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Terrible Team-building and Predictions That Won’t Happen

A weekly post in which I share (some of) the most thought-provoking content I read this week(ish), which I am too lazy to write full blog posts about:


The Calm Company (our next book) – Signal v. Noise


Our brains are great pattern-seekers and meaning-makers, but even my skeptic’s mind believes that there are themes that define particular times in our lives, individually and collectively. My brain has spent the last year grappling with the belief that we are collectively reaching a point at which the speed and volume of information we’re consuming, and the value we collectively place on being busy/distracted/producing looks like addiction. And like addiction, what was once a coping mechanism has ceased to be an adaptive response to our environment and is now a dangerous obstacle. In this case, it’s an obstacle to doing the kind of work we want and need to do (you know, the stuff the robots can’t do: see below). The latest personal productivity hacks, or legislating a daily pause in the onslaught only address the symptoms of this problem, not its roots.

That’s why this short post about a forthcoming book from Jason Fried at BaseCamp lit my brain up, big time. This is a topic that hits on multiple dimensions of how I’m looking at  work and life right now, and you can expect to see more from me about it this year.

“Chaos should not be the natural state at work. Anxiety isn’t a prerequisite for progress. Sitting in meetings all day isn’t required for success. These are all perversions of workside effects of broken models and follow-the-lemming-off-the-cliff worst practices.”


Need Better Morale in the Workplace? Simulate a Plane Crash – NY Times

Unpopular HR opinion: the vast majority of ‘team-building’ events are:

1.     de-humanizing exercises in forced ‘fun’ dreamed up by power-drunk extroverts who want to avoid focusing on the actual, complex business problems their organization is facing, and;

2.     colossal wastes of time and money.

If you are an org leader and believe that the biggest barrier to achieving your business objectives is your team’s ability to work together effectively, then you have a duty to do the hard work of trying to diagnose and address the obstacles preventing that in the context of your organization’s work. Before you drop thousands on a quirky off-site (read: out of business context) event (read: limited duration blip on people’s radar) that does not resemble the work that you actually want people to do together, perhaps you should check for clear understanding of goals, your own effectiveness as a leader, team member role clarity, effective communications and processes, and whether people have the required resources to do their jobs. Or, blow all your money on BS like this…I’m just an HR person, what do I know?

Future of Work

Predictions that Probably Won’t Happen: 2017 Talent Trends –

A refreshing read among the dozens of breathless, buzzword-laden prediction posts that appear at this time of year. Matt addresses a few ‘might happen trends’, and among them is:

Robots Aren’t Taking Our Jobs

Wait, what? There has been a lot of good writing on this recently, with less alarmism and a more nuanced analysis of what work is more, or less, likely to be automated (and slightly fewer Sky Net jokes). Matt’s post is a great example of this, and he references an MIT Technology Survey that seeks to assess how likely your job is to be automated:

  • Do You Need To Come Up With Clever Solutions?
  • Does Your Job Require You To Squeeze Into Tight Spaces?
  • Are You Required to Personally Help Others?
  • Does Your Job Require Negotiation?

The more questions you can answer ‘yes’ to, the less likely your job is to be automated. That’s primarily because there is not yet a good way to automate non-routine (unpredictable), human interactions.

As we’ve already seen, routine tasks (tasks being the unit of automation, not jobs) are very likely to be automated. This can run the gamut from assembly line manufacturing work (which we’ve already seen happen on a significant scale), to routine customer interactions (happening on self-checkout, and now via chat bots), to legal research and basic analysis (happening now), and basic news writing (also happening now…wonder if that has spurred the increased media interest? It’s not just about blue collar work anymore guys…).

This view of automation does not minimize the impact it will have on all of us, but rather provides a more realistic model to understand the complexity of the changes it is likely to bring to traditional professions and ‘jobs’ as we understand them today.

Read anything that really grabbed your brain this week? Tell me about it!


Image credit: Jon Flobrant/



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