Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Apr 20th 2011 at 10:00am UTC

Immigrants and the Wealth of Nations

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Whether they see immigration as a good thing or a scourge, Americans like to think of their country as an immigrant-friendly place, with borders that are among the most open in the world.

But that’s not the case, according to a new comprehensive measure developed by the British Council and the Brussels-based Migration Policy Group. The Migration Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) rates the EU nations’ (plus Norway, Switzerland, Canada, and the U.S.—31 countries in all) efforts to integrate immigrants according to 148 policy indicators, which range from opportunities for education and political participation to levels of protection against discrimination, from prospects for reuniting with family to the likelihood of achieving permanent residence status and citizenship.


Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Mar 10th 2011 at 7:30am UTC

Revolution Is Spiky

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

It wasn’t so long ago that we thought the world was flat.  Globalization had leveled the playing field, technology spelled the death of distance, and people were fleeing the cities for the comfort of the suburbs. We’d reached the end of history. And social media could never, ever be a tool of social activism.

Taken collectively, these popular nostrums shaped a vision of an unreal world inhabited by billions of solipsists – where, as Blair Kamin of The Chicago Tribune recently described it, people “lived in lonely isolation, lured away from the public square by the seduction of Internet chatrooms.” But the lesson of Egypt—and of Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya, Iran, and everywhere else that has been swept up in the wave of revolutionary activism—is quite the opposite. “The Web doesn’t supplant the public square,” Kamin declares, “It pushes people to it.”


Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Mar 3rd 2011 at 3:25pm UTC

Chart of the Day: Twitter Cities

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Great graphic from the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London.

The Center monitored Twitter in selected global cities to identify patterns of use and networks in these places (via planetizen).

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Mon Feb 28th 2011 at 5:54pm UTC

Chart of the Day: The Geography of Successful Start Companies

Monday, February 28th, 2011

The chart, from the blog Empirical Reality, shows SP Tech 1500 companies by location & founding date  (via vwadhwa, @ngoggans).  We’ve all known the Silicon Valley is important, but its dominance over time is striking.

Wendy Waters
by Wendy Waters
Mon Jun 1st 2009 at 9:14am UTC

New Technology and Stress – A View from 1998

Monday, June 1st, 2009

What causes workplace stress today? The economy and the financial status of one’s employer are quite high on the list for many people. But, in 1998, it was new communications technologies – like the Internet.

From an article published in 1998:

The Kensington Stress & Technology in the Workplace Survey, which queried 501 adult U.S. full-time, traditional and home-office workers, uncovered new statistics on technology’s relationship to stress …

Nearly half of the workers surveyed, however, said technology increases stress, and 51 percent of them reported that the possibility of losing documents due to computer crashes causes them “a lot” or “some” stress. The demands of email and voice mail have also contributed to an overall increase in stress in the last year, according to the survey.

Adjusting to new technologies-like the Web, networks, personal communications-that have saturated today’s workplace is creating new demands on workers, and that’s causing more stress;” said Odette Pollar, president of Oakland-based Time Management Systems and authority on stress in the workplace. “The question is how to make technology work in our favor without compromising our health and well-being.”

So, have we won? Do you think technologies today -  web 2.0, the internet, smart-phones, and our multiple computers – still increase stress? Or is this no longer an appropriate question?

Alex Tapscott
by Alex Tapscott
Thu Dec 18th 2008 at 3:21pm UTC

Net Gen Floods the Workforce: Place Influences Choices

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I’m a member of the Net-Generation, people born between 1978 and 1997. At first glance, my cohort seems tailor-made for a decentralized and “flat world,” so we shouldn’t care so much about the place where we work. After all, the internet, like no other technology, has lowered geographical and temporal barriers for communication and collaboration, and N-Geners, like no other generation, are the most comfortable and capable working, learning, and communicating online. Case in point: I recently found myself collaborating on a project with two college pals on Skype (the free online video phone application): one in Palo Alto, California, the other in Alaska, while also chatting and sharing photos with a friend who was in an internet café in rural Vietnam.

However, while technology has lowered barriers and allowed people all over the world to participate in the global economy, it’s a mistake to suggest now that ‘place’ is no longer important for today’s emerging creative workers. Indeed where one works matters now more than ever.

Whether interested in finance, law, politics, computer programming, consulting, or medicine, young friends and colleagues of mine are drawn inexorably to the epicenters and major nodes of their respective fields; in cities, suburbs, and exurbs that also happen to score very high on the creative class index. This is certainly true for my friend in Palo Alto, a city straddling the area between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. He is a talented computer programmer working for an internet start-up. But what about my friends in Vietnam and Alaska, you ask? Did Google just open a server farm in Juno? Is rural Vietnam the new Silicon Valley? Why do your friends want to live there? Truth is they don’t.

My Alaska friend was working for Mark Begich, a Democrat, who defeated the incumbent Senator (and convicted felon) Ted Stevens. If ever there was an appropriate time to say “got out of there like a bat out of hell,” Jeff’s escape from Alaska after the big victory was it. Jeff is passionate about politics, and he is now in Washington, D.C. looking for full time work. Truth is he would rather struggle for a little while in D.C. than be instantly employed anywhere else. After all, every politically engaged young person he and I know wants to be in the U.S. Capitol and, as a result, a burgeoning social scene of smart, creative, and ambitious young people has flourished there. Dave, my friend in Vietnam just graduated from McGill’s School of Management and is wandering Southeast Asia barefooted and bearded trying to ‘find himself,’ but really he’s just on vacation. Like me, he will soon find himself up to his elbows in financial statements and spreadsheets. He is returning to Toronto to work at a boutique private equity group. Jeff was drawn to the epicenter of the political world. Dave, a former business student with an entrepreneurial streak, will return to Toronto- Canada’s financial capital, because he knows the city offers great opportunity for a person with his interests (it also helps that he is a die-hard Leafs fan). In both instances, the where did not merely influence their decisions, it determined them. If anything, their stints in Alaska and Vietnam simply reinforce the notion that the Creative Class, and young people in particular, travel and move throughout the world with increasing ease.

Though not identifying it as the “Net Gen” specifically, Richard Florida presciently foresaw the emergence of a new generation of the “Creative Class” in The Rise of the Creative Class, a theme that has surfaced in ensuing works. His experience interacting with students at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University revealed that young people are drawn to certain hubs, crowding together in thriving and diverse places where like-minded individuals share lifestyles, cultural tastes, and work interests. While the moniker ‘Creative Class’ is not generation-specific, by 2018, when all members of my cohort will be of working age, the Net Generation will, simply put, dominate the creative class. As Boomers retire and Generation Xers fill the ranks of senior management, there will be an overwhelming demand for these young, highly educated people. Attracting them to companies and regions where they can thrive and prosper will be the next great imperative for today’s corporate leaders and politicians.

I encourage everyone to share your thoughts and opinions with me.  If a conversation begins, I will be happy to engage in it with you.

Wendy Waters
by Wendy Waters
Mon Sep 15th 2008 at 7:19am UTC

Private Offices Versus Cubicles

Monday, September 15th, 2008

When the cubicle was first invented – apparently 40 years ago – it soon became the butt of jokes, source of fear, and eventually symbolic of a dehumanizing aspect of some office work.

But arguably the cubicle has also been a positive innovation in workplace design. People who would never get a private office often had more privacy. Having fewer people in private offices and instead in more flexible and movable cubicles reduced workplace costs. In today’s more collaborative environment, research suggests that the right type of cubicle can improve productivity.

The workplace furniture company Knoll has an excellent research department. They recently published a report summarizing research into offices and cubicles from a variety of perspectives. Here are some findings:

Advantages of open office spaces (according to Knoll):

  • Helps to create a sense of community.
  • Encourages better communication and improved information exchange among co-workers.
  • Some employees feel greater work satisfaction being among other people rather than working alone.
  • The open work environment allows more people to “be in the know” about what’s happening with the company – more transparency.
  • Allows better inter-generational communication. More mature workers can learn new ways to work or new technologies from younger co-workers; meanwhile younger workers can receive less formal mentoring from working around those more experienced.

Advantages of enclosed, private offices (according to Knoll):

  • 90% of participants in a Knoll study reported privacy as the #1 benefit of a private office.
  • Noise reduction can be another advantage (although see below).
  • Private offices typically allow for more individual space.
  • Private offices can be seen and used as a status symbol.

On this last point, another section of the article suggests that technology may be becoming the status indicator rather than office space. The person with the “mobile toys” like a Blackberry, iPhone, or advanced lap top is starting to rival the private office in some companies.

Subtleties of open plans: not all cubicles are created equal. The Knoll report found research to indicate that different cubicles work in different ways:

  • Computer programmers preferred open-plan workstations with “seated height privacy” – this allowed them to stand and communicate quickly or see what others were doing, but privacy to focus while seated.
  • Another study found that proximity to a window significantly affected employee satisfaction with their jobs as well as feeling of personal well-being.
  • Cubicle auditory privacy can exceed that of private offices: 60″ high acoustical panels used as cubicle walls along with acoustical ceiling tiles and sound masking can achieve 93% acoustical privacy, according to Knoll. Meanwhile, typical dry-wall offices only achieve 75% acoustical privacy.
  • If done well, with proper communication with and participation of employees, changing over to a cubicle environment can bring significant corporate efficiencies from reduced real estate costs to higher productivity says the Knoll report. One study found a 5.5% reduction in “business process time.”
  • Knoll also cites a 1996 UCLA study of companies that had changed to open plan to encourage collaboration and found performance increases of “440 percent” – which may be a typo (but without a Harvard Business Review subscription, I couldn’t check the source), but even if the number should be 40% or 44% that’s a noteworthy increase.

Thinking back through my own work history, I felt at least as productive if not more in the open plan environments as in ones when I’ve had a private office (although my roles have been different in each work environment).

What has your experience been?

Wendy Waters
by Wendy Waters
Mon Sep 1st 2008 at 8:08am UTC

Technology and generational change

Monday, September 1st, 2008

The only thing [McCain] is going to let [Palin] do in the White House is teach him how to use the Internet.”

- A comment on McCain’s nomination of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate

A generational shift in corporate leadership positions is one reason why workplace change is accelerating. The wartime generation (McCain’s cohort) along with the older Baby Boomers have generally retired or stepped away from the day-to-day management of large numbers of employees.

Meanwhile, younger Baby Boomers and older members of Generation X have taken over. They understand the Internet, a range of business software applications, the power of mobile computing, and the need to both collaborate and, at times, separate oneself from the office in order to think through issues clearly. Many have developed a love affair with Blackberries and similar devices that allow more mobility.

Today, I believe that there is much less of a generation gap in the workforce than 10 years ago, especially when it comes to technology, and despite what some other workplace writers say.

Here’s an example (supplied on the condition that the company not be publicly named): In a specific division, almost all employees were offered the chance to become mobile, and trusted to work when and where they needed. Or, they could retain the status quo – a private office or workstation depending upon their job. The majority chose mobility.

But what’s interesting is that 1/3 were Generation Y; 1/3 Generation X; and 1/3 Baby Boomers, and this is roughly the age breakdown of that company.

Those who resisted losing an office tended to be workers of any generation who had only recently been promoted to a position with a private office. Those who had their own office for a long time seemed to prefer the idea of working from home occasionally, flexible hours, and being able to sit “where the action was” within the company.

And technology is just one area where the workplace has changed. Management hierarchies have also tended to flatten and company leadership at middle levels is often more fluid, with people switching roles from time to time. Higher productivity in knowledge-based work typically requires employees to feel inspired – a difference from more service-oriented work in which hiring more people or insisting on longer hours would increase output.

Each workplaces is, of course, different. All of this may (or may not) be irrelevant at the White House.

Do you perceive a distinct generation gap where you work? Or is the gap along different lines?

Wendy Waters
by Wendy Waters
Mon Aug 25th 2008 at 7:27am UTC

It’s Easy Being Green

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Any change or innovation tends to beget unexpected consequences. One that Cisco Systems did not expect was that implementing mobile technologies alongside a novel workplace layout can significantly reduce a company’s paper usage.

When Cisco Systems created a new concept workplace for its general administrative division, they sought to improve collaboration, not reduce the amount of paper their printers churned through. But that’s exactly what happened.

As mentioned last week, Cisco knew that employees were only at their assigned office or cubicle 35% of the time – an indication that this workplace style wasn’t really suiting the work being done.

To design more appropriate space, the workplace resource team (WPR) interviewed and studied the 140 people involved to understand how they work. They concluded that people needed the flexibility and mobility to work wherever it made sense – collaborating in teams or pairs, or working individually in silent areas or arenas that invited more informal chats. A variety of workplaces were created and employees can move from one to the next as their work needs chance. Moveable furniture in open areas, rooms for head-down silent work, conference rooms with speaker phones and video conferencing were all made available.

As Mark Golan of Cisco explains:

In many cases, this results in a flexible environment that focuses on collaborative space with little assigned seating. Employees are given a broad choice of work spaces and the technology to do their jobs. They choose where they work, based on the requirements of the tasks on which they are working.

The Connected Workplace is primarily a wireless environment…It also has wired jacks for high-speed communications needs, such as PC backups and video streaming, and technology for audio- and video-conferencing, e-mail, instant messaging, and voicemail.

Armed with the latest mobile computing and telephone technology, most people gained mobility and flexibility in organizing their workdays, but lost their assigned spaces (although the majority reported liking the new arrangement and Cisco measurements suggest that productivity improved).

One consequence is that workers cannot let paper pile up on a desk. Instead they have to file it, recycle it or take it home. Having to do this with every piece of paper printed every day caused most employees to re-think their printing habits.

Golan again:

And if they are just going to throw it out, people start to question why they are printing a document in the first place. This leads to behaviors that eliminate paper – conducting meetings solely with projectors or collaborative software…. Not only does this reduce paper consumption, but information is usually easier to find when digitally stored- instead of searching through paper files.

Could the paperless office talked about decades ago when the personal computer first emerged actually be around the corner? Hands up, who works in a paperless office?

Even if the paperless office is more dream than reality, perhaps the workplace is gradually trending toward something that involves slaughtering far fewer trees than typically occurs today. I’m a bad culprit for printing more than I need and letting it pile up on my desk. However, if I had to file it formally or discard it at the end of each day, this would be a powerful incentive for changing my ways.

Can anyone report on strategies that have worked for your workplace to cut down significantly on paper waste?