23 Sep

My Favorite Teacher’s Name is Travel

Blog No Comments by Travis Jones

My Favorite Teacher’s Name is TravelWork is not the same as it was 50 years ago, or even 15 years ago! Flexible work arrangements have thrown the traditional 9 to 5 out the window.  In an effort to boost employee morale, productivity and engagement organizations are offering perks from bringing your dog to work to providing places to “play” during the workday.  This month at LTAW we are talking about the unconventional in the workplace…which we are sure will someday become the new normal.

Philosopher and theologian St. Augustine once wrote, “The world is like a book, those who do not travel read only one page.” I love this quote. And it fully captures my experience of traveling. Every new place I’ve been and every new person I’ve met, like a great book, has left me a better person than I was before. I’ve left places with new perspectives and left old perspectives in new places. I would not trade my education or any of my mentors for anything in the world, but travel has always been my greatest teacher.

It is striking however that the idea of travel as a teacher has not become a formal concept of organizational leadership training and development. This is especially surprising in diversity and inclusion work where cross-cultural competency is prized as a necessary skill of the new global economy. I share Mark Twain’s sentiments who said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I’m not saying I think people who travel are not aware of and experience the value of travel, I’m saying more should be done to encourage and operationalize the benefits that come from traveling. So far, it seems that travel is largely thought of as a means to an ends (we travel to get to the business) and that the cultural benefits that come from travel are mostly personal. But if there are tangible professional benefits for traveling, then companies should invest in their traveling employees in ways that fully embrace the best that travel has to offer. Traveling for traveling’s sake.  Expanding global markets, and the ensuing boom in international travel, has made thinking about travel in new and more productive ways a new vital skill of business travelers.

There is now initial evidence and research that working and studying abroad are influential factors in producing creativity and fostering skills related to problem solving and innovation. In these studies, students and professionals who have spent considerable time overseas out perform their non-traveling counterparts across several variables. If these initial studies prove to be reliable patterns of travel as creativity building and cross cultural competency enhancing, then organizations can begin implementing programs that encourage traveling that capitalize on the aspects of travel that are most professionally edifying. The hope, at least my hope as an avid traveler, is that business travel can be redeemed from the “means-to-an-end” mentality that often leaves it as an untapped part of professional development.

Be Unconventional!

 

20 Sep

Start Playing Too Much

Blog No Comments by Travis Jones

Start Playing Too Much - Let's Talk About WorkWork is not the same as it was 50 years ago, or even 15 years ago! Flexible work arrangements have thrown the traditional 9 to 5 out the window.  In an effort to boost employee morale, productivity and engagement organizations are offering perks from bringing your dog to work to providing places to “play” during the workday.  This month at LTAW we are talking about the unconventional in the workplace…which we are sure will someday become the new normal.

Imagine it’s a Tuesday afternoon and you are one hour into what will be a several hour drudge through a sea of emails when a co-worker taps you on the shoulder holding a volleyball and challenges you to join the rest of your smiling colleagues in a friendly match. You agree, and everyone jumps onto their Razr scooters and whisks their way through the workplace to the on campus court. On the way you pass someone getting a full body massage, a lively Yoga class, an intense game of Ping pong and several people engaged in casual conversation on cushy leather couches spread throughout the facility. Before you reach the volleyball court you loop through the open kitchen to snag one of your favorite snacks that are laid out for anyone to enjoy.

If this sounds like a really cheesy beer commercial trying too hard to convince you of their product’s ability to spice up your life, its not (but it could be). It’s just a typical day at work… at Google. Google has now become a leader in the dot com industry for the importance of blending work and play. Their philosophy of work is even “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world.” So what does Google, and now many others, know that the rest of corporate America seems so blind to? They know what many of us experienced as children but have forgotten later in life; that creativity, productivity and innovation happens most naturally when we are lost in the enjoyment of an activity. When you were a child, you learned so many things at such a rapid pace (artistic abilities, new books, new games, movies, etc) and much of it seemed effortless. Why? One reason is that children are (hopefully) given “a pass” for a period of their lives where they are allowed to experiment and fail without consequence. They are also encouraged, and given time and space, to play. Sadly, this seems to change as we progress into adulthood. One of my favorite quotes, and life long challenges, is by Pablo Picasso who said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up.”

Companies that encourage play at work are beginning to offer a solution to this de-childization that seems to be inherent in so many workplaces. The other good news is that there is a growing, albeit small, body of research on the empirical benefits of play in stimulating creativity. This is especially important at a time when 80% of employees say they are unhappy at work. I am not naïve enough to think that Google alone can change the way work has been done and thought about for the last 100 years, but I am hopeful that they may get the ball rolling. Not every company can, or should, create a facility like Googles’, but I think every company should start to include the concept of “play” into their organizational vocabulary. Stuart Brown, a researcher on the benefits of play, says “I tend to think of play as a state of being…play is individual, and play patterns that work for one person may not work for another. Google has been insightful because they have a whole spectrum of play opportunities so employees can find the niche that works for them.”

The concept that work and play are polar opposites that should be separated runs deep through the American psyche. You see it when we utter, “there is a time and place for everything” or when we scold someone for “playing too much” or not “acting their age.” I hope, especially for the mental health of employees and the future of creative innovation, that playing, laughing, joking and enjoyment lose their negative cultural stigma at work and become staple concepts in organizational thought and practice.

Be Unconventional!

 

12 Sep

You Are Where You Work

Blog No Comments by Travis Jones

You Are Where  You WorkWork is not the same as it was 50 years ago, or even 15 years ago! Flexible work arrangements have thrown the traditional 9 to 5 out the window. In an effort to boost employee morale, productivity and engagement organizations are offering perks from bringing your dog to work to providing places to “play” during the workday. This month at LTAW we are talking about the unconventional in the workplace…which we are sure will someday become the new normal.

We are fond of the saying “you are what you eat” because it seems obvious that what we put into our bodies and minds eventually becomes a part of who we are. But what about everything on the outside of us? In what ways do our surroundings shape who we are and how we think? Some of the earliest examples of people who understood the deep impact of physical surroundings on human potential were the early Catholic artists from medieval history (note: if you are a medieval historian please refrain from pulling your hair out from my loose interpretation of history).

Churches of antiquity were built purposefully with specific goals in mind. The high vaulted ceilings were meant to draw attention to the heavens from the worshippers below. The basilica (or cross shaped) design of cathedrals was symbolic of the central message of the Church and the centrally placed elevated pulpits served as a reminder of the Bible’s authority. There was a clear connection between the physical environment and its influence on human behavior and thought. This seems like a distant world from the fluorescent-lit maze of gray cubicles that have come to dominate many work place settings. But things are starting to change.

There is a growing body of research and examples of unconventional, creative workspaces that illustrate the powerful effects that one’s physical space has on productivity and morale.  One study has shown that size, specifically large open spaces, is a vital factor for creating an atmosphere of creativity, in some cases more than how that space may be organized. Other research has highlighted the importance of allowing employees the freedom to organize and utilize workspaces to match their individual preferences and desires. Things like bringing in plants, pets or a favorite game, freedom to move furniture, or collaborating around white boards are all ways people utilize space to incorporate their different learning styles and personalities. There are even some experts that suggest that for some people, messy workspaces may be a factor in spurring creativity and thinking outside the box (i.e. think Einstein’s cluttered chalkboard).

What’s important in all of this is that businesses are starting to realize the direct relationship that workspace has on encouraging and developing creative and productive employees. After browsing several creative workspaces, here are a few that really stand out to us as fun, creative places to work. We hope the trend continues!

You Are Where You Work

 

You Are Where You Work

 

You Are Where You Work

 

You Are Where You Work

Do you work in a non-traditional office space? How has it helped or hindered your creativity/productivity? Tell us in the comments below!

Be Unconventional!

 

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