Social Physics, Slack, Google and More

Key Point: The nature of work is being transformed right in front of us. One way or another, we are all impacted and involved. The connected digital world is giving us new collaboration and communication tools that are mind-blowing, really. Legacy systems like email may soon be gone from the work place. If you think this is unlikely, ask anyone under 30 how often they use personal email today. 

I’m writing this blog from the Google Next conference in San Francisco. The Moscone Convention Center is filled with thousands of people from around the world, all committed to determine how cloud-based solutions (including new productivity tools like Google’s G Suite) will reinvent business models and ways of working. Honestly, after sitting in one presentation after another, it feels a little like I’ve just dropped LSD. I’m on a somewhat weird and exciting trip where part of me wants to stop the room from swimming, while the other can hardly wait to see what’s next. (I’m a product of the 60’s, and for the record, have never dropped acid).

One simple live demo at the conference today involved seeing a team working together, real-time, from multiple locations, connected visually and collaborating on the rollout campaign for a new coffee company. The live demonstration only lasted about 10 minutes, yet one could actually see how a distributed team of people in both San Fran and New York (including an outside ad agency), could creatively explode from scheduling a meeting to completing one, (with the outcome being a fully completed product launch campaign in HOURS). That historically would have taken weeks, at best. Organizations where people need assistants to schedule meetings (instead of using a meeting bot), or send things to others in attachments, wait for approval from central sources, and have things handed to-and-from other groups, will get CRUSHED.

I am not overstating this. As an example, one of the world’s most prestigious management consulting/accounting firms, PWC, migrated to the G Suite with 250,000 users in 150 countries and their internal study found that on average, employees gained NINE HOURS of increased productivity per PERSON/WEEK.

More importantly, it increased the quality and speed of innovative work from the right people in the right roles at exactly the right time. Case studies showing breakthrough results from companies in all industries are just beginning to get published. Look out if you’re not on this flight path. 

Yesterday, I met with execs from Slack, the sizzling hot Silicon Valley company that millennials and project teams like to use for real-time messaging and communication. Slack has been a viral consumer-type product; now growing up to become enterprise and Google is zipping up their Hangout product to take Slack head on. At Slack, their best thinkers are leaning on research from people like Dr. Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to Pentland, creativity is born of two processes: The first is exploration, where people move out of their comfort zones and actively seek people with different views and ideas. The second is recognizing that engaged groups have a collective intelligence that is mostly independent and better than the intelligence of individual participants. However Pentland, whose book on the matter is entitled Social Physics, also points out that by cleverly processing  “big data,” it is possible to identify patterns of behavior, just as scientists once worked out the laws of the physical world. Pentland asserts that understanding social physics lets people “tune” social networks and obtain the results they want. This allows certain aspects of human life—from how companies operate to even how communities work—to be “re-engineered” to make them more efficient.  And of course if you actually “Google” Pentland, you can watch one of his videos taken from… You guessed it… Google’s campus. My point is that this not just rewarmed “team” stuff. This movement involves the best brains in the world using data and science to reimagine teamwork. 

We know that accelerating peer-to-peer collaboration will unleash greater creativity, harnessing groups that become more engaged and autonomous. Work will likely be more rewarding. In full flight of exploration is the relationship between group effectiveness in conjunction with machine learning/artificial intelligence, and data science. And that whole world is rapidly evolving.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn how to use EVERY part of the G Suite or a similar tool set in your personal life if you can’t at work. Get darn uncomfortable with this new way.  And by the way, I sure as heck am. How fun and exciting! 
  2. Learn everything you can about the Cloud, AI, Big Data, and do not think it’s for tech folks because we are all tech people now. In fact, I think the coolest fusion is “Geeks & Jocks.” Be hybrid (and recognize that no amount of reading helps me understand why the market values Snap at $30+B???? Haha).

Socially Physical in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: This is the best “if you can’t beat em, join em” situation that most of us could ask for. Resisters have already lost without knowing it, so everyone might as well enlist! I certainly don’t see any negatives, and it truly is exciting to start incorporating G Suite and Slack into your professional lives (I use both). Find your gurus, read their stuff, follow their Instagram, listen to their podcasts, and start figuring out how to implement their practices into your own routines. Gosh, remember when science and technology may have been boring in the classroom? Times have changed.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

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