Expanding the Digital Radius of Action Instead of Worshipping Physical Presence

Instead of calling for presence again after this long phase of forced distributed work, now would be the perfect time to decouple the employees’ radius of action from their physical presence and to consistently expand it into virtual space.

A captain needs his crew on board just as much as the chess master needs his chess pieces on the board. Now, after the first wave of the pandemic has abated, these narratives of cult of presence are leading to a considerable amount of persuasion to lure employees from the home office into the open-plan office. There is one argument that is particularly popular: random encounters allow for happy coincidences, short consultations and perhaps even new ideas.

Of course, humans are social beings and like to interact in groups. In this respect, the office also fulfills this function and quite a few employees are drawn to it precisely for this reason. Whether this makes the work easier, the employees more creative and the company more innovative is of course another question.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Seneca

An undisputed advantage of physical presence seems to be the ability to run into each other, to start a conversation, from which a good idea or a new solution is born. I hope we all have seen that happen. And we have often experienced loneliness in the home office, especially in recent weeks and months. Time spent together in the office creates the opportunity for a happy coincidence. So far, so good.

But our physical presence is also always limited to our very limited radius of action in the form of one floor in an office building. So it is always the same people who physically meet. This is also an effect of humans as social beings with a strong desire to belong to a group. Physical presence thus reinforces the silos or at least does not combat the silo thinking that is harmful to digital and agile transformation.

One can also cross paths in virtual space. Many people experience this every day in social media. Although this virtual space is existing in many companies in the form of an enterprise social network, it is often either orphaned or, according to Conway’s Law, a replica of the large and small silos of the organization.

Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.

Conway’s Law

The crisis would now also offer the chance not to fall back into the familiar pattern best described as cult of presence, but to consciously expand the radius of action of the individual into the virtual space of the Enterprise Social Network and other platforms (Slack, MS Teams, etc.). In this way people from different silos could meet each other much better and come up with really innovative and overarching ideas for digitalization.

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