Work Futures Daily | Belonging, Not Fit

| National Identity Crisis | Belonging, Not Fit | Staff Strategy | Neil Irwin | 5G Questions |

Beacon NY | 2019–08–27 | Today’s issue gained its name from Pragya Agarwal’s piece, below.


The wonderful weather is making it hard for me to work. Time for another walk.


The American Economy Is Creating a National Identity Crisis | Tim Wu says enough is enough: a national reckoning about the economy that defines us as economic units — as working drones and mindless consumers — is long overdue.


Belonging In The Workplace: A New Approach to Diversity And Inclusivity | Pragya Agarwal debunks ‘cultural fit’ and offers ‘belonging’ in its place:

Baumeister and Leary define belonging as “the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group or place, and as the basic fundamental drive to form and maintain lasting, positive, and significant relationships with others.” People are motivated by an inherent desire to form inter-personal links and connections. But many diversity initiatives do not have the necessary impact.


It is crucial to assert that when I talk about a sense of belonging, I am not talking about a culture of “best fit.” In fact, completely the opposite. Here, the intention is not to focus on trying to hire people who will fit into workplace culture, or support the employee in fitting into existing workplace culture at the cost of their own identity. This will have a completely opposite effect.

The idea is not to ignore differences but to normalize how we discuss and talk about them. The idea is that everyone is different, and they are equal. My research shows that people who feel they belong perform better, become more willing to challenge themselves, and are more resilient.

A good read.


How Employees Shaped Strategy at the New York Public Library | Bruce A. Strong and Mary Lee Kennedy report on their consulting project with the New York Public Library, one of the world’s largest, with staff of over 2,500, 93 branches, and a $300 million plus annual budget. They suggested a subversive idea in innovation planning:

In the spring of 2014, we proposed a radical approach: offer anyone on staff — over 2,500 individuals, many of them union members — the chance to shape the library through strategic conversations with senior leaders. We believed that if the Library was to be truly nimble, senior leaders couldn’t unilaterally come up with a plan. Involving staff in conceiving, designing, and implementing the change would result in a course of action that was more fit-to-purpose and more likely to be well executed. Staff would fully understand the changes and be accountable to each other for their implementation.

The conversation would be neither bottom-up nor top down. Staff would take a lead role in designing, testing, and advocating solutions. Leadership would shape the conversation to ensure proposals were strategically on-point. Senior leaders also would provide resources, guidance, and act as decision makers.

But would involving so many people work in practice? How to get them engaged? How to ensure that the conversations didn’t bog down or become chaotic?

Several organizations for whom we had worked or had researched used a technique we call “innovation communities” to structure strategic conversations so that they’re both efficient and effective. These diverse groups of volunteer employees work across organizational boundaries and outside of their regular operational duties. They are empowered by — and in frequent communication with — senior management. Innovation communities had been used by Best Buy to grow its portion of the women’s consumer electronics market by $4.4b in less than five years. Boston Children’s Hospital used them to make advances in telemedicine. Japanese pharmaceutical Eisai used them to improve care for Alzheimer’s patients.

Convinced, the library’s management team created three innovation communities with each one focusing on a core library function: circulation, collections, and reference.

The authors detail the process, what worked and what didn’t, and conclude that — despite various hiccups and challenges to conventional thinking about strategy development — the experience was very well-received across the organization, and additional experiments were being started at the time of the article’s publishing in 2016.

The biggest takeaway:

What surprised us most was the importance of the social aspect of the innovation communities. Community members consciously forged new and strong bonds of comradery, commitment, and common purpose.

And that brings us to our concluding point: strategy as currently practiced rarely emphasizes the importance of community. Our experience with the Library highlights it. The social bonds created by the innovation communities, we believe, will be integral to the Library’s continued efforts to realize its strategic direction. It will be up to leadership to continue to foster the social environment and the conversations in which strategic ideas are born, nurtured, and carried out.

Quote of the Day

Life isn’t just about money, and jobs aren’t just about income.

Neil Irwin, How a Quest by Elites Is Driving ‘Brexit’ and Trump


Cities Are Saying No to 5G, Citing Health, Aesthetics — and FCC Bullying | Christopher Mims looks into rising concerns about 5G:

Billed as the key to the future — of telecommunications, of global competition, of innovation and even of municipal infrastructure — 5G has instead become a bone of contention. In addition to upgrading existing towers, it will require an estimated half-million new towers and small-cell sites on utility poles, lampposts and buildings. Experts also anticipate a long rollout period, potentially of a decade or more.

We’ll have to see if the claims by 5G boosters will overcome these concerns.

If you are receiving this you’ve probably signed up for the Work Futures Daily newsletter. If not, sign up here. Support our work by becoming a sponsor, here. Or become a follower on Medium, here, and click on the applause button. Drop a few bucks in the hat, here, if you’d like to support our work on a one-time basis.