Work Futures Daily | Connective Action

| Feeding Back | Yoga Unions | Sander’s Labor Plan | The Dream of Fluidarity | Slow Cities |

Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash

Beacon NY | 2019–09–12 | The slow tempo of summer is long gone.


This was supposed to go out Thursday, but I forgot to mail it!


Fractional Futurist | I stole a page from Chris Brogan, who recently pitched himself as a ‘fractional CMO’. So I am offering to work as a ‘fractional futurist’. After all, everyone talks about the future, but no one does anything about it.


Using Neuroscience to Make Feedback Work and Feel Better | David Rock, Beth Jones, and Chris Weller dissect the premises of feedback, and lay out a path to applying it:

Simple as it may seem, feedback — that ubiquitous necessity of organizational life — has proven to be an axis on which organizational culture turns. Research is suggesting that by switching from giving feedback to asking for it, organizations can tilt their culture toward continuous improvement; smarter decision making; and stronger, more resilient teams that can adapt as needed.

Why Feedback Matters

Feedback isn’t just a ritual of the modern workplace. It’s the means by which organisms, across a variety of life-forms and time periods, have adapted to survive. To University of Sheffield cognitive scientist Tom Stafford, feedback is the essence of intelligence. “Thanks to feedback we can become more than simple programs with simple reflexes, and develop more complex responses to the environment,” he writes. “Feedback allows animals like us to follow a purpose.”

Research is suggesting that by switching from giving feedback to asking for it, organizations can tilt their culture toward continuous improvement.

It’s no coincidence the words organism and organization share a Latin root. Just as feedback enables the former to flourish, so it does for the latter. The single-celled amoeba that relies on feedback from its marine environment can more easily find bacteria to munch on, and the salesman who risks losing his job owing to missed targets — metrics, too, are a form of feedback — knows he must change his approach, finding better leads or making more of the customers he has. The same is true for the underperforming department that faces restructuring and rethinks how it collaborates. In all cases, feedback is what keeps organisms, and organizations, alive and well.

Even within organizations, feedback can take many forms. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and other quantitative data are perhaps the most recognizable kind of feedback, especially during performance reviews, but conversational feedback — for example, a quick chat over coffee — counts too. Indeed, just as leaders should think carefully about the KPIs that guide behavior on their teams, they should consider the patterns of verbal feedback that guide their teams to improve.

Research has found roughly 87 percent of employees want to “be developed” in their job, but only a third report actually receiving the feedback they need to engage and improve. The reason for the gap is hardly a mystery: Typical feedback conversations are about as pleasant as a root canal. Managers dread them because it’s often unclear what kind of feedback the employee wants or needs, and employees dread them because even light criticism can feel like an assault on their status and credibility. Indeed, West and Thorson’s new study found that receivers’ heart rates jumped enough to indicate moderate or extreme duress in unprompted feedback situations.

A great read. I particularly like how they spell out how a company can take gradual steps to grow a feedback-seeking culture, where asking for feedback is common:

At the office, leaders can begin by asking for feedback on low-stakes topics, such as the temperature in the office or how people felt about yesterday’s lunch. The point is to get people used to giving feedback that was asked for. When leaders take the first step, they signal to the wider organization that asking is important, and the low-stakes questions help build a sense of trust and agency in their team members. People are given an opportunity to feel heard, which boosts their status, makes them feel more included, and gives them a greater sense of autonomy. West says it also empowers them to give better feedback, replacing brittle smiles with more honest critiques.

And of course this requires psychological safety, which is critical in so many ways.


The Yoga Instructors vs. the Private Equity Firm | Colin Moynihan reports on yoga instructors in NY City who are seeking to form a union, and the company that employs them — principally as part-time employees — is opposing the effort. Notably, that company, YogaWorks, a chain of over 60 locations, is controlled by a private equity fund.

In certain ways teaching yoga may seem like a dream job — a way to earn money while staying healthy and helping others. But yoga teachers say that their work can be filled with the type of stress that the practice is meant to alleviate.

Many, experts say, are participants in the so-called gig economy, where companies employ nonpermanent workers and don’t have to contribute to unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation, or heed minimum-wage and overtime laws.

Most YogaWorks teachers are something of a hybrid, classified as employees but given only part-time work with little or no job security, organizers said. And many of those teachers also do “gig work” as independent contractors for other employers. The effect, multiple instructors said, can be exhausting, with teachers constantly scrambling to make ends meet, competing for work and spending unpaid hours preparing for sessions.

Still, several teachers said, they stick with their classes because they enjoy their jobs and they believe in the ability of yoga to improve lives.

“I love when people have some kind of realization, or feel a part of their body they weren’t able to feel before, when something just clicks,” Markella Los, a YogaWorks instructor and an early union organizer, said.

The aim of forming a union, several teachers said, is to negotiate over making pay rates transparent, creating standards for raises, obtaining benefits and job security, and asking that teachers have a voice in ensuring that classes preserve values intrinsic to yoga.

“They often say the yoga teachers are the center of this business,” Tamar Samir, who has taken part in the unionization effort, said of the company’s leaders. “But then somehow the way that teachers are supported in terms of pay and benefits and job security doesn’t match that.”

Unions are coming back, with yoga instructors joining the machinists union, and even strippers are organizing.

Yoga has become a big business in the US:

The number of yoga practitioners has risen to 36 million in 2016, from 20.4 million in 2012, and spending — on clothes, equipment, classes — has also increased, to $16 billion from $10 billion over the same period.


The Necessary Radicalism of Bernie Sanders | Jamelle Bouie lays out the scale and breadth of Bernie Sanders labor plan.

You may have missed it, but late last month, Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign released the senator’s proposal for revitalizing the American labor movement. If passed into law, his Workplace Democracy Plan would end “at will” employment (employers could no longer dismiss employees for any reason without warning), institute industrywide “sectional” bargaining (versus organizing at individual companies) and curtail “right to work” laws.

Those measures alone would give unions a little room to breathe in an otherwise anti-labor atmosphere. More than half of Americans have a favorable view of unions, but in 2018 only 10.5 percent of workers were unionized. And nearly three years into his presidency, Donald Trump has been unabashedly hostile toward labor, even after selling himself as a tribune of the “forgotten man.”

But the most important parts of Sanders’s plan have to do with striking and other powerful levers. He would give federal employees the right to strike and ban the permanent replacement of any striking workers. He would also end the prohibition on secondary boycotts, which keeps workers from pressuring “neutral” employers — like suppliers and other service providers — in the course of an action against their “primary” employer. This prohibition closes an important avenue for collaboration among workers. Lifting the restriction would open new paths for collective action.

We need more.

Quote of the Day

The Earth and its resources are treated as spoils by the powerful, who will use all the powers they have to continue the ruinous policies of the past. But the Earth must be reconsidered as a shared commons, and our principal purpose must be to move from the shambles of our current economic and geopolitical systems to a new order, based on sustainability and universal human rights.

Stowe Boyd, The Myth Of Libertarian Populism, The Dream Of Fluidarity

In the spirit of the Democratic Debate, tonight.


Lower Speed Limits Could Save Your City (and Life) | Andrew Small on the trend toward slower cities:

In his prescient 1973 essay, “The Social Ideology of the Motorcar,” André Gorz makes a similar point about how private cars turned speed into a commodity that, when introduced into the city, created havoc: “When everyone claims the right to drive at the privileged speed of the bourgeoisie,” he wrote, “everything comes to a halt, and the speed of city traffic plummets.”

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.