An Executive Conversation hosted by Dropbox and produced by Connect Media.

DIGITAL INNOVATION THROUGH COLLABORATION

jackSeptember 16, 2019

We are mining the complexities of the world around us in greater detail than ever before. While this ongoing interrogation has yielded great advances and insight, it is also taking a toll on us as employees. In too many cases, systems and processes designed to bring people together in the workplace are causing undue distraction and disengagement.

The situation, however, is far from helpless. As humans we have a tremendous ability to create – the task before us is to make sure that spirit does not lie dormant. DROPBOX is dedicated to this pursuit, making it their mission to unleash our creative energy by creating an enlightened way of working – not by overengineering a complex problem, but by removing all the noise and all the friction.

As part of this mission, DROPBOX and CONNECT MEDIA gathered senior digital, marketing and business intelligence leaders from the retail sector to hear how they are supporting collaborative spaces, where the frustration lies, and where spaces for creation exist. This conversation unearthed a number of shared frustrations, as well as shared opportunities – this is what they had to say.

image
image
image
THE PRESSURE TO ADOPT

Technology is evolving at a frenetic pace. One of the clearest symptoms of this incessant evolution is the fear of being left behind. In the competitive retail arena this fear has become institutionalised.

It manifests as the pressure to adopt the latest software and programs, the notion that this solution could be the one that unlocks a new efficiency, a new approach that changes the game. But this relentless drive for efficiency, these enterprise-wide mandates to stay ahead of the curve risk breeding an ‘adopt for the sake of it’ mentality.

The result is a layering effect; systems that are designed to communicate and collaborate stack up, forcing users to continually shift contexts and navigate more clutter and greater friction. Unfortunately, there is not yet one perfect fit, as one attendee noted;

“I HAVEN’T FOUND TO THIS DAY A SOLUTION WHERE I CAN SAY ‘THIS WORKS OUT OF THE BOX, I DON’T NEED TO JERRY RIG OR HOT ROD IT’.”

The quest to find a program that manages the entire process – in the case of retail marketing – from creative conception down to signoff, has so far proved elusive.

COMPETING BUSINESS PRIORITIES – TOP-DOWN OR BOTTOM-UP?

The pressure to adopt is compounded by competing interests at a business level. We live in a knowledge economy; companies are spending billions of dollars to nurture and then extract the creative potential of their employees. We know that his creative power is what defines us in the context of artificial intelligence and automation.

But when it comes to making decisions at a board-room level, ease-of-use and the employee are not front-of-mind. They are overshadowed in almost every case by cost, and then by security. Conceding that cost and security are undeniably important, the challenge, then, is how to place the employee at the top of this list of priorities and ensure that the cost and security pieces fall into place around them.

Another dimension of this endemic balancing act centres around data controls. On one hand, enterprises want to empower all their employees to do their best work, to move with agility. But this charge runs into direct conflict with the desire, or need, to place controls on the use and ownership of corporate data. The mandate to be collaborative, to be open and adopt new tools in almost every case runs into restrictions that undermine the very utility of those same tools.

An interesting managerial approach was raised at this stage in discussion, The Waterline Rule, pioneered by Ted Gore. This approach, as the name suggests, aims to return control to employees, giving them autonomy while mitigating any critical damage that could ‘sink’ the enterprise:

“AS AN EMPLOYEE OF MY COMPANY, YOU CAN MAKE ANY DECISION YOU WANT, AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T CREATE A HOLE BELOW THE WATERLINE’.”

The strict attention given to data controls in today’s risk adverse environment is a clear sign that employees have limited autonomy – for most companies, the waterline is simply too high. Large enterprises need to find a way of achieving this form of entrepreneurism in conversation.

image
image
image
NEVER ENOUGH TIME

No one is a stranger to corporate pressure to work faster. Companies are continually hunting for new efficiencies, for greater performance – there is always more to be done. Employees, naturally, want to slow down; they want the opportunity to breathe, to digest the details, to reach that elusive state of deep focus where they can do their best work.

The combat saying ‘slow is smooth, smooth is fast’ is in many ways an apt metaphor for the current state of work in today’s technological environment. At the core of this problem is the amount of time that is being spent doing work about work, or in other words, meeting for meetings. There is a tremendous amount of wastage in many work systems, and it is essential that employees are given this time back to be considerate, thoughtful and focus on their craft – for that is where the enjoyment is.

CONCLUSION

Most people have a shared experience of DROPBOX as a cloud pioneer in the consumer space – but that is only the beginning of their story.

The value we assign to creativity and free thought will grow exponentially as artificial intelligence advances. But that creativity is currently being shackled by systems that add layers of noise in their attempt to achieve clarity.

The complex problems restricting workspaces do not require complex solutions – a simple, eloquent solution is required. As workspaces and technology continue to evolve, the importance of engaging in continuous industry dialogue cannot be overstated.

Leaders around Australia are realising that, now more than ever, time and focus bear heavily on corporate and personal success. DROPBOX and CONNECT MEDIA will continue this series of executive conversations around Australia, empowering leading organisations to rise above the competition.