About a year ago I started renting a garage near home. This was for various complicated reasons involving a dinghy, some classic car speculation, and various mountain bikes in states of disrepair.
As it happened the boat never materialised and the car was sold to fund something rather boring.
So, logically, I should have let the garage go. Instead, I've been working out ways to fill it with other things, none of which I really need.
We expand to fill the space that is available.
And it gets worse. The bikes that now luxuriate in their own dry space, carefully stacked and surrounded by just-in-case tools, are sometimes treated to new bits: special tyres for tackling mud, or better brake pads.
This is because I am a sucker for a good bike shop, and surely the way to improve my PB for ascending the North Downs, or tackling that awkward berm on the common is by buying better equipment? Nothing whatsoever to do with my own ability, naturally.
We focus on products to solve problems, rather than behaviour change.
In the office we are going through a Ways of Working review: identifying the things that might better contribute to efficiency, productivity and well being in the workplace. Having recently worked my way through Culture Shock and Peopleware, I am more interested in these ideas than ever.
However, I've noticed that unlike the values from these books, people tend to get a bit hung up on the visible changes and 'design' of these new ideas. Open plan meeting spaces, bring-your-own-device and mobile phones instead of desk phones are seen as the catalyst for improvement.
My worry is that, like my surplus garage and the shiny bits on my bike, none of the changes above really get to the crux of typical workplace problems like prioritisation, inefficient meetings or general workloads. In fact, if my use of cloud tools is anything to go by, it's all too easy to get suckered into handling even more information and losing focus.
What most workplaces need to do is get to the heart of what causes inefficiency and resulting unhappiness or stress. And it's not about hardware or the way in which space is designed. It's how this stuff is used or abused in the first place.
So, instead of testing and deploying new furniture and equipment I'd like to see:
1. Email accounts restricted by memory size. Let's say 5MB tops.
2. The ability to send emails restricted to just two 30-minute windows every 24 hours
3. Much less closed meeting spaces, to get people out of the habit of holding meetings, that don't really need to be so formal in the first place
4. Knock down the surplus meeting rooms and use left over furniture – the less of it the better. That way we stand and focus on what needs solving, not the colour of the fabric
5. Cut out messaging around the building that doesn't specifically and directly link with the organisation's priorities
6. Give managers the freedom to structure teams and projects in a way that audiences will understand, and that delivers results, not just replicating historical structures
Some of these are quite basic, and others more fundamental, but it would be a start. Know anywhere that has done this already? Do tell me.
In the meantime I'm off to clear the garage and get fit.