’ve recently commented on the research of Brandon Irwin into what we might label ‘silent competition’, but already another example has come our way. Gavin Kilduff, an assistant professor of management and organizations at New York University’s Stern School of Business, was interviewed recently at the Strategy + Business blog about The Upsides and Dark Sides of Rivalry.
In the following post, we’ve included extracts from the online Q&A session, and offered our own commentary. Whether you see this as a competitive analysis or as ‘shouting from the sidelines’ – and your choice may merit a moment of self-reflection – we hope that it provides food for thought.
FK [Frieda Klotz]: Are the effects of rivalry positive or negative?
GK [Gavin Kilduff]: I describe rivalry as a double-edged sword. One benefit that I’m investigating may be that when organizations have fierce rivals, the individuals in those organizations may be more committed and more loyal to each other. The presence of a constant rival in their minds may foster greater in-group cohesion. Other benefits include increased motivation and performance. For example, when runners competed against a rival (as opposed to against their other competitors), they ran an average of 5 seconds per kilometer faster in a race. And when we asked individuals to think about personal rivals for just a few minutes, they exhibited increased motivation and persistence on a subsequent task.
The downsides are potentially many, however. Unethical behavior—in the form of cheating or unsportsmanlike conduct, for instance—increases when people are competing against their rivals. People seem to be willing to do whatever it takes to get an advantage in those situations.
Barclays Bank recently commissioned research into the appeal of benefits packages offered by employers to different generational groupings within the workforce. Someone with a keen interest in pop culture – albeit not very recent pop culture – may have chosen the report’s title: Talking About My Generation. Looking at coverage of the report since its publication, other Who singles might have spoken more clearly about the findings: I’m thinking, for example, about The Seeker, Let’s See Action or the inevitable Won’t Get Fooled Again. And, perhaps we should throw in I’m Free for the interns. There is a fair amount of apparent logical nonsense to wade through in some of the reporting; for example, the Employee Benefits’ website’s following paragraph:
According to the report, the new multi-generational workforce comprises five cohorts: Maturists (born pre-1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1960), Generation X (between 1961 and 1980), Generation Y (between 1981 and 1995) and Generation Z (born after 1995).”
This assumes that workforces have hitherto always consisted entirely of people of roughly the same age or that organisations have simply not noticed the ageing process at work: reading coverage around the report’s main findings, the former remains errant baloney but the latter may turn out – sadly – to be true.
This post is written in response to Adam Grant’s LinkedIn article, Say Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die. An interesting title, if it was indeed a fad then I’d agree – let it die – but people do actually get use out of it, so I’m not sure that a fad is the right way to describe the MBTI.
As a Psychologist who has always been critical of the MBTI, allow me to contribute to the discussion. Your score is an indication of preference, not that you are more one than the other. You don’t change preference, you only become more aware of what your true preferences are through your increased self-awareness. The ‘test’ don’t tell you things that you don’t already know about yourself, they just highlight to you what others are likely to see or notice and provide you with guidance on things you might want to consider learning to do, behaviourally. You can’t change your personality!
Clothes maketh a man, perhaps, but it’s more probable that behaviour and manners maketh his – or her – reputation. It was interesting in a week where the ‘looks like everybody hates HR’ trope reared its head again – the latest response comes from Melvyn Dinnen, speaking mostly for the defence but pointing out along the way that journalism doesn’t have the most glittering behavioural résumé – that I should read a recent post from New Republic.
The title alone, Popular Culture Has Soured on Silicon Valley’s Hotshots, made the argument clear enough, although I might have been tempted – on a hypothetical re-edit – to put Umair Haque’s cited Tweet a little nearer the headline:
Tech is something like the new Wall St. Mostly white mostly dudes getting rich by making stuff of limited social purpose and impact.”
News editors love a hoo-ha because the headlines and that first paragraph in bold almost write themselves. To take one recent news story, Language teaching crisis as 40% of university departments face closure and Lack of language skills is diminishing Britain’s voice in the world (the latter accompanied by a picture of the Foreign Secretary looking glum) were just two of the headlines it inspired. And newspapers can be as polarised as the opinions they both generate and reflect, as The Telegraph demonstrated: The decline in UK language learning is a rational market correction, harrumphed Daniel Hannan in its columns, promptly provoking the tit-for-tat heckler from one commentator: “Just like the decline of interest in voting for politicians…” Touché, as the French might have it.
But much as its popular in some circles to dismiss this sound-bite/attention-grabbing approach to journalism as ‘mental fast-food’, I think that pies are a better analogy. (Moreover, analogies help us understand new points in the context of what we already know. And what could be more British than a pie?) The headlines are the crispy golden pastry that provides the allure. The meat, however, lies further down.
Daniel Hannan, although he is well known to have his own axes to grind, has something of a point. Focusing on European Languages – and on French and German in particular – may be a red-herring; in a globalised world, these are not the only languages other than English that matter. But the close of Language departments, as opposed to specific courses, suggests a broader problem either already present or brewing – and it is this that seems to have inspired the gloom at the Foreign Office and at the British Chambers of Commerce. While their quoted comments highlight both the nature of English as an international language of business (although they don’t mention any distinction between British English and World English) and the role of language skills in doing business with our neighbours (who they fear we are becoming less interested in), it was the final words of a quote from the BCC’s John Wastnage that gave the most food for thought:
It is true that English is an international business language, but knowing your client or supplier’s language will help open the initial door and open cultural understanding.”