Amazon Echo Alexa

Alexa, how do I lead my team?

Last weekend I joined a Wevent in Berlin. Wevents are network meetings and „un-conferences“ of the network. If you want to learn more about Wevents, have a look here. In this post I want to quickly summarize my impressions and share my learnings.

Every Wevent has its own flair and is a little special. This Wevent was the biggest Wevent ever and had two special tracks with prepared sessions on digitization and HR. We also had a special guest – Amazon’s Alexa, who had an interesting dialogue with Mark Poppenborg. Alexa claimed she can do a better job in moderating the event, since she read everything about NewWork and the next economy. While this was just fun, it still made me think, where Alexa might be used in a corporate context. Wouldn’t it make sense to have an Alexa in corporates?

The first session I attended was hosted by Sabine Kluge. She explained why digitization requires networked people:


She also introduced the working out loud method, which is trending in German corporates right now. Definitely something for my creative backlog of experiments. Since the next session on workhacks was too crowded I decided for an early lunch and had great conversations on corporate change and the power dynamics. I also shared my learning from the Theory U case clinics earlier this year.

After lunch I attended a session on big data. No new revolutionary new insights, but a few interesting perspectives:

  1. Who is responsible for quality and integrity of data? Who do I follow-up with, when I discover issues? Definitely a blind spot for us.
  2. There are two directions you can take. First you can take big data and try to find patterns to get insights. E.g. analyze a number of applications over a period of time. Do you see a peak that you can correlate to an event? Second you can formulate a question or hypotheses and try to answer/proof by data. E.g. why do we see so many people quit their job after 5 years.
  3. You can always try to connect to additonal external data sources (weather reports, Twitter trends, …). The example was customer satisfaction on a cruise. It gave two different results with the same crew and captain. One week was good and one week was bad weather.

Luckily workhacks was offered a second time by Lydia Schültken:


The risk is that these are just used as quick fixes and the true root cause is not understood. Let’s say you do frog days (Krötentage), but your organization is constantly at 120% load. This won’t solve the problem, but just the symptoms. The good thing about workhacks is that they are completely voluntary and are small enough that there’s a fair chance of behavioral change. Workhacks are definitely an item for my creative backlog.

My last session for the day was on WeCall, a daily phone conference. Dagmar and I shared the benefits of this format. Soon the session became just a jam session on corporate change, education and society.

Day 2 started with a session from Anna Kaiser from Tandemploy. Her session was on reducing silos and increasing flexibility in workplaces. While I knew tandemploy only as job sharing platform, I learned that its matching algorithm can also be used to connect mentees to mentors and allow people to find others for their projects. I do see a lot of benefits for the company (e.g. redundancy of knowhow, scalability of resources) as well as for employees (e.g. adjust working hours to life needs, self-organization). I don’t think my company is ready anytime soon for a jobsharing model. One of the reasons is certainly headcount related. Anna asked a valid question: Who do we still count heads? Does anybody know the reason why headcounts exist and maybe the benefit of it?

Since some people showed interest in corporate change and grassroots initiatives, I decided to run a session on company pirates. I shared how we are establishing a community of innovators, what helps (e.g. open space format, make it voluntary, apply lean startup, …) and what are obstacles (e.g. priority conflicts with ongoing projects, budget, …). I got some interesting insights and thoughts by the questions that had been asked and the emerging discussion:

  • By linking it to a corporate priority I have the benefit that nobody openly wants to defeat this initiative. So this is kind of a shelter.
  • Some attendees explained that I’m doing a form of organizational development. I establish a network structure. By this I might tread on somebody’s foot, e.g. an organizational developer in HR. This at least sensitized me to look for potential threads.
  • The most interesting question was if our approach could bring out disruptive innovation. I’m sure some people can have disruptive ideas. I’m not sure if these ideas can survive within the company, especially when they kill existing business models. It was an interesting discussion about maturities of businesses and if/when businesses should die. This discussion definitely was sticky and I guess I will process this in a future post.

After lunch Bianka from workonthebeach ran a session on blogging. Lots of great best practices and inputs in publishing, marketing and automation. We decided to start a BOL (blogging out loud) community and continue to help us to improve our writing skills and grow our blogs.

BOL (Blogging out loud)

I had to leave the event a bit earlier, so unfortunately I missed two sessions on blockchain and corporate disobedience. But I had a kind of extra session. I gave Juergen a ride to Bayreuth. He offered a session on ambidextrous organizations, the topic of his master thesis, that unfortunately nobody joined. This is about the ability balance between efficiency in operations and adaptability and flexibility for future market needs. We had an very good discussion about this very interesting, but obviously little known topic. I think this will become trending as this is a key capability of modern organizations. Another item for my creative backlog of articles.

With all these inputs and fresh perspectives, there’s only one question left. Did Alexa tell me how to lead a team? No she didn’t. And I don’t think she will do anytime soon. However, I think Alexa could be a huge benefit in companies when we are trying to access knowledge or data. How long do you search for informations today? It can easily take from a few minutes to several hours. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could ask questions like „Who are the 10 1k$ customers that ordered my product from Jul 1st to Sep 29?“ or „What is the average cycle time of all projects in the last 10 years?“ and get an answer in a few seconds? Let me know your thoughts!

PS: If you are looking for another perspective, have a look at Anna Brandes‘ blog. Also let me know if you have/know of other summaries and I’ll link them here.

3 Kommentare

  1. Thanks, Tobias.
    In my opinion, You do not need to invest in WoL, unlesss You want to experience it „for others“.
    I already did and was not very exited.
    Why? At the end of the 12 weeks, the average corporate worker is, where You were years ago.
    This helped my to understand the Hype:
    And to understand the misunderstanding of AI, this certainly helps:

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