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Human Centered Design, Innovation

Yahoo! and the Misperception of Collaboration

Boston 02.28.13, 03:51PM by Mark Bates

insights_yahoo

The ‘no more working from home move’ by Yahoo! this week will certainly backfire in the long run. It’s counter to the growing need and desire for a more flexible work place. Yahoo! is risking the loss of employees that value flexibility in where they choose to do their work.

In a recent New York Times article responding to the move, authors Claire Cain Miller and Catherine Rampell quote John Sullivan, a professor from SF State U who runs a human resources advisory firm, where he says: “If you want innovation, then you need interaction. If you want productivity, then you want people working from home.”

The irony for me is that these big, silicon valley, technology firms see this as an either/or situation. Why can’t you have both?  Both productivity and innovation whether you’re working at home or at the office? How we interact, how we effectively collaborate as human beings really hasn’t changed for centuries. What has changed is technology.

Skype and Face Time have provided low cost and reasonably effective one-on-one interaction between two remote participants. When we start to include more people in the interaction and when we try to move beyond simple knowledge transfer to knowledge creation, technology barriers begin to get in our way.

We’ve all felt them — the video unit doesn’t connect the first or second time, the sound and picture are not in sync, we get the video but loss the content.  Finally we give up and call IT…  The hour long meeting doesn’t really get going until 20 minutes later. Even then, the “interaction” is stressed, imperfect and tiring. The technology barriers have caused us to lose focus on what’s most important – sharing or developing an idea.

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. 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.

 

Image from Flickr.

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