K Street Newsletter :: Directions

September 2020    |    VOLUME 18, ISSUE 9

Another Year for Knowledge Street

The ideas behind Knowledge Street LLC were first hashed out in September 2002. That was the month we decided to start our own business and carry the flags of Knowledge Management and Communications into the marketplace. We'd spent about four years doing KM for a multinational consulting company, and had strong ideas about what worked and what didn't. We knew it wasn't a technology thing, although technology had a role to play. And we understood that success would be based both on trust and on clear communications. If KM is going to live up to its real potential, people have to be convinced that active participation is in their own interests. Doing that requires an ongoing communication program to reinforce the story.

Over the years, our business has shifted away from KM and toward more general marketing communications. But we always make note of our anniversary in the September issue of Directions. We're starting our 18th year as a going concern, which surprises us as much as anyone. And we feel pretty good about it, too, especially considering the economic ups and downs we've all had to ride through. Thanks to our families, friends and supporters, and to the customers who have made it possible. We wouldn't be here without you.

 

A Paradigm Shift

Surveys suggest that the quarantine orders implemented to control COVID-19 may be having a permanent effect on the workforce. A Gallup study of remote work in France and the UK found a preference among employees to continue working from home, even when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted: 56% of British workers wanted to stay remote, as did 51% of French workers.

That suggests that business leaders need to factor such preferences into their post-COVID transition plans. Employees who have worked out an effective process for remote engagement may be reluctant to go to back to business as usual. There are tools and platforms that can support a kind of hybrid model. However, the most important factor is still a human one. It's the manager. Managers of remote workers must be "exceptionally clear" in their expectations and be able to coach through conversations.
 

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Street Smarts 202: Practice the three Rs.

This idea comes from an interview with creativity strategist Natalie Nixon. She's often called in to advise companies that are trying to cope with fundamental change, sometimes caused by technology shifts. Prototyping is a key principle in design thinking, with the idea that an ugly first draft is just fine. The first draft doesn't need to be perfect. Build it, test it, learn from the experience and iterate. So her advice is to use the three Rs: restore, reorient and reboot.

The work of restore is aimed at understanding the current state of the business and surfacing any assumptions. If you weren't already doing something, would it still seem like a good idea? Then you need to re-orient, and consider your legacy strategy and practices in the framework of current events. We are seeing an incredible realignment in how work gets done and how workers are managed. When you have a good sense of a new orientation and how you want to implement changes, it's time to reboot.
 

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Improving Productivity Remotely 

2020 is now the year of the grand experiment. With no real planning and little advance notice, companies around the world found themselves in a new, work-from-home reality. They had to say good bye to in-person meetings, group brainstorming and random collisions around the coffee pot. Workers had to figure out how to manage their time without the structure of an office or a daily commute. Many of them had to take on new responsibilities for home schooling. Managers had to do the same, but also figure out ways to maintain team productivity in a radically different environment. Most are still working out new best practices.

This article offers a number of strategies aimed at boosting the productivity of remote teams. The first idea is to give the team members more autonomy. If you're managing people you can't really see, there's a temptation to bombard them with text messages asking for status updates. That's a mistake, because responding to those questions takes time. And the impact of context switching can be a terrible drag on efficiency. Workers who are granted greater autonomy also report greater job satisfaction. So just define the goals, set deadlines and establish a schedule for status reporting. Then leave them alone!
 

The New Face of Communication

Everyone has their own preferred mode of communication, and technology is enabling new kinds of conversation that rely on visuals as much, or even more, than words. It's the kind of visual shorthand supported by emojis, stickers and gifs. It may seem like something new, but in some ways it harkens back to the earliest days of language. Think cave paintings. This article estimates that 92% of people who communicate via text messages prefer using emojis. And some 77% of people believe they're better understood when they include visual elements.

Virtual keyboards like Gboard, Fleksy and Bobble use AI prediction algorithms to understand a writer's intent and suggest emojis in context. As these kinds of tools move into wider use, we're likely to see more visual elements appearing in routine conversations. Words are in no danger of being replaced, of course, but you can already read a version of Moby Dick, written entirely in emojis.
 

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