Ran Zilca on Millennials Think About Work Too Much

Ran Zilca of Happify ran a study on Millennials that reveals them to be work-obsessed, bed-loving, and irreligious [emphasis mine].

When asked what they are grateful for, people typically respond with the things they personally recognize as important — what they appreciate and value. Gratitude text can therefore provide a glimpse into the fundamental life priorities of individuals. In our study, 276,296 Happify users (30.7% of them in the age range of 25–34) responded to a gratitude exercise where they were asked to “jot down three things that happened today or yesterday that made you feel grateful.” Users were directed to think of a broad range of possibilities: “It could be something someone did for you, something you did for yourself, or just the simple fact that the sun was shining.”
Across all ages, the most common topics were related to “spending quality time with family and friends.” Yet the topics for which Millennials specifically expressed the most gratitude were different: “positive interactions with colleagues,” “having a low-stress commute,” “getting a new job,” “being satisfied with an existing job,” “sleeping,” and “relaxing in bed.”
Four out of these six topics were career related and had to do with the process of finding a job or with daily work experiences, and the remaining two topics were related to time spent in bed. Since the gratitude question specifically asked about things that happened today or yesterday, we can fairly confidently say that the unique things characterizing positive Millennial experiences take place at work or in bed.
The two topics of gratitude that were far less common for Millennials were “religious events,” a positive event that happened at church or a church event like singing in the choir, and “friends and family,” a topic that was among the most common for users of other ages.

Millennials are career-wacked drones that apparently live to work and sleep, and they lack the grounding of sociality and spirituality, alas.

Originally published at www.stoweboyd.com.

Microsoft acquires quantified-work innovator Volometrix

Microsoft has announced the acquisition of Volometrix, an innovative quantified work technology company. The company can tap into the work graph information latent in email and document repositories to gain critical insights into operations.
The social graph below was generated by computerized email analysis across a company and analyzing the communication between the folks in various departments and their partners and customers.

I wrote about Volometrix several times in the recent past, including this December piece on the company’s series B round (see Culture-management tool VoloMetrix raises $12M in Series B). In my report on vizualizing work (see Visualizing Work: New Ways to Map How Businesses Operate), I explored the value of tools like Volometrix to help leaders gain strategic insight to what’s going on in the white space on the organization chart, writing:

The future of work is providing the ability to shift from one end of that dimension to the other, as needed, and to mine all the work artifacts available—documents, messages, chat, images, and so on—to get work done at the individual level and to understand the status of work at any level of abstraction, for example, in the C-suite.
Companies such as VoloMetrix, Microsoft, IBM, and Smartsheet are taking quite different paths, but are building on analysis and visualization of the work graph to help drive strategic insight.

Microsoft must have seen the synergies of Volometrix’ approach, since they are now working to incorporate that technology into Delve in future iterations of Office 365, which was also featured in the Visualizing Work report.  I concluded that report

In the near future, we will see a growing demand for the visualization of work, and most specifically, the emergence of the work graph as the central motif in our perception of work on a social level. Its strengths are based on the intuitive nature of the work graph, and the mathematical rigor that underlies social network analysis. Plus the connections between people and the artifacts that they work with lead to contextually relevant collaboration, which is going to be a massive trend over the next few years, and which is driven by exploiting the work graph at a foundational level.

With this acquisition, Microsoft has positioned itself squarely as an innovative leader in this trend space.

Cure back-office blues with tech management techniques

If you’re in senior management at a startup or a midsize tech company, you’re likely bored with and flummoxed by necessary but tedious back-office functions like HR, accounting, and legal. And there’s an even chance that those departments aren’t as effective as they could be. Take heart. Skills you have and processes you know can play roles outside R&D and product development.

When Gigaom Research surveyed senior execs at startups and smaller companies, they told us they’d much rather spend their time on activities where they could contribute the most value to their company. That meant core strategy and growth. In fact, only 14 percent were happy with how they spent their time. They felt back-office operations and maintaining the business distracted from growth.


Applying tech disciplines

Many senior execs at tech companies started in engineering or product development, where they soaked up the best practices illustrated in Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup like the minimum viable product and rapid iteration. In software development, agile techniques proved their effectiveness over the old waterfall, and DevOps drove home the discipline of integrating operations, development, and QA. In his latest report, Gigaom Research analyst Philip Sheldrake sketches out how to apply these tech management techniques to back-office functions, with the objective of making them more responsive to customer needs.

Sheldrake recommends the following:

  •  Human Resources should adopt concurrent testing techniques from agile development. Resume processing doesn’t have to be a linear process pass-along; rather it should exploit modern communication and collaboration techniques. Another Gigaom Research report suggests that most HR departments underuse social media communications, and might be more effective if they were managed by the CMO.
  • Finance can be crippled by outmoded project cost analysis and ROI forecasting practices. Agile’s focus on time-to-market and flexible reaction to changing customer needs promotes radically different cost justification. ROI gets built in by design. Stock market techniques like real-options valuation play a role.
  • Legal and Procurement should take lean manufacturing principles to heart. Think of those departments’ processes in the context of reducing waste in transport, inventory, waiting, and over-processing.

We did an analyst roundtable webinar on these topics as well.

Put the cloud to work

Similarly, it’s time to put the cloud to work on the back office. While many organizations are moving non-differentiating IT functions to the cloud, to date they’ve mostly focused on front-office functions like sales, customer service, and web presence. Leading-edge cloud adopters say they’re equally interested in moving significant back-office workloads onto cloud-based applications and services.



Platforms and crowdsourcing: The office of the 21st century

“Disruption” is one of the most overhyped concepts of the last ten years. A Google Trend search for “disruptive innovation” shows a steeply rising graph, and you can hardly open a professional news website without reading stories about whole sectors being disrupted. Given that “business as usual” is apparently undergoing a profound transformation, how this will impact the people doing the actual work in our economy? One logical consequence is that the way people work and earn money will also radically change. How this will be different is a direct result of the new dominant organization model that is currently emerging.

What do YouTube, Airbnb, and bitcoin have in common that distinguishes them from CNN, Hilton Hotels, and the average bank? The answer is that the former are all platforms. We are witnessing the death of the decades-old industrial organization model, which is being replaced by the organization model of the 21st century: the platform.

What makes a platform a platform? Patrick Savalle’s 2008 book TeamPark: From Crowd to Community lays out the parameters of the platform organization model. It describes how a platform organization provides an infrastructure for crowds of people to create value through an organic rather than a mechanical bureaucratic process. Communication on a platform follows the biological principle of “stigmergy,” which is how ants manage to perform complex tasks without central command and control.

Typically, a platform organizational model has these three features:

Crowdsourcing of resources: Whether it’s a room on Airbnb or knowledge on Wikipedia, the value on a platform is created by mobilizing resources that aren’t necessarily owned or controlled by the organization itself. A major advantage of the platform is that it doesn’t have to invest in all of these resources. Its reason for existence is simply to create synergies between them.

Asynchronous communication: Millions of people simultaneously drive their cars on the road every day without linear planning and direct communication between them. In much the same way, large groups of people can also perform complex tasks on a platform together without having to coordinate their communication in real-time, or even having to meet. For example, Github is home to millions of software repositories, which are often produced by open source developers.

Self-organization: As the behavior on the platform is organic instead of pre-planned, it might create never imagined results. Who could have imagined the incredible diversity in the iTunes App Store, for example?

The direct consequence for the future of work is that the 21st-century office is the platform, without physical boundaries that bind people and teams unilaterally to one location or project. Online platforms are where people will go to add value, and get paid for it. Millions of people are already collaborating productively every day on social networks, forums, Q&As, wikis and other collaboration platforms. This is why mainstream corporations are now heavily investing in “social” intranets, which are essentially platforms to utilize these powerful tools for the internal organization. But companies are generally trying to fit these social technologies into traditional industrial processes and procedures, creating a strict line between inside and outside. Obviously, this is not going to work. 

It’s necessary for businesses to completely rethink their processes and how they reward people, which also means that they should stop rewarding based on linear metrics such as time and predefined and assigned tasks. On a platform, everyone is rewarded based on the actual value they produce. A beautiful example of this is GiffGaff, a U.K.-based telecom operator that pays its customers for running its customer support platform. The company also crowdsources sales from its customers and offers financial rewards for referrals.

The crowdsourcing of labor through platforms is still in its infancy and is not yet at the heart of organizational planning. It is, however, gaining considerable mainstream traction in diverse areas ranging from software development to open innovation, from help desks to content creation. Companies like Google and Samsung are paying serious money to freelancers and to their own internal developers to contribute on the Github platform to open source software projects like Linux. A corporate giant like Unilever uses oDesk to facilitate its flexible workforce policy. London’s top university, Imperial College, uses its community of students and alumni to crowdsource research for corporate clients, and distributes the fees among the contributors using Mobbr’s crowd payment functionality (disclosure: I work for Mobbr).

One of the corporate frontrunners in crowdsourcing labor is General Electric. It has partnered with Quirky to crowdsource product innovation. It uses the data scientist community Kaggle to crowdsource algorithms for air travel flight paths and uses GrabCad to crowdsource engineering solutions. FirstBuild, through its partnership with crowd-based car manufacturer Local Motors, takes crowdsourcing a step further. It uses a crowd of professionals and enthusiasts to ideate, design, prototype, refine, build and commercialize home appliances.

FirstBuild itself is merely the platform that facilitates the entire flow of value. It offers proof that crowdsourcing is not something that is only done online — and shows that it may well be the template for the future of work in the 21st century.

Ernesto Spruyt is chief of growth at Mobbr, the world’s first crowd payments platform for the collaborative economy that makes crowdsourcing online work rewarding for everyone. Prior to joining Mobbr, Ernesto founded Larive Russia, a market entry consultancy based in Moscow, and ran several projects in the Dutch startup scene.

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Innovation may be an aging buzzword, but IT execs are only too happy to hear their CEOs parrot it. CIOs can get their seat back at the executive table if they can help turn their company – and its product – into networks.

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This past year has been a time of great change and turbulence in the tools, practices, and thinking around the rapidly shifting world of work. Expect these changes to continue building momentum in 2014.