Social Physics  

Despite having followed online education for awhile, I’d never actually taken a course before. So, last week, I was excited to take my first - ‘Big Data and Social Physics’ - offered through edX.

I’ll be honest, it really wasn’t what I was expecting at all - with it being quite a superficial introduction to the ideas and, throughout, an unashamed attempt to promote the book ‘Social Physics’. On the upside though, it did make me read the book earlier than planned and that, dear reader, is the subject of today’s post.

Let them eat cake!

In a fascinating section in the book on ‘Collective Intelligence’ Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, the books’ author, describes an experiment looking at face-to-face ‘engagement’ and it’s connection to productivity. To keep myself intellectually honest, you should know that ‘engagement’ has a very specific meaning in Prof. Pentlands’ book; and typically refers to within working group interactions. In this study, some call center employees are allowed to mix more during breaks, through an orchestrated change to the coffee break structure, enabling employees to talk more easily with each other. This shift in ‘idea flow’ is estimated to save the participating company a cool 15 million USD per year.

Social Inclusion

In another referenced study, increased productivity was realized by making the company’s lunch tables a little longer - “thus forcing people who didn’t know each other to eat together”. I’d love to include the reference to the study, but while marked up in the book, it’s missing from the references.

Does this sound at all familiar? Getting people who don’t know each other at the same company to have lunch!?! Why it’s another pattern of social inclusion, similar to Lunch Roulette which, as you may know, is a super simple web-based tool for fostering serendipity in the workplace.

So, interested in improving productivity? Why not drop us a line to learn more about our offerings.


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