Business Center Collaborative Technology: A Lesson from Kindergarten

Collaboration (NextEditor - WikiCommons)
Collaboration (NextEditor - WikiCommons)

June has come and gone and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has not backed down on her telecommuting plan. That means no more virtual office workers at the search engine prince.

Although it’s too soon to gauge the long-term impacts – for better or worse – of Mayer’s decision, the flexible work industry still hasn’t stopped talking about the initial move to ban alternative workspace. And some are already willing to bet Mayer made a mistake.

Mark Bates, a principal at Continuum, a global design and innovation consultancy in Boston, told us he believes Yahoo’s “no telecommuting” will backfire in the long run.

“Collaboration happens everywhere. Collaboration can range from individuals thinking deeply about a problem and then coming together with others to share, challenge, build, and evolve the idea,” he says. “Reducing the barriers is not only achievable but it will be expected by ‘productive’ employees whether they work at home, on the road, or in the office.”

Bates offers an example: Kindergarten. Thinking back to kindergarten, he remembers it as a great place to “work.” There was an area with small chairs where we sat facing the teacher, which he likened to corporate knowledge transfer. We had a play area that we could team up and build stuff, which he categorizes as play and knowledge creation.

Moving on to snack time the pressure was off and we could just enjoy lunch together. And finally, we had our own mat and we could go off to our own spots and either nap or read or draw on our own. Of course, we don’t work in a single room anymore, but Bates says the idea is still solid.

So the question is: Why can’t our workplace be like the room at our elementary schools? Bates says there are three things that get in our way.

1. Democratization of technology: Although technology continues to get cheaper, better, and faster we don’t all have equal access to the best tools. Bates says some companies are making the investment to providing both smart mobile devices for employees, improved video conferencing as well as improving network capacity within their spaces.

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Your business center can level the playing field by incorporating the “best tools” into your technology mix and making it easier for entrepreneurs and mobile workers alike to do business at your serviced office space.

2. Land locked: Bates says many workers are stuck in old modes of working dictated by our office configuration and structure. When people and the organization allow themselves to try new configurations and challenge the space they work in, the results are usually positive.

What does this mean for your business center? It could be time to shake up the configuration as office needs evolve. Are coworking facilities springing up left and right in your city? That could be a clue that the officing scene is moving ahead without you.

3. Lack of persistence: Bates says when we try to use the new video system but it ends up falling short, we’re reluctant to try again and default to the conference phone. In other words, when workers have a bad experience with technology they believe the stakes are too high to allow for collaboration failure. That’s human nature.

Your business center can help push the office of the future envelope open by making collaboration full proof. Don’t take it for granted that your Wi-Fi is up, test it each morning. Don’t assume your video conferencing system has no glitches, check it out before clients go in to use it. Make the technology experience at your business center seamless and you’ll encourage more use of your amenities.

Thanks to NextEditor for the image

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