Beige Be Gone – Designing for Stylish Silvers

In the 80s, not much thought was given to the outward appearance of PCs. Focus was on the inner workings – the design of the hard drive, chips, circuitry. In the Beige Age, computers came in a big putty-colored box, with little variation. OK, maybe black, but still.

Fast-forward to the 2010, where the average lifespan has increased to 78.7 years, 5 years longer than for children born in 1980 (CDC). As we age, our body parts begin to show signs of wear. New, assistive and even bionic products help us recapture, or even surpass our former capabilities.

Contrast this bionic future with a search on Pinterest for “products for seniors” and you’ll find mostly utilitarian gear and gadgets in cold stainless and boring beige. In the quest to solve a particular need, solutions are often situation-centered rather than human-centered.

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The Growing Importance of Social Intelligence

In the past, professionals typically devoted their entire careers to companies that valued their functional or technical skills, not their social ones. Today’s lightning-fast business environment demands job candidates who can step into senior management roles in five to eight years, often in decentralized and constantly transforming enterprises, in relationship-based professions like investment banking and consulting, and in dynamic and diverse communities. In such organizations, leadership success is often defined in interpersonal terms: knowing how and when to collaborate or command, how to lead and develop subordinates, or how to manage and empower networks.

Excerpt from the Forward to the book Leading with Kindness
R. Glenn Hubbard, Dean and Russell L. Carson, Professor of Finance and Economics
Columbia Business School

If this is true for effective leaders, and feedback is craved by employees who want to continue to grow and develop, why is actionable, compassionate feedback so hard to provide?

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Is Liquid the Future?

Is “on demand” the future of sustainable business?

To optimize cash flow, scrappy entrepreneurs rent what they need, when they need it. Enter an interesting mobile app called LiquidSpace. LiquidSpace appears to be locating companies, hotels and other spaces that are not fully utilized, and selling the space on an ad hoc and reserved basis. Like hotel rooms and airline seats, any space that goes unutilized is a waste of resources, so this serves both ends of the market – holders of real estate who want to maximize revenue, and consumers of the space who want to optimize cash flow.

As we strive to live and run our businesses more sustainably, this appears to be part of a larger trend. ZipCar provides cars and insurance when you need them. In Italy, restaurants put a carafe of wine in front of you, and you pay for what you consume.

Is the same model appropriate for organizations? While some roles lend themselves to an “always on” way of working – core administrative staff, expert support agents, the senior leadership team. But what about ad hoc talent needs?

What if data from Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms, along with your mobile location, could help you find reputable talent, on demand? Sure, you could always “reserve” time, but as millennials graduate, and seniors consult rather than retire, why not also engage specific talent when you need it? oDesk and Elance enable companies to do this using a hub-and spoke approach, adding and removing contractors to their ranks as needed.

Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, along with investors including Mitch Kapor, Reid Hoffman/Greylock Partners, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Rose, and others have taken a different approach. Announced November 1st, 2011, Philip launched an online marketplace called Coffee & Power, a “meta-company” featuring physical space, a platform and currency for people with needs and people with wants to find each other.

Is this sustainable marketplace approach the future of work?