Blogging · Digital · Google · housing · innovation

Why all orgs should ‘Default to Open’

We’ve all heard of the term Open by Default, right? Its the principle by which governments and increasingly organisations make its data and information accessible to the public by default, unless there is a sufficient justification to explain that greater public interest may be at stake, as a result of disclosure.

For most organisations I would argue that a default to open stance is vital. It helps to build stakeholder relationships both internally and externally, instills a ‘nothing to hide here’ mantra and genuinely promotes open network building.

This is no different in the world of Housing where there has been an every increasing drive towards transparency, with the most recent example being the publishing of organisational gender pay gap information to the public. This is combined with the ever changing world of work meaning that current and future employees more than ever value open and flexible organisations, where they can feel part of a ‘high trust’ culture.

Social Media:

Consider the use of social media. Turn back the clock to before Twitter and Facebook and how many people would have considered telling anyone (and everyone) in the world almost anything. Now its commonly accepted that people and organisations use multiple social media platforms. I for one use quite a few platforms, with the vast majority of my use for professional purposes.

But the key point here is that I use Twitter in particular as my form of ‘default to open’ approach, in that I will share what I am working on at work. This inevitably runs the chance of some negative (and positive) comments, which at times can be quite difficult to accept, but I can hand on heart say that I am a better professional for having these conversations and debating the points.

Open Source:

android

Another example of default to open is the rise of the term ‘open source’. Open source is often used to describe projects or software where. Google’s Android is one such Open Source Project. Some would argue that one of the main reasons for its success has been the fact that Google opened up Android to developers for free and as a result, it has become one of the most used operating systems for mobiles and tablets ever. Chances are you own at least one device that runs on Android.

Closer to the world of housing, but similarly open in nature, there is an ever increasing range of open source 3D print floor plans available on the net.

Think of almost anything and you can find an open source version on the internet.

New Digital Age:

The NDA

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen cover much of this and more in their book titled ‘The New Digital Age’. The book is a fascinating and challenging read, and for anyone truly interested in digital, I would recommend reading it. At times it is downright scary, but much of what they write about is an important view into our likely digital future. If you think default to open is a challenging concept, this is the just the beginning of where digital things are heading.

What about you?:

So how about you?

  • Do you work in an open organisation?
  • What about your personal approach to work?

I would love to hear your thoughts – please leave a comment below!

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culture · Google

Being a Google Geek

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The entrance to Google and You Tube offices

Call it what you will, I am slightly obsessed by Google.

I have been lucky enough to visit their offices a few times, I have lots of Google related books, Google pens, even some Google drinks bottles (yes, you have read that right). But I often ask myself, why Google?

Over the past few years I have talked to different Google staff members (and also staff from organisation’s that work really closely with Google) and they are always interesting, inquisitive, can-do people. This isn’t by chance. Google are well known for having a clear corporate culture and rigorous recruiting practices. They pay well and pay staff according to what they produce.

So, just how do you whittle down a reported two million applicants per year, down to several thousand who are actually offered a job at Google? It’s a mammoth task, but one which they manage to do by having (amongst other things) clear processes, guidelines and consistency. Some would say that despite these shackles, Google have managed to still keep that entrepreneurial spirit, culture and wonder within the organisation.

I have blogged about this before, but Google engineers have ‘20% time’, whereby they work on anything they want, as long as it’s related in some way to Google’s work. Not that Google are the first or last company to offer this mind (see 3M’s post it note history), but it fits in so well with Google’s overall organisational approach, which includes innovation at its core and taking risks, from recruitment right up to 10 x Moonshots.

Google also only employ the very best applicants. (with two million applicants I guess you can). But they still actively search for potential staff members. Just think about that for a moment. They receive an absolute shed load of applicants each year, but they still spend time and money searching for the best.

This leads me on another area I love about Google. Every staff member is encouraged to ‘act like they are the owner‘. This helps build the entrepreneurial approach of staff, individual ownership and an inclusive organisational culture. I love this. I take this approach in my working life wherever possible.

They also have really cool offices. It is interesting to note that over the past several years, the office environment has been steadily changing, with lots more organisations using the same approach as Google – to have a fun, functional space to encourage innovation and (dare I say it) face-to-face talking! When I last visited the Google offices, there were loads of ‘in real life’ conversations taking place between Google staff, all over the building. Who would have thought it!

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Google floor 9

I could go on. As you would imagine, in an organisation the size of Google, there are lots of approaches, guidelines, mantra’s and stories, but I will save some of these for future blogs!

If you want to learn more about Google’s approaches, I can highly recommend Laszlo Bock’s book ‘Work Rules’. It gives a really in-depth insight into the recruiting and retaining practices at Google. It is honestly a fascinating read, whether you are a fellow Google Geek or not. You may read the book and think, ‘that would never work in my organisation’ (or at all), but I am sure you will pick up at least a few jems.

work_rules

 

Google · housing · innovation

Innovative thinking in #ukhousing

Stevejobs

I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography over the past few months. It’s a fascinating read and although Steve Jobs character is hard to like a lot of the time, I really like his approach to business, constant innovation and striving for the best. There are a lot of Jobs quotes I like, but this one in particular jumps out:

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”

It has got me thinking. Where is the truly innovative thinking in #ukhousing ? I’m talking about truly innovative thinking, that stretches the currently accepted norms and could truly move the sector forwards?

What strikes me most is the backdrop for Steve Jobs’ success; it’s not just about his drive and innovation, but the team of really talented people he brought together and worked with. So, following this thought through, it stands to reason that one of the keys for innovative success is to build an ‘A Class’ team (to use another Job’s quote).

How many ‘#ukhousing organisation’s truly create an ‘A Class’ team around innovative thinking? One where they sweat the detail, but under a truly challenging vision of the future? To borrow an idea from another favorite innovation organisation of mine – Google – their ‘big ideas: 10x thinking’ approach to work is also a great way to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Its by thinking big that you get big innovations.

So much of this goes back to getting the right building blocks in place in an organistion – the right culture, the right leadership and building an ‘A Class’ team.

So, going back to the Steve Jobs quote, would you consider yourself an innovative leader or a follower? Are you truly pushing the boundaries wherever possible?

 

Google · housing

What if Google did Housing?

googlesearch

Everybody has heard of Google, right? Whether you are a fan or not, I’m sure you will have used some of their products before, if not today. For example, how many times have you heard ‘just Google it’?

Bearing in mind that Google have their fingers in a lot of pies, from their main Google Search offer, to Android and then to Google(x) products like self-driving cars and Project Loon, it is interesting to think what would happen if Google did Housing.

At this point I have to point out that Google are already dipping their toe into the Housing world. Maybe not in the bricks and mortar side, but through Ancoris they have effectively entered the Housing market, offering their Google for Work package to help Housing organisations improve their working practices.

But, I do wonder what would happen if Google actually built Houses, or even ran a Housing Association? Google’s famous ‘Moonshots’ are where they have a company culture that encourages experimentation and the free flow of ideas – the bigger the better.

I know what you are thinking, that’s fine for Google, they are a multi-national company. Yes they are. They have 50,000 employees worldwide, have a reported 2million applicants per year for their jobs, with a 1/500 chance of getting a position. But one thing I really do like about Google is that they see a problem and they try to fix it, but they don’t just do this incrementally. They work on things that could change the world. It may not always work out, but I for one really like this mindset. Too much of Housing is set in the past, based on old working practices and concepts that have just not moved with the times.

Maybe this blog has turned into a plea to Google, or for someone like Google, to have a go at sorting out one of the UK’s (worlds) biggest problems – Housing. I for one wouldn’t bet against them.

 

Digital · Google · housing · Social Media

Crowdsourcing Ideas

Have you ever heard of this? I have used this quite a few times in the past and have had successful results pretty much every time.

The premise is simple. Instead of the traditional method of having a specific question you want a view on and just searching on something like Google, you post the query on one or more social media platforms and wait for the responses. The responses are much more current and you are often able to query them further.

Here’s a quick example. I decided recently to post the following query on Twitter and LinkedIn:

Twitter07-03-16

And within a short time, these are just some of the responses I received:

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And from LinkedIn:

LinkedIn07-03-16

If you have a decent network who interacts and comments, I can’t recommend crowdsourcing information enough!

 

Digital · Google · Google+ · housing

A Taste of the Google Culture

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I was lucky enough recently to visit the Google offices in London, through a Housemark Digital Futures event.

So, what can I say about my visit to Google? If I could sum it up in just one word, it would be amazing.

The visit itself was everything I hoped it would be. I got to hear from Lyndon Fraser from Google for Work, along with Duncan Farley and Dan Sullivan from Ancoris (who are a Google for Work partner organisation) who held a quick interactive session in Google’s ‘Tech Talk’ Transformation Lab. I also got to meet up and network with other housing staff with digital responsibility, including Paul Taylor and Tom Hartland from Bromford Labs who gave a presentation in the afternoon on ‘how to build an innovation lab’.

As we were not able to look around the offices (as if was felt it would be too disruptive), we got to look around the 9th floor of their offices, complete with a ‘Green Room’, their on-site Gym, ‘La La Library’ (which was genuinely quiet enough to hear a pin drop, despite several staff working in there at the time), outdoor space which wrapped around two sides of the building, a big staff cafe called ‘Cafe Royal’ which was absolutely packed with staff and a massive room called ‘Google Town Hall’ where they hold staff meetings of 100 staff or more.

Other things I noticed include:

  • The offices were bright, light and colourful;
  • They clearly do things differently to most organisations;
  • They have a very clear ‘Google’ brand to everything they do;
  • They all dress in casual clothes at work, but no-one was scruffily dressed;
  • Staff who work at Google are actually referred to as ‘Googlers’ (and refer to themselves as Googlers);
  • The food for Googlers is ‘free’ and covers breakfast and lunch;
  • There were various staff snack points throughout the offices with all healthy free snacks;
  • The main cafe even had two staff serving ice cream for Googlers;
  • Googlers have the freedom to go wherever they want in the building and use any of the collaborative rooms (as long as they have their pass);
  • We even saw a Googler using one of the Sleeping Pods, presumably catching a quick power nap!

It’s always hard to describe the culture of an organisation, but the Google culture was pretty much as I expected, albeit from one day’s visit.

It felt like an open, exciting and inspiring place to work, with a core focus on working collaboratively, not only on digital and technological solutions and advancement, but on keeping the solutions as simple and user friendly as possible.

For a digital techie person like me, it really was hard to leave at the end of the day!