My week begins, for the first time in several weeks, at our office in midtown New York. Lately I’ve been traveling so much and working from home in the suburbs when not traveling (partly due to very early morning or very late-evening overseas calls) that I haven’t seen much of the city, but it’s always nice to be back. The head of the office sees me in the elevator lobby and jokes that I must be the new guy.
My day begins in this case with conference calls. The first one is a discussion with our internal marketing and public relations experts, who have been great at positioning our work in the public media. While I haven’t published anything academic since starting my career, our findings and solutions are often eye opening, and anyone who works in a workplace can relate to them. There seems to be a strong appetite for examples of innovative workplaces, evidence of trends, or data that challenges conventional wisdom, and we’re sitting on a mountain of it. Occasionally I give public presentations, write articles, and give interviews. I love it because it gives me a chance to reflect on experiences that cut across many clients and look beyond the day-to-day problems we deal with. If only I had more time for it. At the end of the call, we’ve outlined some opportunities and I’ve promised once more that I’ll find time for the next article.
My next call is with our corporate design practice leaders, which my consulting group falls under. There are fantastic synergies between what I do and design. They utilize me to challenge their clients to think more strategically and I utilize them to help both push and test our solutions, through better design thinking. This call happens every Monday. We talk primarily about ongoing business and the pipeline for future work.
There are fantastic synergies between what I do and design.
Later, around lunchtime, I have an extended call with a colleague in our Mumbai office to talk about strategies we’re developing for a multi-national client that has a growing business over there. We worked together in India for about a week and a half the previous month. We’re at the stage now where we’re developing solutions. It’s late in the evening in India, but this particular colleague prefers to get home early and talk after dinner, which is fine with me. We review some drawings and plan to talk again the next day.
After lunch, I have a conversation (the face-to-face kind) with one of our design interns who has the strategy bug, although not necessarily the workplace strategy bug. She’s finding that design thinking can be applied to a range of societal and business problems, not just buildings. She’s been investigating, for example, how bicycle policies and programs are impacting urban life. I tell her a little bit about what I do, which I always enjoy. My field is fairly new and I, having more experience than most, feel I can do a lot to help grow it, even beyond our firm, by telling these kinds of stories.
Later in the day, I deal with project accounting, not my favorite subject. Usually it’s not complicated, but working with India (I’ve had two projects in the region this year) adds a new dimension. After combing through billing records, we set things straight and put things back in the black.
Towards the end of the day, I have a conference call with a client to discuss launching a new project. The work we do involves interfacing with employees and business leaders, and any discussion of workplace can inflame sensitivities and raise fears. To keep things smooth, we create a change management plan and map out next steps.