Author Archives: admin

Why flexible work is the future

Working on the beachThe nine to five, five day, working week is a modern construct. It was introduced by Henry Ford to his factory workforce in 1926, and become common practice in the US (and subsequently other parts of the world) after The Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938.

Ford favoured a shorter week (until then, six working days had been the norm) for purely commercial reasons. He was losing good employees, and found that a 40 hour week, worked in shifts, was the best way to optimise workers (who needed to be kept alert and motivated) with expensive machinery and power plants, which shouldn’t be left idle for too long.

Most of us in the developed world now live in a post-industrial age where knowledge-based products and services are replacing manufacturing. If your work can be completed over an internet or telephone connection, it’s less likely that you physically be in the office, or work specific hours. Yet we still rely on a way of working that was designed for the factory production line.

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Live blog of sold-out event “Fashion and Pinterest” #smwldn #smwfashpin

10:12 We are at the very cool Beyond Retro café in Dalston (top pic of Karinna Nobbs from London College of Fashion and team chatting before the event). Karinna is just introducing the panel now (bottom pic of panel left to right: Karinna, Jonathan, Sophia, Hanna, Kat and Charlotte). This is a live blog so please keep refreshing the page for updates.

Karinna: Pinterest is dominated by women, has been very much in the press since around February. Pinterest great because you can really micro-segment your audience (into style tribes for example) and really engage with niche customers.

You can look at who’s pinning you and what they’re pinning for trend prediections – is everyone pinning a colour you don’t have in your collection? Pinterest has a much higher referral rate than Facebook, Twitter etc. The average time people spend on Pinterest has been quoted as 45 – 90mins – far more than other networks. 

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Live blog of “Heroes of Social Innovation” #smwldn

13:30: This pic is of host/ chair Mark Pedro Hindle and Futuregov’s Dominic Campbell a few minutes before this session on social innovation. This is a live blog so keep refreshing the page for updates.

Dominic: Social innovation needs to connect back with the system that it’s trying to challenge and change – we could do with government help on occassions. Often these two operate in completely seperate ways but it’s good to connect back. Social innovators often want to have fun as well as change the world: government seems to have forgotten all about that. Two of our projects:

Casserole Club was on BBC Breakfast this morning – tackling social isolation.

Enabled by Design: sod you NHS, your equipment’s crap, we’re going to bring together some amazing designers with 3D printers and actually make crutches etc.

Next up, Jeremy Gilley, Filmmaker, on his organisation, Peace One Day: On the 21 September 2007 we managed to hold a one day ceasefire called

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Monkeys with suitcases: glamping it up

Things have been a bit quiet on this blog over the past month but I’ve been holed up in a tent in the middle of nowhere. And very nice it was too. Admittedly they did have WiFi, but I wasn’t too tempted to use it. Kind of hard to think about anything else when it’s 38 degrees in the shade and the swimming pool/ beach/ ocean is calling.

The best thing about our stay at Tipi Algarve was the set-up: they do it all for you – tent, camp kitchen and everything else. “Glamping” is a literal mashup between boutique (glam) hotel and camping. A great way to have a reasonably comfy holiday without adding too many emissions to your carbon footprint.

Tipi Algarve is also a social business – the place operates very much like a community, with volunteers coming in from all over the world, and guests coming back year after year. To get a feel for it all, just check out their Facebook page – lots of photos, friendly updates and engaging content. (Nice one Calvin!)

How I got my stolen laptop back through Twitter

We had a break-in a few weeks ago, and I mentioned it on Twitter. I didn’t really want to moan too much, it was more a passing observation, as in “today I got up and found the window open…” but when a friend asked me how the burglar(s) got in, I used the h-word when referring to them (I know from my daughter’s primary school guidelines that “hate” is forbidden in the complex, multi-cultural world we live in).

Anyway, it was probably good that I got upset and angry as the person who had just bought my laptop online had found all my personal details and files and was also reading my Twitter updates.

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My Sofalympics: why I hardly left home during London 2012

Like all obedient Londoners I watched the Olympics pretty much from my sofa, because that’s what I’d been told to do by the scarey Get Ahead of The Games ads (subtext: stay at home) and This is Your Mayor Speaking announcements at various games-critical tube stations.

When I did venture into central London it was eerily quiet: everyone was in Stratford. Either that or holed up at home, like meerkats who’d spotted a herd of stampeding elephants.

On the middle Sunday we went down to Brixton and got carried along in a sea of green and gold for ten minutes but otherwise everything – Olympic sentiment, patriotic fervour and Jess/Mo/Hoy/Wiggo fever – was experienced by osmosis through the wonderful medium of television and, of course, social media…so how did my “Socialympics” go?

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Collaborative behaviour in organisations: the top 4 barriers and enablers

A networked Europe – c’est possible? I read today that Axel Schultze is in charge of developing a social media strategy for Europe – yes, Europe!

Just – think about it: think about the barriers you might be able to identify in any one of your current collaboration-orientated projects and then multiply them, say, a few billion times. 

As it happens, I’m working on a collaborative behaviour workshop for tomorrow and these are the top four enablers and barriers I’ve come up with (not specifically with regard to Europe, but I guess we can apply them):

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L’Uomo Vogue, the broadcast paradigm and why we all live in our very own hall of mirrors

Thanks to Anke Holst for tweeting about Vogue Italia’s May/June issue of L’Uomo Vogue, which is devoted to “Rebranding Africa”.

The whole project looks like a great metaphor for organisations doing “social” badly: by externally “rebranding” Africa, L’Uomo Vogue manages to demean a whole continent while also continuing to assert a kind of outdated colonialism in proposing its own ill-informed solutions to complex issues such as Nigerian economic inequality (build a Rodeo Drive, apparently) and devoting full-page spreads to people like Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s oil minister, widely considered to be one of Africa’s most corrupt politicians. 

The “Rebranding Africa” issue of L’Uomo Vogue has not surprisingly upset a whole load of people. The irony is that the editors can’t see what all the fuss is about: they are “listening”, right? They are “paying attention”, surely? They are even “engaging” (see the response of Franca Sozzani, Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief, to a blog comment, below).

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Who else remembers The Blue Note, Hoxton?

I was born and raised in West London so the East was an alien land. Once I traipsed all the way over to the Scala cinema in Kings Cross for a party and walked back to Hammersmith with my sister. Not having Google Maps in those days, we worked our way home by reading the postcodes on street signs (NW = bad, WC = good).

In the 1980s, a school friend moved to Old Street and all we could ask was “Why?” We knew it was somewhere close to Whitechapel Road – and that was the cheapest property on the Monopoly board, right?

But then my centre of gravity changed. I got a place at City Uni and moved into a flat in Angel. My London compass swung round: after a childhood on the East-West District Line, the North-South Northern line became my axis.

The lift shaft at Angel tube station was the deepest in London and when you stood on the narrow platform, the trains would thunder in from both directions. The next stop down was Old Street. In 1992 my friend Dotun Adebayo told me he was starting up a publishing company there, in Hoxton Square.

Where?! I went to Dotun’s new office and all there was in the middle of the square was a great big rubbish dump. Most of the buildings were run down or derelict. In one corner there was a little club called The Blue Note, a tiny, trendy beacon of things to come.

Fast forward twenty years and wow, how it’s changed. You can’t move for clubs, bars and business start-ups. This part of town may have been immortalized in Nathan Barley and mocked by the Shoreditch Twat, the Hoxton Fin may be the epitomy of naff self-consciousness, and the world’s first popup shopping mall beyond parody, but the continued success of this area defies the critics.

Shoreditch House is one of the best members’ clubs in London with its own swimming pool on the roof (open air pools more decadent in London than LA – mainly because you can’t actually use them). Google and Microsoft have set up offices by Silicon Roundabout. Heck! There’s even a Pret on the once-shabby Great Eastern Street. Shoreditch, you’ve come a long way, baby! It’s a damn shame I’m now back in West London.

Disclosure: My short story, Hoxton Babylon, was published in Westside Storeys (Xpress, 2003)

Computer says yes! I love IT managers but…

As Nick Carr predicted in The Big Switch, some of our most familiar career paths are being rendered obsolete  by technology: the IT manager is one who may have little more to do than doodle on post-it notes in the office of the future.

Currently, the IT department is a powerful gatekeeper. When I was doing the research for Monkeys with Typewriters (and increasingly since), the IT department was all too often cited as a major stumbling block when it came to introducing new, social technologies across the workplace. As one senior civil servant bluntly (and grumpily) put it, 

“The IT department’s agenda is to fulfil their aims.  It’s not to support us in our aims.  So if you ask can I do this or not, if I take this route it would be a lot of work for them.  The best route is no work for them at all so they would choose no.  Always choose no.”

But as we know, the walls are coming down. And, once the impact of the digitally-literate generation taken hold, there’s more chance we’ll get the social organisations we strive for.  Smart employers will see this change coming, and embrace it:

“To maximise efficiency among tech savvy workers,” says trend forecaster William Higham, “companies will need to adopt new working practices. Restrictions on personal technology use will need to be reassessed. So too will the current practice of relying on traditional IT departments for input on new technology resources, as knowledge is democratised across departments by the experience of personal use.”

Tom Standage, The Economist’s Digital Editor, makes a similar point when talking specifically about social media: “People who are entering the workforce now think that this is how software works. Some managers talk about Facebook and other [social] networks as being time wasters, but in fact the opposite is true. This is the way that software is increasingly going to look, and that will impact on the way companies are run, because when you have a general discussion about things on a Facebook “wall”, you tend to get much less email and much less wasted time.”

So, time to stop restricting your employees in their use of social media, and start seeing it as a training investment.

Photo: Amarand Agasi