I started our business Opposite two years ago. Since then I have done the complete opposite of what I used to do. I sleep during the day instead of night. I walk backwards. I yell at people in the cinema rather than whisper. Backwards blogs my write even I.
Ok, I am not so much of an extremist that I would ever take the concept of Opposite to absurd levels. The idea was simple. Perhaps there were workplace practices that were so broken that doing the complete opposite was the solution. In short, we needed a name that implied we were willing to challenge the status quo.
Here are a few successes and challenges along the way.
Do you really need that procedure?
One of the most enjoyable component of work has been able to challenge the status quo on procedures and processes. We have developed simple websites and mini-workplace tools to replace boring, lengthy and unreadable procedures. We’ve engaged people with graphic design competitions and gamified solutions to deploy business processes. At its core is the idea that procedures and processes are often viewed as important technical documents rather than engaging instruments of change.
When I started Opposite, I was planning on moving out of the field of Human Factors for a change until I realised it was an area that people were talking about. This contrasted my previous 10 years experience, educating people about the importance of Human Factors. Somewhere in the past few years, it has become topical.
People are recognising that many failures and problems with technology, infrastructure, and workplace processes need Human Factors thinking. That is, a formal understanding of how and why people interact with their environments.
In many ways, considering Human Factors in they way we conduct work is ‘opposite’ to the way it used to be done: build it and then get people to adjust to it.
Developing solutions not just insights
I used to roll my eyes when consultants would come in to educate the business about principles and frameworks. I didn’t need someone to tell me that the customer is important or that clear accountabilities are critical. Most of us understand the basics but just need help coming up with the ideas and solutions to address these principles.
At Opposite, we didn’t want to just write a report with 20 recommendations and move on. We are more interested in helping workplaces develop the specific tools and workplaces practices that help implement the recommendations. This is the hardest part for workplaces and consultants because nobody has the precise solution.
An unfortunate element of work today is the fear of prosecution when designing a solution that has safety implications. The end result has been many workplaces are so afraid to try the opposite and innovate. This is unfortunate because most if not all people want to see greater focus, more creativity, and activities that add value. Paperwork often serves one purpose—to cover the workplace—not to drive business improvements.
Time continues to be a predator that pursues you at every turn. Workplaces have increasing demands and seem to fit more and more in everyday. Our workplace is no different. Since running my business out of our humble home in 2015, we are now working with five consultants. With more people, it seems that there are even fewer and fewer hours in the day. In the tradition of Opposite, more resourcing has seemingly left less time for home and recreation.
I have yet to see a workplace that somehow reaches equilibrium and strikes the right balance of work and recreation. Work is addictive, rewarding, restricting, fun, and stressful. The creative projects sometimes get put on hold because we simply need to deliver that report.
Going forward, we are venturing into finishing some new projects and ideas. Here are a few that are in production:
Launch. We’ve developed the first prototype of a workplace productivity tool ‘Launch’. This has been a slowburn project that is nearing completion for testing.
Brandbattle. We’ve developed a website that pits brands against each other in a competition. The website is developed as well as a tool that assesses your ‘logo personality’. Just a few more tweaks and we’ll launch it soon.
Gamified & Interactive Training. We are currently developing a game-based team development program as well as Human Factor training that allows users to explore and immerse themselves in 360 environments. Sounds cool. We just need to address that ‘time’ issue above so we can devote the time it needs.
We are also looking to partner with organisations and to keep testing our ideas. If you have a particular workplace issue that needs some opposite thinking, then drop us a line.
And thanks to everyone who has helped support and grow Opposite, especially our team: Conor O’Brien, Marty Lynch, Christine Antoniou, Patrick McGrath, Ray Misa and Andres Meneses.