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Letter to the edge #4 – ramblings from an up-side-down colony

letter-man-4Dear Steve

Thanks for agreeing to be my workplace pen pal it will be interesting to see where our conversations take us.  It was really nice to get your response and I have included it in my reply as other readers may be curious.

It seems to me that your response amplifies the need to develop a global approach to learning how to cope with change and how we make the best use of commercial real estate.  Nobody has all the answers and the old approach of applying global standards no longer makes sense. We have to get used to a world of choice and instant responses.

Your letter has given me a lot to mull over and I look forward to continuing our dialogue in the weeks ahead.  All the best.

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Dear Chris

Thanks for personally calling me out to respond to your recent “Letter to the Edge #2”.
Sorry the reply has been so slow – getting these letters back to the Mother Country by mail still takes so long! We should do “emails from the edge” next time…

I’m not sure whether to be offended by you calling Australia and New Zealand “The Edge” (on the basis that we’d like to think we’re the centre – of workplace innovation and rugby at least), or proud of the name (on the basis that everyone knows all real innovation comes from the edge). It probably doesn’t matter.

Your “letter to the edge” seems to pose (at least) three questions.
_Why have Australia and New Zealand embraced new approaches to workplace quicker than the UK market?
_What (if anything) makes these new models any better than the old ones?
_How do we get the traditional “silos” to see the bigger integrated picture?

Let me try and respond…

While our cultures look and feel similar (relative to other geographies) there are a number of fundamental differences that have caused quicker adoption of innovation in Australia and NZ when compared to the UK (and US for that matter).
1. The power balance is in the favour of the tenant.
2. Our market is small, and young compared with the UK and the USA.
3. We have a healthy disregard for hierarchy and over-analysis.

So maybe these Australian and NZ workplace have changed more quickly than their UK counterparts. But are they any better? And if so, what makes them so? Here are some quick thoughts on factors
1. Choice & Movement –  Workplaces in Australia and New Zealand are increasingly designed to be shared places.
2. Character and Identity, our employers recognise they need to compete with the emerging view of staff that they could simply work from somewhere else.
3. More integration with the base buildings and public urban realm.  The best workplaces don’t feel like “fitouts” within a generic office building. They feel like real places.

4. Not over managed  – Australian “activity-based” workplaces have increasingly recognised that (most) employees are fully functioning grown-ups. The best workplaces don’t over structure or regulate behaviours, but rather put trust in people that they will be able to sort themselves out to a large degree.

From looking at your blogposts it seems we share a common problem that of silo thinking.   So how do we get the silo perspectives to see the bigger picture? Everyone has a role in this and maybe we can make a start by buildign some common ground around some basic principles such as;-

  • Understand the Business  –  we all need to understand how our clients’ business works.
  • Make time in the process to talk with everyone involved.
  • Better processes for team selection –  Seek out people with an ability to engage, empathise and enable the different people & business perspectives.

So there you have it Chris.  Insights into a progressive market full of workplace innovation… Or ramblings from an up-side-down colony…. You can decide.

In any case, something of interest to workplace people has definitely occurred here in Australia and New Zealand. Regardless of the above, I encourage people to simply come and see it for themselves – as you have done – to form their own impressions. It’s so easy to start thinking we’ve seen it all or done it all before – but visiting another vastly different market is an excellent way of refreshing our thinking and even small new ideas back to the challenge of making the best workplaces we can.

Thanks for taking the time to visit, and then to write.

Your antipodean workplace pen pal,
Steve