Neuroscience: Employee engagement – in Mind, in Body, but in Soul? Part 1

Agile Elephant recently ran a workshop at the #responsiveorg unconference in London entitled: “The History, Biology, Anthropology and Psychology of a Responsive Organisation”. Much of the content stems from background research that we’re doing on what the future of work/organisational structure will look like. All 4 are intrinsically linked but my research is focussed on the psychology – and more specifically on the latest research in neuroscience and its potential impact on employee engagement which is one of the key facets of a responsive organisation.


Neuroscience: A rapidly growing area

Increasingly companies like BT and Volvo are using the findings from neuroscience to help improve Learning and Development efficiency and effectiveness and also assist HR who are able to use the findings (check out this recent CIPD report).

With the advancement in technology fMRI scanners are helping us understand exactly how our brains are wired. It transpires that our brains are actually plastic – learning can change the function, connectivity and even the structure of your brain. We can help our brains rewire and work differently. On top of this we now also understand more about the effect of different hormones (such as the fight or flight hormone adrenaline or the stress hormone cortisol) within the brain. We’re learning how this all works together and what the impacts on the way we work are and what helps us work optimally.

Neuroscience and employee engagement

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 11.52.44

The above diagram by Hilary Scarlett ‘Neuroscience and the 4 enablers‘ of Engage for Success clearly shows what is needed to ensure that employees feel engaged (on the right). Hilary explains how the brain is organised to avoid threat (on the left) and find reward (on the right) – but our evolution dictates that avoiding threats is more important. If there are threats in the way we can’t be in a positive (and engaged) state until the threats are resolved.

We crave certainty

To achieve the ‘Reward’ state our brains crave certainty and control. We naturally rely on past experiences because this uses less energy than having to think about what could possibly happen in the future (brains use a lot of energy so the body seeks to minimise it with short cuts). Our brains like predictability and certainty – repetition is easier than change. Any change in our environment means that we can’t easily predict things. Change thus means having no real certainty or control and we are more inclined to feel more in the ‘threat’ state because of this. We can’t easily think or perform well and we can view the workplace as more hostile than it actually is.

So what does this mean for companies and employee engagement? When going through change it can help enormously if companies have a clear and open strategic narrative explaining to people where they are heading, which enables employees to feel that they can at least predict more easily how this will affect them, and give them some form or certainty.

We crave control

Neuroscience has shown how we also crave control and having a sense of control does have a major impact on reducing stress. No control leads to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol which kills and damages brain cells (particularly those which play an important role in memory). But not just that. As Hilary says “Leaders need to know that when we feel we have no control, we see the same situation as much more stressful. Even a subtle perception of autonomy (control) can make a very significant positive impact on our brain’s perception of events”. We feel less threatened. It’s often just the small actions and gestures that can put our brain in a positive state – making eye contact, listening to people – generally ‘engaging’. These are the things which cost nothing, take very little time but can have a huge impact by helping move people into the positive mindset. It’s not just neuroscience which is showing the value of these small gestures either. Google (who are the only corporation in the world relying on data-driven human resources functions alone) have pinpointed via their Project Oxygen that the most important activity for management success includes holding regular one-on-ones and ‘listening’.

Well, who would have believed that ;-)

Those in HR have instinctively always known much of the above without using neuroscience and data science – but having science to back you up can only be a positive thing…

What now is Soul?

It does however give me one thought – once we have analysed every possible nuance and activity in our brains, will we really be happier once we have demystified all its mysteries? In fact it could raise the question “what now is our Soul”?

Part 2 will focus on Neuroscience: ‘Wired to be Social’ and ‘Multitasking and the Social Onslaught’

Many thanks to @tomfivetwo for the above scribing at the #responsiveorg workshop.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Social Onslaught

Over the past 7 years or so we have witnessed the explosion and ubiquitous use of social tools which have for most of us changed both the way we handle our social lives and increasingly our working lives too. The traditional natural and easy divide between work and home has now become blurred as we often find ourselves constantly switched on and accessible to all – permanently. Switching off isn’t easy.

Yet there is increasing evidence that switching off is critical to our health and multitasking which is a result of being constantly accessible damages both our brains and work. As a recent article in Forbes notes:

“Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers also found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time…

…Researchers at the University of Sussex compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.”

I am giving my thoughts on this subject at the Workplace Trends Conference in London this week. Here’s a video of my presentation with audio track.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Etsy: A Launchpad for Global Entrepreneurs

Back in 2008 I wrote about Etsy and how I had seen it showcased at the Future of Web Apps Conference to a crowd of disbelieving geeks who viewed it as ‘just another Ebay’ and didn’t quite understand how it could have obtained its exponential growth just through word of mouth.  At that point in November ’07 buyers had spent $4.3 million purchasing 300,000 items – by September 2013 these figures had risen to 5,558,230 products being sold with a value of $109.5 million – not a bad rate of growth in anyone’s books.

Etsy has grown to become one of the key platforms of the collaborative economy – a phrase which didn’t really exist just 5 years ago – and their 2 latest moves are indicative of their determination to help push the global collaborative economy along its way:

A Launchpad for Entrepreneurs

Few could have predicted 5 years ago that the site would be being used as a serious launchpad for entrepreneurs.  The original concept of the site being only for individuals creating and selling handmade items has been increasingly challenged over time as many on makers on Etsy are converting from being just keen hobbyists making small amounts of cash while holding down full-time jobs, to creating full time businesses.  It has now reached a point where Etsy recently changed its guidelines to allow sellers to apply for approval to sell items made in collaboration with manufacturers:

On Etsy, a manufacturer is simply any outside business a seller uses to produce their items. A factory with 20 employees can be a manufacturer, but so can a two-person sewing workshop.”

Austerity may be biting but it’s the sharing economy and social platforms like Etsy which are enabling many to bite back.

Breaking down Cultural and Language Barriers

Back in the early 1990’s when websites began I was running a translation agency in London working with companies globally.  I envisioned that if every company worldwide was to have a website which could be viewed globally then every website would have to be multilingual to capture each company’s new prospects… Common sense don’t you think? So I set up a multilingual website division to provide just that.  Unfortunately the world wasn’t quite as forward thinking as I predicted…

So it was with a wry smile that I noticed Etsy’s announcement last week that it is introducing onsite translation tools that allow sellers to easily engage with potential customers. When either party sends a message in a language that is different to the recipient’s default setting, a new ‘Translate to’ hyperlink will appear enabling the correspondence to be translated into 9 languages including English, German, French, Dutch, Russian and Portuguese.

For someone like myself whose lifetime focus has been to break down language barriers and get the world working as one these are both seriously cool moves.  It will be fascinating to watch how these impact upon Etsy’s global success.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Business as a Social Object, the Shadow Economy and WOMnets

“Could business become nothing more than a social object, and individuals would collaborate via social networks, doing what businesses used to do” 

I put out this idea when I spoke at the Patchwork Elephant Conference about what the future could hold for social business.  Here’s a more detailed explanation:

18 months ago I wrote about the underlying shifts I could see happening towards a new social ecosystem with collaboration as its key.  I then focussed on the emergence of community based funding platforms like Kickstarter, the estimated increase in the use of the black economy and how governments were pushing to eliminate cash in favour of online transactions which could be monitored.  I’ve been revisiting those thoughts now, following on from work assignments and research I have been involved in over the last 18 months, and here are some more thoughts:

The Online Collaborative Economy

Funding based platforms: By May 2013 Kickstarter had passed 100,000 successfully launched projects with 44% successfully funded thanks to $535 million in crowdsourcing. Crowdfunding is here to stay.

Peer to Peer lending: These companies although have been around a while are enjoying a leap in popularity: “Andy Haldane, director of financial stability at the Bank of England, reckons that peer-to-peer websites – which link those who want to borrow with individuals who want a return on their cash – are becoming increasingly economically important.” comments The Telegraph.  Indeed, with Google investing $125 million in Lending Club, valuing it at a staggering $1.55 billion, this is an area set to grow exponentially.

Online currencies: Bitcoin is the increasingly popular cryptocurrency where the creation and transfer of Bitcoins is based on an open-source cryptographic protocol that is independent of any central authority.  It has however recently fallen under the eyes of the government who shuttered Silk Road, an online black market used to buy and sell illegal drugs with Bitcoins.

Crowds become the company:  Platforms which host companies where crowds become the company (essentially crowds doing what businesses used to do) are on the rise.  The room sharing company Airbnb and car pooling company Lyft are 2 prime examples of companies which are economically challenging the hotel and taxi industries.  Both have recently come to the attention of US regulators who view them as companies whose reigns need to be tightened.   Airbnb is currently fighting a subpoena from the New York Attorney General who is seeking information on more than 15,000 tenants who rent out their rooms on the popular website stating that they are breaking a 2010 law that prohibits renters from subletting their room for less than 30 days. 

3D printing and nanotechnology:   3D printing is here and if you happen to live near York, is available in an Asda near you .  3D printing and other new emerging ‘minituarisation of manufacturing’ tools are the “today” bit of the 40 year journey to nanotechnology which I discussed at the conference.  Although still in its nascent stage the promise of being able to create personalised products yourself or locally (from virtually nothing – for virtually nothing in the case of the proposed ‘personal nanofactories’) rather than relying on mass produced factory goods is perhaps not that far off – and the concept of needing neither shops nor factories suddenly doesn’t seem quite so strange at all.

Here are the beginnings of whole business structures being redefined with individuals collaborating via social networks and relying on trusted parties bypassing traditional hierarchical capitalist models.  Platforms are used by crowds to do what businesses used to do.

As I pointed out at the conference let’s analyse what this could mean for business in the future:

Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 17.22.42

  • Production: whether goods were made at home locally on demand it could mean that large scale manufacturing would be knocked out.
  • Transport: if there were no goods to be moved around the transport industry would be under threat
  • Consumer facing businesses selling goods: would have serious problems
  • Sales & marketing: what for if there were no goods to flog
  • Business support services: would dwindle
  • Finance: a lot of the current financial system is based on betting on firms

In other words:

“Could business become nothing more than a social object and individuals would collaborate via social networks, doing what businesses used to do.”

Now I’d like to take it a little bit further…  Let’s talk The Shadow Economy which I spoke about 18 months ago.

Where may you find this new economy in the future?  In the Shadows?

The offline world has always had a shadow economy and as predicted its popularity is on the rise.  As unemployment has risen economists now estimate that the income generated by the underground economy is the US could be $2 trillion and Spain’s illicit economy is estimated to be worth 20% of the country’s GDP, according to a new report by Spain’s Foundation for Financial Studies (FEF) reports The Atlantic.

The offline shadow economy has always been difficult for governments to track and until recently much online collaboration where people have made money has managed to stay ‘below the radar’ of authorities.  Online collaboration has for most never felt at least like working ‘within the black market’ so to speak – until a time is reached when governments take note and step in as we have seen recently with Bitcoin and Airbnb.  The fact that all those who have registered to let out their rooms via Airbnb are now facing the possibility of having all their details handed over to the government because of the subpoena should be a wake up call to everyone involved in any form of online activities.

What is a WOMnet?

It is at this point that you wonder exactly how these networks could evolve…  As the collaborative economy continues to build will we be happy to accept being tracked and monitored knowing that every small thing we are involved in online is recorded for posterity?  Or could this lead to a deeper online Shadow Economy developing away from the ‘State Controlled Web’?

The obvious thing would be to create alternative internets and private spaces well away from the existing Web.  Unsurprisingly the beginnings are already emerging with alternative internets and new ways of using the internet appearing.  This also ties in closely with the VRM concept of tools being created for individuals to manage and control their own data, allowing access only to those to whom they give permission.

Perhaps in the future we will all have the ability to create and control our own private internets and collaboration spaces away from the main ‘internet’ and, just as in the offline Shadow Economy, rely on Word of Mouth to spread the word for us – ‘WOMnets’ so to speak.  We would then of course need to emply WOMbles to clean up any loose digital tracks that the everyday folk leave behind… 🙂


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thinking the unthinkable with the Social Business Patchwork Elephant

I helped host the Social Business Patchwork Elephant Revisited last Friday. The first one was hosted 3 years ago when the term ‘Social Business’ was barely known and certainly didn’t have its very own industry as it pretty much does now. This just shows how things can change so rapidly. Yet when you’re in the industry itself it can feel sometimes as if things aren’t moving fast at all and it’s not until things are put into their proper perspective that you realise just how far things have progressed.

With this in mind I gave a small introduction about the possible future of social and business and how if you take an idea that can seem totally unthinkable and unacceptable it can become thinkable given the right ‘window’ of time. This is based on the Overton Window theory that there is a narrow ‘window’ when a range of ideas will be accepted by the public.  If you take a ‘way out there’ idea which appears completely unthinkable, then push it as far as you possibly can then sometimes, given the right ‘window’, that idea eventually becomes thinkable and acceptable.

Here are 2 concepts which could be possible in 40 years time. They may seem pretty unthinkable – but can they become truly thinkable if pushed to their extremes?

What if businesses became nothing more than a social object – that’s to say that social networks would be used simply to coordinate all the activities that businesses used to do?”

“Nanotechnology will destroy the present social and economic system – because it will become pointless” (James Burke on Radio 4 PM, August 2013)

James Burke’s Predictions

Let’s consider James Burke’s prediction for a minute. He was a famous BBC reporter on Tomorrow’s World in the 1970’s and chief presenter for the BBC’s coverage of the first moon landing in 1969.  In 1973 he was asked to predict what life would be like in 20 years time – that’s 1993. You have to remember that back in 1973 the only computers around filled floors, there were very few. There was no internet, no email, no mobile phones.

He predicted that:

• Storage of personal information in databanks would be accepted – at least by the young
• People would realise that the sharing of information would help organise society better
• Computer aided learning systems would provide children with their own plug in superteacher
• 300,000 computer terminals would be in use by the year 2000 providing forecasts on the effects of management decision making

There were in fact 146 million computers by 2000! His timescales were a bit inaccurate but he did well. In 1973 most people would have viewed these predictions as completely unthinkable.

So when Burke suggests that “Nanotechnology will destroy the present social and economic system – because it will become pointless” it may sound unthinkable now – but let’s think about it…
Burke believes that it may be possible that in 40 years time we could all own personal nanofactories which could reproduce stuff on a molecular level. It should be possible to make virtually anything – for virtually nothing.  All we would need, he says, is
air, water, dirt and acetylene gas (for carbon) and we could manufacture virtually everything – from gold, food, our utilities, or even a house.

We could, he suggests, become entirely autonomous!

This does sound really unthinkable – but perhaps this isn’t quite so far out there as it sounds. Take the current trends of everything being smaller, cheaper and networked – like 3d printing and internet of things and push this out over 40 years… Machines are already working at a molecular level – the University of Manchester has recently built one which they’re planning to modify to build penicillin.

The Endgame: Radical Abundance

So what’s the endgame with all this? Radical Abundance! The latest new new thing that’s just about to hit us and is being pushed not just by Burke but by others like Eric Drexler too.

So assuming that we could produce everything we needed, what could this mean for business? Here’s a possible snap shot:

Production: whether goods were made at home or locally on demand it could mean that large scale manufacturing would be knocked out.
Transport: if there were no goods to be moved around the transport industry would be under threat
Consumer facing businesses selling goods: would have serious problems
Sales & marketing: what for if there were no goods to flog
Business support services: would dwindle
Finance: a lot of the current financial system is based on betting on firms

Cities: What For?

Every major technology shift has made huge impacts to the way we live. Cities were after all only created for people to come together to trade goods and, as Burke points out, for workers to live close to factories. So could we, as Burke suggests, really end up living in smaller communities if we prefer? After all, contact at distance could easily be covered by 3d holography – made possible with nanotechnology…

Is this all becoming thinkable to you yet?

Governments: Why bother?

Burke though continues to push the unthinkable to it’s extreme suggesting that there would be no need for governments because they are only there to protect you and redistribute wealth in society. It could be, he says, that we would have no more need for social institutions as it’s all based on the scarcity of things. If we were able to produce everything ourselves why would you need them? For me this is taking the unthinkable to extremes – way out of the ‘window’ of the acceptable in my head!

But when looking at the original unthinkable concept:

Will business become a social object – that’s to say that social networks would be there to coordinate all the activities businesses used to do

perhaps now this thought has become a bit more thinkable than unthinkable to you!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Social Business Patchwork Elephant Revisited

Three years ago, in Social Media Week London, we took an in depth look at the emerging Social Business world. We called it a “patchwork elephant” as it is very large, in the room, but it’s hard to see the whole thing!

This year we are doing a review (see here to book) – next Friday, September 27th from 1 to 5.30 pm, at the Hub, Westminster. We will look at what lessons we can learn from the last 3 years since our first event, what is happening today, and where it is all going.

This event is for people interested in discussing the evolution, current state, and future of Social Business, We will discuss issues such as the implementation challenges it will face, how it integrates with existing systems today, which industries and parts of companies are likely to be early adopters, what is the impact on how work is organised and done, and what is still required for it to succeed.

The session will feature talks, Q&A sessions and case studies from companies, consultants and academics working in various parts of the Social Business value chain.

The aim is to leave attendees with a good appreciation of where social business came from and where it is today, and the main opportunities – and threats – going forward. For those already working in the area it will give visibility of more of the whole area from a variety of other viewpoints. Also the event is an opportunity to meet like minded interesting people from the London/UK scene, we will repair to a pub nearby afterwards!.

Our star-studded speaker line up is, in strict alphabetical order:

Will McInness, Nixon McInnes

Mat Morrison, Star Media

Anne-Marie McEwan, The Smart Work Company

Luis Suarez, IBM

Neil Usher, WorkEssence

Twitter Hashtag is #smwsocbiz

The event is sponsored by

The Patchwork Elephant Crew are:

Janet Parkinson, Technotropolis

Alan Patrick, Broadsight

David Terrar, D2C

We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

July 2013 Links of Interest

Links of interest:

Social Business   Social Media/Marketing   Technology   The Future City

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where to work or not to work – that is the question (well, this week anyway)…

Watching the debate this week around Yahoo and its ‘leaked’ (?) memo that it is to pull all employees back into the office and not allow them to work from home from June 2013 has been pretty intense stuff.  A nice bit of PR of course which has got everyone debating with 2 clear camps forming. Either you agree that homeworking is more productive and is the clear ‘future of work’ and see Yahoo as disappearing back into the Stone Age, or you believe that the way forward for the sake of innovation is to keep all employees on site.

Not wanting to add to the throng particularly but finding myself writing this anyway *sigh* I’d like to put a third mediocre possibility out there and suggest that in some instances working from home does work, while in other instances it just doesn’t.

From a business perspective (which, in  my view is the only one to have) having workers based at home or scattered around in ‘hubs’ can have advantages including less time commuting unnecessarily, the opportunity for employees to focus on a specific project without interruptions from coworkers (KPI’s can be more focused on output rather than length of time spent on a project) and the advantage of utilising quality workers who aren’t in the immediate vicinity of the company office.  There are numerous reports out there which back this claim.

Yet it is not always the case that working from home works as one ex-Yahoo employee has admitted, saying that Yahoo was right to make the decision as in their view working from home led to ‘people slacking off like crazy’.  Other studies also show that although people who work at home are significantly more productive it is trickier to be more innovative.  As Dr John Sullivan notes:

“… telecommuting unfortunately reduces innovation. And because innovation brings in much higher profits than the traditional goal of corporate efficiency, many firms are now learning the value of emphasizing innovation as a primary strategic business goal.”

He also comments how face to face interaction increases collaboration, competition and energy, and how it increases learning and helps break down functional silos.

Companies like Google and Yahoo where innovation is at the core of their business therefore need to keep employees physically together and Google have known this for a long time – they only allow employees to work from home on a case by case basis.  But for Google it’s not just about keeping people together in one spot it’s how they interact and work within their environment – that for them is a crucial key to innovation.  Right now Google in the process of designing a new 100,000-square-metre campus for San Francisco Bay, California where the focus is on how people work as Dezeen magazine notes :

Google gathered masses of information on how its employees work and what kind of spaces they want. “We started not with an architectural vision but with a vision of the work experience,” according to David Radcliffe, a civil engineer who oversees Google’s property. “So we designed this from the inside out …  No employee will be more than a two-and-a-half minute walk from any other to encourage a “casual collision of the workforce” and the spread of ideas throughout the company, said Radcliffe.”

The bottom line is that it is the bottom line which counts and Yahoo has a lot to do to catch up with its competitors.  So why the fuss?  After all companies such as Bank of America, for example, which once allowed remote working, decided late last year to require employees in certain roles to come back to the office also.  It seems to me that the CEO of Yahoo has made the right business decision…

But wait! How could I forget?  The final element to the puzzle which got people hot footing it to their blogs…   The CEO of Yahoo is a woman who recently had a baby and returned to work 2 weeks after its birth and is therefore seen by many as not supporting women by not supporting home working…. The scandal and extra PR hype that has caused!  Well, what more can I say but ‘congratulations Marissa’ – a job well performed by a person with a job to do.  For women to prove they mean business then let’s not be held hostage to emotion and be sure to use all the tricks of the trade why don’t you 😉

Of course the ultimate twist in the tail would be if once this hype died down Marissa then sent out a further memo stating that as from June 2013 there was to be free onsite childcare facilities for all employees.  Now that would flick the sentiment score…  We could all then run off to our blogs and debate the productivity of those working in the office with the kids onsite (no worries of childcare – luxury of sharing a coffee and free cooked food with your colleagues while working) versus productivity of working at home (worries of childcare, picking up and dropping off and having coffee and cook your own food all alone)…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Opening a Can of Data

Would you be happy for the world to know your salary details?  Many of us in the UK would baulk at the merest thought of the idea while in other countries revealing this data is the norm.  What is it that makes attitudes so different and how can anyone truly judge what’s the right line to be drawn between privacy and transparency?  Should it be up to governments and companies to dictate or are we in the UK sliding towards a culture where this information is no longer deemed to be private – and what could be the implications?

The UK government has been forging strongly ahead with its transparency and Open Data policies.  Current transparency guidelines state that the release of its data is to bring data into the open so that everyone can see whether it is delivering good value for money.  Back in 2010 the government for the first time released data of civil servants earning more than £150,000/annum.  At the time 24 of the 300 civil servants named requested that their identities not be released but as the Local Government Chronicle reported this was quashed.  Later that same year civil servants earning over £82,900 were named – yet plans to name individual civil servants earning more than £58,000 were scrapped after concerns were raised about privacy.  As the BBC noted at the time:

“Writing for the ConservativeHome website, Francis Maude said: “After careful consultation with officials across Whitehall, we concluded that the balance between transparency and privacy would best be struck by not releasing this personal information.”

Why was it seen as correct that the line between transparency and privacy be drawn at this level?

Compare this Norway where anyone can go to the mainstream newspaper Aftenposten’s website and check out the tax list which reveals a large proportion of the country’s tax payers’ details including their annual income, tax paid, value of investments and date of birth. For those in the UK this would seem a gross intrusion into privates lives so why have Norwegians accepted this – or perhaps more to the point, did they ever have any option?

It may well have all begun with the deeply rooted Norwegian culture which prescribes egalitarianism, collectivism and conformity as values to be protected and practiced by its citizens – Janteloven (Jante Law).  Although unwritten it is a set of principles which the poet Aksel Sandemose laid out in words in 1933:

  1. Don’t think you’re anything special.
  2. Don’t think you’re as much as us.
  3. Don’t think you’re wiser than us.
  4. Don’t convince yourself that you’re better than us.
  5. Don’t think you know more than us.
  6. Don’t think you are more than us.
  7. Don’t think you are good at anything.
  8. Don’t laugh at us.
  9. Don’t think anyone cares about you.
  10. Don’t think you can teach us anything.

Yet there is an 11th rule of Jante Law which brings some perspective:

11.  Don’t think there’s anything we don’t know about you.

It’s against this backdrop that tax return data has been available for the public to view since 1863 – but in 2008 the authorities made a list available to the media enabling instant online access to all via a searchable database. Channel 4 noted reactions to this:

“Jan Omdahl, from the tabloid Dagbladet, wrote at the time: “Isn’t this how a social democracy ought to work, with openness, transparency and social equality as ideals?” However a poll carried out in 2007 found most of his countrymen disagreed: just 32% thought the list should be published, while 46% were opposed.”

Yet as the BBC noted it was Dagbladet who then went on to offer their readers the chance to automatically check and compare the income of their Facebook friends and to offer the service as an iPhone application – leaving Trine Skei Grane of the green party Venstre to comment how:

“We took part in opening up the system, but now the principle of openness is totally out of proportion” 

Here we return to the 11th Jante Law, from the Foreigner  “Being able to get information about everyone’s economic situation is an important historical principle in Norway, designed to ensure all contributed to society as they should – with the possibility of being “reported” if not”.

In another twist in the tail of openness it is well known that Scandinavia, with its deep roots of transparency, collaboration and egalitarianism, has seen the creation of many thriving open source projects including Linux, Skype and Joost.  Yet while open source is valued highly, the recent Norwegian Ministry of Finance’s suggestion that it may open source cash registers ‘to prevent tax fraud’ has not gone down so well.

So could we see the UK eventually go the same way or will we manage to walk the tight rope between privacy and transparency? It’s not just the government though who are intent on pushing the boundaries.  There are those who believe that businesses thrive more in an environment of transparency, flattened hierarchies and openness of  information – but to make this happen does require a serious cultural shift.  Just in the last year I have watched the debate hotting up around whether businesses would operate better with open salary policies with those ahead of the game like Nixon McInnes in Brighton leading by example, a fly on the wall documentary about a company which opened up it’s salaries on TV and even, I noticed last week, the London Metro running an article entitled ‘Share the wealth: Do you want your work colleagues to know your salary?’  In my mind once these questions are being raised in the mainstream media then it’s often the time to start taking the idea seriously as something which might just happen…

Cultures do adapt and certainly we have adopted the transparency of the internet rapidly and with relative ease – where would many of us be without Facebook?  But that adoption happened so quickly it did not give many of us time to weigh up where we stood on the privacy / transparency tight rope or its implications. Hopefully though as we move further down the transparency path we’ll have time to reflect before reaching norwegian levels because once a can has been opened the lid is usually very difficult to put back. Worth bearing in mind perhaps…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 2013 Links of Interest

Links of interest:

Smart Working    Social Media/Marketing     Technology     The Future City

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment