Sunday Sampler: Ceiling height, pulling shadow IT into the light, John Hagel on strategy

File this factoid from Laura Entis under workspace physics. She relates this observation from Scott Wyatt, a managing partner at NBBJ, a global architectural firm:

“There’s a lot of research coming out that higher ceilings promote higher performance in conceptual thinking, while lower ceilings are better for mathematical thinking,” says Wyatt. Intuitively, it makes sense that higher ceilings would encourage expansive work such as making overarching connections while lower ceilings are optimal for focused, contained tasks.
Wyatt has anecdotal evidence that supports the research. Recently, he was walking through the offices of a software company operating out of a loft like space. When he got to the area where the programmers sat, he noticed that many of them had built tent like structures over their desks, effectively lowering the ceiling height. “When you become aware of some of these things,” he says, “you start to see how people adapt to spaces accordingly.”


A recent IBM survey supports the notion that a close partnership between IT and line-of-business leaders — and a solid cloud strategy — will make for a better outcome in SaaS initiatives than the usual ‘rogue’ narrative, where line-of-business leaders endrun IT with shadow IT projects:

The IBM survey found that the majority of businesses initially approach SaaS for cost control, but that once they gain experience with using the services they cite increased competitive advantage and faster time-to-market as the main business benefits gained. The companies that reported realizing the greatest business advantage from SaaS consider cost savings as an extra, not a main reason to use SaaS.
“One of the key narratives in the marketplace … is this whole concept of shadow IT and rogue buying and business leaders sort of going behind the backs of the IT leader and consuming software-as-a-service applications,” said Armen Najarian, program director for SaaS marketing at IBM. “That behavior certainly exists…. But one of the really counter-intuitive points that we took from this research when we looked at leading organizations that are winning with SaaS is that there’s a high degree of collaboration between lines-of-business and IT leadership. There’s a mutual respect… in the most evolved companies.”

An important finding is that cost became secondary to the benefits of collaboration within the company and across the value chain.


John Hagel has written a deep and thoughtful post about The Big Shift In Business Strategy. I don’t have the time this week to respond in depth, but I wnted to share it with others, and pull a few points from it.
John makes the case that we are in a new environment for business (his Big Shift, my Postnormal), and the rules change. Increased competitive intensity, accelerating change, and increased complexity/uncertainty/ambiguity/volatility are forcing us to up our pace, but

In that kind of environment, movement quickly becomes a treadmill that moves faster and faster and, when you least expect it, lurches to a stop and throws you against the wall.
Don’t get me wrong. Execution, hustle and adaptation are all necessary for survival. But movement alone, no matter how efficiently executed, may no longer be enough for us to escape the dark side of technology. Instead, it may just suck us deeper and deeper into the abyss of the dark side.
So, what is to be done? Perhaps it’s time to execute yet another shift in business strategy. One that helps us to harness the capabilities of the Big Shift to accomplish things that weren’t even possible before.

John goes on to make that case, which I will reflect on, and likely respond to later in the week. He seems to be recasting the idea of ‘preparatory exploratory’ that top performers use in building social connections with experts prior to needing them (see What top performers do, and how to do it), and proposing that ‘positioning’ as a new imperative for business strategy.
Go read the whole thing.