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We Work Unbound – key concepts for a hybrid world

Working at Yammer back in the day (2012 onwards), we were at the forefront of some cutting edge work practices that had been brewing a while. The advent of social technologies of which Yammer was a latest iteration and that I had also previously been involved in (more here: birth of enterprise social) were driving these new practices. At the time we came up with a concept that could probably be called a precursor to hybrid work in that it made the most of social technologies that enabled remote work yet also included in person work. We used to hold frequent get togethers including customers, employees, leading outside thinkers, etc. There is still a Facebook group and LinkedIn group that are semi active for organising things. The manifesto which is the featured image for this post describes the concept at its core and below are some additional notes penned at the time. Sharing here for posterity.

Working aloud.

There is an entire website and book covering this awesome concept which is being explored by John Stepper. Suffice it to say that’s it’s about the ability to work openly, with unfinished concepts (so your ideas don’t have to be perfect before you share them) in the hope that others learn from this and indeed can contribute to your “work in progress”. This has gained a lot of currency with companies that adopt enterprise social networks which mimic the behaviours often found on the internet where a melting pot of ideas, collaboration and mashups can be found. In organisations work is progressed openly and collaboratively and assumes the”wisdom of the crowd” will enhance work often driven by an individual or small teams. #weworkunbound sessions adopt the best of these behaviours by getting people to share thoughts openly and without fear of ideas seeming ill-formed or immature.

No expectations.

The best point to start #weworkunbound sessions from is one where we do not have any expectations. This way you don’t add pressure on yourself or the group to deliver something of value. It plays very nicely to the work as play concept when you bring an attitude unburdened by expectation. It allows you to apply your creativity at its best, most open and unfettered. Ultimately, working unbound is about applying creativity to existing or new ideas in order to give them their fullest expression and arrive at something that is ideally unique or at best, different from where you started. If you can achieve any of this then it will have been a worthy result that has come about naturally. Unbound is to work what unconference is to events.

Work as play.

Aside from bringing an attitude of playfulness to the session, this concept is also about applying game theory to problem solving, creativity and innovation. Here too there is an entire site and a book dedicated to the concept. This could be applied in the only strictly focused part of the unbound sessions (see proposed day plan in how to hold an unbound session at the end of this post and the next concept). The site and book have a ton of suggestions for how to bring out the most creativity and unusual thinking from a group of people that suits the spirit of the we work unbound sessions perfectly.

Out of the norm.

If you do decide to incorporate what we call a challenge piece (the focused part referred to in the last concept) then by definition of the unbound principle, it should be to to think differently and arrive at different conclusions than you normally would. To put it tritely, you are supposed to be “thinking outside the box” in this piece. You should open up your mind and ideas to totally new possibilities. It could even be that for this piece you step outside of the space you are in even if it is new to you. You could go somewhere really inspiring or perhaps less intrusive and calming like an open field. The point is still not to have expectation of the outcomes, just the expectation to achieve difference.

How to hold an unbound session

Would you like to get closer to your customers, colleagues and prospects? Unbound is a simple and creative event format that you can use to build relationships and learn from each other. You can hold an Unbound session by simply inviting your customers and partners to work in the same location as you for the day. Here are some ideas for how to set one up…

1. Find a space.
All you need is a few free desks in your work space. Alternatively, you could book a meeting room. Or go more creative… a space out the office.

2. Create a calendar invite to send to attendees. Here’s an idea:
Fancy a change of scenery for the day?

  • 09:30 – 10:00 Introductions
  • 10:00 – 12:00 Continue conversations, which typically blend into free working (either on your own work or work with others at #WeWorkUnbound)
  • 12:00 – 13:00 Lunch (we’ll go out for a group lunch – we each buy our own)
  • 13:00 – 15:00 Free working
  • 15:00 – 16:00 Group activity (we’ll decide on the day)
  • 16:00 – 17:00 Free working
  • 17:00 onwards – Drinks at a local bar (buy our own)

You could keep the invite private and handpick guests, or spread the invite publicly through your networks and on social media through the WeWorkUnbound LinkedIn and Facebook channels.

Bear in mind no two Unbound sessions are alike – they can’t be planned to the last detail. Different things will emerge depending on the people and interest in the room – we encourage you to embrace and celebrate what you discover!

3. Measure success.
Decide how you’ll capture the value of the day. As an example, you could ask whether people feel more connected to your brand and if you have helped people build relationships with each other.

4. Write a brief summary of your Unbound day.
Sharing it with attendees will help reinforce the value you hopefully achieved from the day. Share it on Facebook or LinkedIn and shine a light on what you’ve achieved. 

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