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Spark the Change: Building Tomorrow’s Company

| by Ben Linders Follow 25 Followers on Jul 19, 2018. Estimated reading time: 6 minutes |

Tomorrow's company has to invest in well-being, should move away from individual silos to team delivery, needs to have psychological space and safety, and must be able to deal with uncertainty. To build such companies we can use gamification, "pretotyping", and technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence, robots, chatbots and other conversational interfaces. We should focus on teams and question how we work together.

Spark the Change Paris 2018 was held in Paris, France, on June 26. InfoQ is covering this event with articles, summaries, and Q&As. This article summarizes the talks on building tomorrow's company.

Jurgen Appelo, founder and CEO of Agility Scales, spoke about shifting teams in better shapes. He started his talk by stating that people resisting being changed doesn't help us change the outcomes. There might not be much change happening in your organization, but change is happening in the world. People can and do change, argued Appelo.

Traditional change programs, where consultants and coaches are bringing in ideas, usually fail. The way we do change is broken, said Appelo. His suggestion is to use gamification for change. Games make us happy and game developers know how to inspire people, said Appelo.

Adopting ideas starts with a trigger, said Appelo, it's "Trigger - Action - Reward". As a coach you should use what triggers people to initiate change. He suggested to use the environment to trigger the right behavior:

Appelo advised starting change with a game instead of by issuing rules. Don't focus too much on points or status when using games for organizational change. He also suggested to start small. For new behavior to stick it has to become a convenience or enjoyment. Once new behavior becomes a habit, then you can think about scaling.

Appelo concluded his talk by saying "Don't make new behavior a rule, make it a habit."

Anthony Gooch Gálvez, Director Communications, Public Affairs & Engagement at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), gave a talk about developing better policies to impact the lives of ordinary citizens.

Humans are not rational, stated Gooch Gálve; combining emotion and reason is important in reaching well-being. The OECD aims at "better policies for better lives". The OECD Better Life Index can be used by people to measure their well-being. It compares well-being across countries based on topics in areas of material living conditions and quality of life.

Gooch Gálvez explored what they have learned so far. Life satisfaction, health, and education, are the three most important topics for people's well-being, he said. Civic engagement scores lowest, but it might be the case that people do not recognize that they are doing it, he added. Men give more importance to income, where women find community and work-life balance more important. For young people, money and happiness are essential; with age, the environment, civic engagement, and health becoming more important.

The importance of topics changes over the years. As an example, in France the importance of topics like work and income increased from 2012 to 2014 but then started to decrease and became less important in 2017.

Research shows that when companies invest in well-being, it increases employee engagement which leads to better results, said Gooch Gálvez.

Arie van Bennekum, co-author of the Agile Manifesto and thought leader at Wemanity Group, explored how we can work agile together to reach benefits for the greater good.

Scaling is not a topic, said Van Bennekum. Work has to become integrated, we should move away from individual silos to team delivery, doing it all together for the same purpose. We have to break patterns, cut out delays, and overcome paradigms to become truly agile, he argued. If anyone who is not really involved with the project needs to approve the end result, you are not agile, argued van Bennekum.

Van Bennekum stated: "you are the architect of your own life." According to him everyone is responsible for their own personal ambitions and talents. Complaining doesn't help; you either have to accept the situation, change it, or move, argued van Bennekum.

In the organization the focus should be on the team. Learning should be a continuous part of the process. Managers can facilitate people to develop themselves in their own desire, said van Bennekum.

Franck Le Tendre, managing director EMEA at Dropbox, spoke about building a culture of creative thinkers.

Le Tendre started his talk by stating that he hates the word "productivity". We are productive, and we suffer from an overload of signals. Creativity and creative thinking are problem-solving, argued Le Tendre. The company of tomorrow enables teams to create a positive workplace.

Creating psychological space and safety improve the ability to think, said Le Tendre. We have to make sure that people feel at ease in an inclusive environment where kindness exists.

At Dropbox, managers are incentivized to fail and learn from mistakes. To do this, Dropbox came up with the idea of an "award of failure".

Employees at Dropbox can write a "how to work with me" document. This document describes things like when and how someone would like to be contacted, in which way they prefer to receive feedback, and other related topics. Simon R.J. Fogg tweeted an alternative for this, called Manual of Me.

To unlock creative thinking, we should invest in questions like how we work together, argued Le Tendre. We have to make time for creative thinking. At regular times Dropbox organizes an "Act week" where everyone in the company is encouraged to bring up new ideas. In the act week you can work with people that you don't work with normally to push boundaries, said Le Tendre.

Sylvie Daumal, co-founder of WeDigitalGarden, talked about the importance of UX design.

Innovation implies that we have to deal with uncertainty. Daumal stated that we can reduce risk by asking two questions:

  • Are we designing the right thing?
  • Are we designing it right?

Prototypes can be used to reduce risks, provided that you test them with the users, argued Daumal. She quoted Tom Wujec: "Prototyping is the conversation you have with your ideas." In innovation we need to be frugal and fast, argued Daumal.

Testing hypotheses of interfaces and interactions used to be easy by using tools to create prototypes. But now that we have to deal with IoT, artificial intelligence, and robots, we do not have tools available to create prototypes rapidly to test our assumptions, said Daumal.

PREtotyping works by applying the principle "fake it until you do it". She gave the example of how Ford is testing self-driving cars. Using the technique of "mechanical Turk" Ford tested reactions from pedestrians by having a car with a hidden driver, which had the advantage of not requiring an authorization. They used this to test how people reacted at light signals to a replacement for eye contact with the driver, as they wanted to see if people would get it.

Daumal mentioned the following books and websites to learn about pretotyping:

Anamita Guha, product manager at IBM Watson, presented designing conversational interfaces.

A conversation is when two people are interacting. Guha distinguished four different types of conversations:

  • Talking nice (softening)
  • Talking tough (debate/clash)
  • Reflexive dialogue (inquiry-curiosity)
  • Generative dialogue (co-creation)

Earlier InfoQ interviewed Guha about chatbots for developers. Conversational interfaces are more than chatbots, said Guha, it can manifest in various mediums. She gave examples like Slack, Messenger, virtual reality, and digital humans.

Guha mentioned the Turing test, developed by Alan Turing. It can be used to test a conversational interface by checking the machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

An earlier article on InfoQ summarized talks on the sparkling disruptions theme, and a future article will explore the talks on the unleashing people's talent theme.

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