Work Life Boundaries, Barriers and Attractors
Work Life Balance?
In the conversations during Elmine's Birthday Unconference at the end of August we talked a lot about work-life balance. Basically I concluded some time ago that the whole work-life distinction has disappeared for me. I just do stuff. It used to be that work and the rest of life were separated by location and time. During work hours I would be at a certain spot, and when I wasn't, I wasn't working. That of course has all changed. I am somewhere, doing something, and time and location can no longer serve as boundaries to help me distinguish between aspects of my life in quite the same way.
So the question became what kind of boundaries help me to be balanced in my activities and help me to experience flow (see how I avoid using work and life as opposites here)?
The week after Elmine's Birthday Unconference I attended Dave Snowden's Cognitive Edge seminar, about applying what we know about complex adaptive systems to organizational and work contexts.
There too boundaries are an important notion, next to attractors and barriers. Also in my work with the Future Workspaces consortium, flow and balance are frequently discussed issues.
Attractors, Boundaries and Barriers
So I have taken thoughts, questions, ideas and key words from the output of Elmine's Birthday Unconference and sorted them into attractors, boundaries and barriers, and those that seem to fall between two of those categories.
Attractors (or things that I think will improve my flow):
Owning my learning path
Fun tools (flow is fun)
--- Create my Digital habitat
Into productivity because I am lazy
--- Planning is energy conservation
--- That inspire me
--- That help me commercially
--- That make me better visible to my network
--- Choosing where to spend it or not
In what places do I want to be? In terms of:
--- Bridging Academia and Business
--- Effect of complexity
--- Information strategies
Boundaries (or things that I think help me to stay in flow):
Self reflection on current boundaries
Law of 2 feet
--- On value
--- On meaning
Value in my system
Places as boundaries
--- where to work
--- where not to work
Constraints for creativity
Knowing when to stop
Between Attractors and Boundaries (things that may be an attractor or a boundary):
Obligations outside-in vs quality inside-out
(Dis)connecting from spheres selectively
Between Boundaries and Barriers (things that may be a boundary or a barrier):
100% mobile productivity is a myth
--- assumed expectations of others
What is it I get paid for?
Barriers (things I think impede my flow):
Work as a job is a 19th century concept
Communication style resulting in more work/promises
--- Boundaries, expectations, terms of acceptance
Own thinking makes things urgent
--- Macro / over contexts
--- Micro / within contexts
Me working on the train. Photo: Elmine
This is thinking in progress so I am nowhere near conclusions yet. I have changed part of my routines already though. I have been playing around with place: not using my laptop for serious work on the couch. Only allowing myself to work on e-mail or simple stuff (like uploading pics) at the dinner table, all other laptop based activities taking place in our home office. But that's just a piece of what might become a larger set of different notions about my activities.0 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
Social Software Behind The Firewall
Earlier this week I participated in a general workshop for the Future Workspace research consortium that I have been contributing to in the past months. The consortium is otherwise made up of the Telematica Institute, IBM, Rabobank, Royal Haskoning, CETIM, Free University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology.
This week's workshop was an open invitation workshop around the use of social media in enterprise, organized by the Telematica Institute and hosted by IBM in Amsterdam. Questions around adoption, governance, selection of tools, and integration in existing ICT architecture, were discussed in a Knowledge Café format.
Before the actual discussions and conversations, a short presentation was given Erik Krischan on how social media are currently used within the IBM intranet. (Showing us the intranet in Firefox btw) A short list of things that caught my eye:
- RSS and tags are used throughout
- There seemed to be a bit of confusion between the terms tag and bookmark, which were used in part as synonyms
- It all looked very 'portal' like and text based
- By choice there is no single sign-on (to prevent all kinds of global architectural/integration questions)
- They link to communities of practice and people wherever that is helpful, adding human context to information
- There are rating systems
- People are shown to you in degrees of separation, and there is a recommended 'social path' to people
- There are experiments with visualizing social network analysis results (with opt-in crawling of your e-mail)
- New applications are only seeded with starting money, then fend for themselves to get adoption from colleagues
- BlueTwit, is IBM's behind the firewall Twitter-like application (next to regular IM of course) (no surprise to see Luis Suarez/@elsua in that stream :) )
- 'IBM Whisper' automatically suggests people and pieces of information to you based on your use of the intranet
It is clear that IBM does a lot of 'safe-fail' experimenting with social media style functionality and applications in their intranet environment. It is less clear to me how consolidation is organized, as that was not part of the presentation and following discussion. It seems to me to already be a real patchwork of apps (mind you, I am no stranger to patchwork), although there are also signs of integration and consolidation. But what stood out most for me is how the 'new stuff' is often still presented as 'seperate'.
A good example of that were how search results were presented. It had the usual search results with % of relevance. (The search term was portal, and yielded documents from 2004 and 2006 as most relevant results) And next to it people relevant to the search term. But then other results were not presented in terms of content or context, but in terms of channel/applications. There were boxes with 'rss results' and 'bookmarks found'. That is like having seperate boxes for stuff that you heard on the telephone, or received through fax, or over a coffee in the hallway. For me as a person working on my tasks the information source is important, not channel of delivery. That does not help me filter, authenticate, or validate. It would be helpful if all those search results were in the same list (with a hint to channel displayed next to it: external blog, bookmarked by colleague) and subject to the same type of rating system.
So while IBM certainly has a lot of very very cool stuff on their intranet, making quite a number of participants drool and speak of 'information nirvana', I think there is one fundamental barrier in the overall approach and design however, and that is the focus on individual information items. Only then would you end up with a seperate box for rss search results, and bookmark search results, or search results tagged with your search term. That information focus is a legacy notion from earlier days. People don't need 'information nirvana', they need more 'flow nirvana', that will help them do their work to the best of their professional standards. That is more likely to be achieved when you take the tasks people are trying to do, the context and complex characteristics of their work, more as a starting point than the distribution of 'information items'. In that sense the mentioned 'Whisper' functionality is significant, and could serve as starting point for more. Being able to create your own starting page with widgets and applets is a good start too as is possible on IBM's intranet, if those widgets and apps are more functional building blocks, and less seperated along the lines of channels or 'technology used under the hood to get this to you'. Because the latter seems to signify that somehow different channels are less valuable/trustworthy, whereas that has/should have nothing to do with value of information.
After Erik's presentation it was Mireille Jansma who guided us through the Knowledge Café format (and told us a little something on how she and her colleagues see the possible role of social media in ING) Good to see Mireille and Jurgen Egges again, whom I both recently met in the context of a Cognitive Edge course and meeting with Dave Snowden. All in all a good session. Photos on Flickr.
Samuel Driessen also blogged his impressions, and spends a bit more time reflecting on the conversations in the Knowledge Café.3 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
September Learning Month
After the great and fun Unconference in honour of Elmine's birthday last Friday and Saturday, bringing me new insights and ideas, this week too will be stuffed with learning.
Today and tomorrow I will participate in Dave Snowden's Cognitive Edge course on complexity, embracing uncertainty, business narratives, and sense making through human networked information filtering. I have been looking forward to this a lot. Ever since 2003 I have been using bits and pieces of Dave Snowden's work in my take on knowledge work, learning and innovation, after hearing him speak at a KM conference. But it would be useful to hear a more complete story from Dave Snowden himself and see how his thinking as evolved, as well as what kind of tool set het has build around it.
Next week will see the start of George Siemens and Stephen Downes's on-line course on Connectivism. Both George Siemens and Stephen Downes have been part of my on-line neighbourhood for a long time, and their views on learning resonate with me very much. Connectivism makes up a big part of how I have constructed my basic information gathering and sense making process through social filtering. Now they are doing an on-line course, as part of the curriculum of the University of Manitoba. It seems already more than 1600 people from around the globe have signed up for it. Check the course blog and course wiki for more info. This course will run almost until December, and promises to be very exciting. Both Elmine and I will be taking part, and it will be fun to see our different routes and takes on this as the course develops over the coming 12 weeks.
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