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Lab office series, episode 2: The Google Effect

June 22, 2017 | Natalie Frei | Change Stories, Learning Elsewhere |

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quadraticLab offices and coworking spaces are popping up like mushrooms. After the last episode, in which SDC’s Knowledge-Learning-Culture division visited different labs in the international cooperation field, this episode tries to get behind the global lab hype with a focus on philosophy and interior design. As you might have guessed, Google is at the forefront of this trend.

By Natalie Frei

When Google presented the new interior design of its Silicon Valley headquarters in 2005, it made headlines: large open spaces, toy-like furniture, slides and a plethora of colors. It wasn’t immediately recognizable as an office but as a collection of cafes, bars, gyms and playrooms. In short, the Google effect is the rebuilding of workspaces to incorporate open spaces and areas of leisure. The inspiration behind this expansion of workplace design is not merely to keep employees working longer but to raise productivity through a fusion of work and recreation. Soon, organizations started to climb on the bandwagon and a global trend towards open space, colorful and informal offices emerged. Pixar, Lego, Swisscom, you name it.

Phone booths inside Google's Zurich office. Photo: Peter Wurmli

Phone booths inside Google’s Zurich office. Photo: Peter Wurmli


Interior design against bureaucracy

 

“Everything centers on removing psychological barriers to interacting”
Craig nevill-Manning

Google’s unique overhaul on traditional office spaces challenges the grim notion that an office has no option for both work and play. “Everything centers on removing psychological barriers to interacting”, says Craig Nevill-Manning, Google’s engineering director in Manhattan, “Google’s success depends on innovation and there is no innovation without collaboration and creativity, so a traditional office made little sense. We went for as much informality as possible.” Flat hierarchy and the removal of physical barriers are meant to break down silos. This is the reason why Parick van Weerelt (Head of the Center for Sustainable Development by UNSSC) wanted to get inspired by Google for his offices in Bonn. Even though the UN interfered, you can still see some similarities with Google.

UNSSC's offices offer open spaces, gathering areas and meeting rooms with mobile furtniture.

UNSSC’s offices offer open spaces, gathering areas and meeting rooms with mobile furtniture.

Transparency vs. privacy

There is also a downside to open spaced offices. Some employees feel encroached by open and transparent offices – there is little privacy and the feeling of being observed can actually inhibit creativity. “People like their own turf”, says Jovan Kurbalija, founding director of Diplo Foundation, “Silos are human and most people are creatures of habit.” In fact, there has been a 2013 study that showed that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. More than half of the study’s participants complained about the lack of sound privacy and one third felt uneasy with the constant personal visibility.


Show the creativity you want to see

Lego offices in Denmark. Photos: Anders Sune Berg

Lego offices in Denmark. Photos: Anders Sune Berg

With possible disadvantages of open offices in mind, the most important aspcect when desgining a new office seems to be individualism. You can’t just copy someone else’s interior design, it has to fit the needs of your employees and can’t obstruct their daily work. For instance, the Palais de Nations in Geneva is about the worst place for an SDGlab meeting, whereas it’s perfect for highly formal receptions. Some features like colors or light might be universal – gray for instance causes feelings of depression and sadness in many employees – but everything else should be customized for your specific team. For example, the Lego offices in Danmark have giant grass decorations on the walls to simulate a Lego figure viewpoint and UNSSC decorated their offices with the SDGs, which are both colorful and inspirational.

 

Dare to dream – inspirational pictures

Google Zurich. Photos: CamenzindEvolution

Google Zurich. Photos: CamenzindEvolution

 

Google Tel Aviv. Photos: iDesignArch

Google Tel Aviv. Photos: iDesignArch

 

Impact Hub Bern. Photos: Impact Hub

Impact Hub Bern. Photos: Impact Hub

 

Swisscom and EPFL's joint Digital Lab in Lausanne. Photos: Swisscom

Swisscom and EPFL’s joint Digital Lab in Lausanne. Photos: Swisscom

 

Google Dublin. Photos: Home Designing

Google Dublin. Photos: Home Designing

Story TBC. Look for the next episode in one week…


Links & related stories

 

 

Lab office series, episode 1: Discovery Tour

June 13, 2017 | Natalie Frei | Change Stories, Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

quadraticIn May, a delegation of SDC’s Knowledge-Learning-Culture division went on an expedition to discover new forms of office design and collaboration. Excited about the prospect of reorganizing our division, we set out to seek inspiration in the global lab trend. We visited five organizations with laboratory aspects in the international cooperation field and took notes.

By Natalie Frei

 

More than a year after being scattered across different buildings and floors, the Knowledge-Learning-Culture Division (KLC) will move into new offices later in 2017. As we’re constantly encouraging our colleagues to use creative tools and to think outside the box, it seems fitting to create our new office accordingly. We went to Bonn and Geneva to talk to organizations that have either installed their offices as labs or work in a similar area as KLC; information, knowledge and network management.


UNSSC Knowledge Center for Sustainable Development, Bonn

unb-blurbs-logo-UNSSC[1]

Situated in a beautiful castle overlooking the Rhine, the Center has a natural comparative advantage. When entering the castle, it’s immediatley visible that the interior of the Center shares the lab philosophy: open, transparent, inviting, collaborative, creative . “Office Setup has tremendous impact on work. We wanted to get inspired by Google but the UN interfered”, says Patrick van Weerelt (Head of the Center). Nevertheless, the office turned out to be quite open spaced, colorful and tech savvy. The colors correspond with the SDGs, the furniture is very adjustable and the rooms promote informality.

It started in 2015 with the goal to provide training for the Agenda 2030 for UN staff and other stakeholders (member states, civil society, private sector). Their fifteen staff members operate in very loose hierarchy. “Everyone does what they want but it works”, says van Weerelt. They consider their lab still in a development phase: “You have to say yes to everything at first and then figure out what works and what doesn’t”.

 

UNSSC's offices offer open spaces, gathering areas and meeting rooms with mobile furtniture.

UNSSC’s offices offer open spaces, gathering areas and meeting rooms with mobile furtniture (By profim).

 

 Academy for International Cooperation by GiZ, Bonn

aiz

The Acadamy was developed out of a functional reoganisation and offers about 1700 courses in language, travel preparation, management and others every year. Unfortunately, as they say, they operate from ordinary offices without any “lab facilites”. It’s the way they are structured that ensures innovation. The Academy isn’t granted with an annual budget but they have to refinance themselves with training programme fees paid by their students. On the one hand, this guarantees the Academy’s freedom in their course design and on the other hand forces them to stay creative, customer oriented and competitive.

 

SDG Lab, Geneva

sdglab

The 5-head-operation that means to strenghten the eco-System in Geneva to implement the Agenda 2030 is without any physical facilites for now. They usually meet in UN spaces, which they say is counterproductive. They wish for facilities that promote informality and force people to think outside silos. They see their main task in four areas:

Convene: To create opportunities for people to meet across silos to form relationships and collect new insight from different perspectives

Connect: Offer opportunities for Networking between different stakeholders

Amplify: Tell stories about success and failure in various context for others to learn from

Innovate: Provide space for testing solutions, to be experimental

 

The Knowledge-Learning-Culture delegation on discovery tour in Geneva.

The Knowledge-Learning-Culture delegation on discovery tour in Geneva.

 


Diplo Foundation, Geneva

Diplo_Logo
Diplo was founded to support and train diplomats from developing countries and evolved into a hub that caters information and capacity development “just in time” for complex subjects that are difficult to stay up to date with. They still offer courses – many of them in a nearby park – and operate the Geneva Internet Platform to publish information, for example on cyber policy, and news from around the world. They operate similar to a global media corporation and employ information curators – alias foreign correspondents – around the world. In their lab in Geneva, which is an ordinary office for now, they filter all the information and publish news in the “Digital Watch” section of their platform and organize a monthly lunch briefing that is livestreamed on the internet.

 

UNOSAT by UNITAR, Geneva

unosat-1030x520

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research was established in 1963 to train the many emerging nations at the time and their diplomats. UNOSAT is based in Geneva and their core business is satelite imagery and analysis. We visited them to get some input on technology. For instance, they are experimenting with virtual or augmented reality to “put people on the ground” for training purposes, e.g. into a disaster situation. For smaller productions like videos, they recommend to use a 360° camera to create a comparable effect. In UNOSAT’s experience, people associate social media with leisure and email with work. Therefore, to boost social interaction and informal knowledge sharing, they use Workplace by Facebook, which works the same way as Facebook but isn’t public. Our division is currently testing it and we really like it so far.

 

The next episodes of this trilogy will be published weekly.

Related Stories:

 

Creating common ground for working together – what it needs and why it matters

May 17, 2017 | Blog Admin | Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Jany picture

Nadia

Workshop space is precious space we want to use wisely. Creating the right conditions is the facilitator’s job. It is part of the design process to think about how to create these conditions and the ambiance conducive for working and learning together in a productive and inspiring way. In this blog post, we share our reflection on what it takes and why it matters to create a common ground for working together.

By Jany Barraut, Beyond Boundaries and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

Infographics , why bother?

May 03, 2017 | Natalie Frei | Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Portrait_Gabriela MontorziInfographics are great visual tools for clearly communicating complex issues. They transform concepts into accessible and concrete messages. They highlight key information, improve practical observation and reveal connections not visible otherwise. (1)

By Gabriela Montorzi, Scientific Infographics (more…)

Mind map = c’est penser avec stylo

April 26, 2017 | Blog Admin | Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Nadia

Une mind map – carte mentale ou heuristique – ressemble à un couteau suisse : c’est attractif et pratique. Cette méthodologie visuelle ne passe pas de mode. Elle est toujours moderne, attrayante, puissante.  Qui plus est, c’est facile et rapide. Finalement, sa dimension visuelle permet d’identifier les connexions et les schémas ce qui sert de base pour agir.

Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments (more…)

K4D and the Trouble of Measuring Impact

April 21, 2017 | Natalie Frei | Change Stories, Learning Elsewhere |

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Rating: 4.3 out of 5

P1020069At the beginning of April, Knowledge Managers from diverse backgrounds travelled to Geneva to witness the formal inauguration of the Knowledge for Development (K4D) Partnership and to honor the UN Joint Inspection Unit’s (JIU) report on Knowledge Management in the United Nations system. There was a broad consensus that the lack of ways to measure impact inhibits the potential of knowledge management and that the community needs to raise awareness for the importance of KM in preventing reinventions of the wheel.

By Natalie Frei, SDC (more…)

Effective Presentation

April 13, 2017 | Natalie Frei | Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences |

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

P1020069 In the last Lunch & Learn, Yvonne Vogel talked – and sang – tips on how to overcome inner constraints and become a better presenter. Key to any successful presentation is an audience-centered approach, which many people struggle with. However, there are some simple exercises to make it easier.

By Natalie Frei, SDC

You have studied your PowerPoint presentation for hours and know the accompanying phrases by heart. To be completely fail-proof, you brought numbered notes to carry like a shield. (more…)

Dare to draw! Use simple drawings to communicate, engage and energize groups

March 09, 2017 | Blog Admin | Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Sarah mugshot 2Caro Van Leeuwen recently posted an inspiring video about how she started using drawings during her internship at SDC, encouraging others to try it too. We did! At a recent Lunch & Learn event, we experimented with simple drawings of people, things and concepts. But what can we do with these drawings? And how can we go further?

By Sarah Clark (more…)

How your story tells you how it wants to be told

February 15, 2017 | Blog Admin | Let's Talk Visual |

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Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Beat Rüdt

Irritated by the title of this post? You shouldn’t be. During the “Lunch & Learn” events and the multimedia and video workshops we learned, that there are a lot of good stories at SDC that are worth to be told and that can be told in many ways.

By Beat Rüdt, MAZ

(more…)

Being the facilitator – a visual reflection

February 08, 2017 | Blog Admin | SDC Experiences |

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Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Jany pictureNadiaThis blog post draws a colorful picture of what it means to be the facilitator. A facilitator has many roles to play before, during and after a workshop or learning event. But what are these roles? And how do we as facilitators see ourselves? During a Lunch & Learn event a group of facilitators reflected these questions in a visual way and uncovered a series of interesting metaphors. 

By Jany Barraut and Nadia von Holzen (more…)

Let’s Draw

February 01, 2017 | Blog Admin | Let's Talk Visual |

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Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Caro van LeeuwenWhen I started my internship at SDC I’d never have thought that drawing would become so important in my work. Sometimes you just don’t find material to visualize what you want to say. This makes me grab my pencil and draw – and it adds a new twist to the presentation! You say you don’t have the talent to draw? Try and exercise and you will see: it is not that difficult. This video is meant to encourage you to discover your drawing skills, too! 

Caro Van Leeuwen, SDC (more…)

Make good use of internal competencies

January 03, 2017 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Valerie RossiSince 2010 SDC has developed a new approach for evaluating country strategies through a pilot process. Country evaluations support the definition of new cooperation strategies strategically and stimulate learning. The central pillar of this new approach is the promotion of the exchange and the sharing of knowledge within our institution and among an evaluation team led by an external consultant. What is, therefore, the major difference between country strategy evaluations and other external evaluations? SDC staff is involved in the evaluation team, acts as an evaluator but with an inside knowledge of the institutional issues and debates. A capitalization process of eight country strategy evaluations was undertaken in 2016. Different feedback and opinions of the involved people (peers, consultants, colleagues from the field and from HQ) are presented in the illustrations below.

By Valérie Rossi, SDC (more…)

Questions Shape Our Stories

December 12, 2016 | Blog Admin | Let's Talk Visual |

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Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Darcy Alexandra NadiaThe story circle is a crucial first step in making digital stories. Sharing story ideas in the circle helps clarify what the stories are really about. It is an intense group process of joint reflection and inquiry that is meaningful for everyone involved. Mid November, the SDC Learning & Networking Team organized its 4th Digital Storytelling workshop in Bern. In this workshop, “Pivotal Stories in Intercultural Contexts,” the story circle was once again the starting point for a dynamic process of reflection and dialogue. This process continues throughout the entire workshop as storytellers edit, re-write, read aloud, and polish their scripts to completion. 

By Darcy Alexandra, Inquiry Media and Nadia von Holzen, Learning Moments

(more…)

Communicating innovative ideas with video

December 01, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The play button is the most compelling call to action on the web” says Michael Litt, CEO and co-founder of Vidyard, a platform hosting business video content for distribution to websites and social channels. Not very surprising quote considering his position, you may say. But the success of the company reflects also the importance of video not only in marketing but also in other forms of communication. In this blog post, we want to have a closer look at the benefits of video in communication and introduce Lightbulb – a new format for sharing new and innovative learning experiences of SDC collaborators, units and networks. By Leonie Pock

(more…)

Value-creation stories for monitoring the value of networks

November 01, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.3 out of 5

Beverly Wenger-TraynerIn SDC learning is taking place in the networks – learning about approaches, about experiences and about good practices. The networks meet regularly in f2f-events in order to engage in this learning. But does it have an effect? What is the outcome of these events? By Beverly Wenger-Trayner, co-author of the Value Creation Framework

 

 

(more…)

The secret behind interactive webinars that energize and inspire

July 20, 2016 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences |

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Rating: 4.8 out of 5

NadiaAre you planning to organize webinars? Then do what the Learning & Networking team did: We learned a great deal by observing how others designed their webinars. The webinar series on storytelling organized by Nicole Bittel from the Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences were interactive and energizing. The secret: Focus on one topic, make it conversational and build in many interactive moments.

By Nadia von Holzen, SDC

(more…)

11½ ideas when to use a digital story

July 13, 2016 | Blog-Admin1 | Change Stories, Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.6 out of 5

ECC PCL VONNA

We made stories. Making stories is great learning. This we know, this we experienced. Using stories is the next step. In knowledge communication there are many options to integrate digital stories into sharing and learning processes.  In this blog post we collected 11 ½ ideas for you how to use your story or stories created by your colleagues.

Carmen Eckert, Leonie Pock and Nadia von Holzen, SDC (more…)

Place, people, and the author’s voice: Three key ingredients for storytelling

June 09, 2016 | Blog-Admin1 | Change Stories, Let's Talk Visual, SDC Experiences |

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Rating: 4.6 out of 5

NadiaSoyolmaa, a great storyteller herself, supported three colleagues from the SDC Cooperation Office in Mongolia to create their very first story. These three short stories demonstrate important key ingredients of making stories: People, place and the author’s voice.

Nadia von Holzen, SDC

(more…)

Dare to facilitate

May 25, 2016 | Blog-Admin1 | Change Stories, Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Nadia

Facilitation is (also) a question of confidence, of daring to “stand there” and to be the facilitator. But first facilitation is a question of good preparation and of getting the 3 Ps clear: purpose, people and process. The key task of a facilitator is helping the organisers to clarify the purpose of the workshop, to understand people’s needs and questions, and to design a good process that is interactive, relevant and meaningful. 

Nadia von Holzen, SDC 

(more…)

Physical Design of Space to Support Learning

May 18, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Polona SirnikJana Repanšek_smallLearning being in the center of our work, we are constantly thinking of innovative ways to   bring it to the next level. Based on our substantial study of theories of learning and change, we about a year ago decided to devote our attention to the question of how physical design of the environment supports learning. We have teamed up with an architect to help us translate our understanding of learning into the physical design of our lobby that became an important part of our learning space.

By Polona Sirnik and Jana Repanšek, Center of Excellence in Finance (CEF)

(more…)

What does it need to pick up a story and to share it?

May 11, 2016 | Blog-Admin1 | Change Stories, Let's Talk Visual |

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Rating: 4.7 out of 5

NadiaIn a work related context sharing stories happens spontaneously during coffee breaks. But what about more formal settings? Picking up a story during a meeting feels different; we hesitate, think twice, we don’t remember the stories and in the end the story disappears: we share our opinion and make statements. So what does it need to pick up a story? There are two essential conditions for storytelling: first, the belief that stories are valuable and can make a difference; and secondly the opportunity to remember and to share a story.

Nadia von Holzen, SDC

(more…)

Kanban – an amazing technique to get a grip on your work

April 26, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.8 out of 5

nadjaschnetzler_1321302641_63Kanban is a Japanese word which signifies «visual signal». In the industry, for instance in car production kanbans are used to singnalize important information in the workflow: When do I need to reorder materials, for instance. The idea of kanban has spread to other industries in the last 15 years. Two pioneers of kanban in knowledge work are David Anderson and Jim Benson. They started using kanban to optimize the flow of work for individuals, teams or whole organisations. If you are interested in their work, you can read «Personal Kanban» by Jim Benson and Tonianne de Maria Barry or «Kanban – successful evolutionary change for your organisaton» by David Anderson. Using kanban for your own individual work is fairly straightforward and easy. What is demanding is to keep using it and evolving with it. 

By Nadja Schnetzler

(more…)

Are you preparing social reporting for your next face-to-face meeting? Here are 6 points to remember

March 09, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools, SDC Networks |

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Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Nadia von HolzenThe idea behind social reporting during a learning event is not only to jointly produce a report and reach out to a wider audience. The beauty of social reporting is that it adds an additional layer of reflection to the workshop conversation. This blog post gives some tips how to include participants and how to make the task of the social reporting team doable and meaningful. The most important of the 6 tips is: Prepare what you can prepare and be flexible at the workshop.

Nadia von Holzen, SDC

(more…)

Joint Learning on Pastoralism – a process of experience capitalization among SDC Programme Officers

March 03, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools, SDC Experiences |

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Manuel Flury SDC Programme Officers of West Africa and the Horn of Africa engaged in a joint learning process on pastoralism. In a series of meetings they collected, synthesized and exchanged experiences in eight key topics of this area. Manuel Flury and Charlotte Nager take a step back and reflect about the added value and the limitations of such an experience capitalization process.

By Manuel Flury, SDC, Addis Ababa and Charlotte Nager, SDC, Berne

(more…)

The Story behind the Story

February 24, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.7 out of 5

_I0A2470 (Large)Behind each story there is another story. Our stories are connected. So is the story about the Mongolian herders connected with Udval, a young leader supporting herder communities in Western Mongolia. Udval uses participatory video to give the herders voice and to support their sharing and learning. Soyolmaa Dolgor, communication specialist working for SDC Mongolia, travelled with Udval to Tsetseg soum, Khovd province to document her meeting with the herders’ community.

Soyolmaa Dolgor, SDC Mongolia

(more…)