In 2003, Michael Lewis published Moneyball: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Lewis’s book popularized the concept of sports analytics with his story of how the Oakland Athletics used data in unconventional ways to create a winning team, despite being vastly outspent to acquire talent.
This use of data to explore new options and strategies for organizations has informed management consulting practices for the past century. However, with the recent emphasis on “big data,” complex data sets that overwhelm traditional processing applications have become increasingly relevant in understanding organizational performance. IBM’s recent $1.3 billion acquisition of the Human Resources firm Kenexa, which specializes in data mining for understanding talent acquisition and retention, shows how important “big data analytics” are for organizations in thinking about the future of work.
Workplace surveys are typically used to understand the performance of a range of issues, from ergonomics to employee satisfaction. However, surveys have their flaws, due to how and when people take them. Long surveys intended to capture opinions can be time consuming for employees to take. Everything from the time of day to whether someone is hungry or tired can influence responses and skew data.
At Perkins+Will, we’ve been exploring the use of mobile technology in developing applications to better understand organizational performance, specifically in relation to space. And we’re using ourselves as the test subjects. In San Francisco, we have been testing and refining mobile applications designed for the iPhone to understand how frequently individuals use space, who they’re working with, and what kinds of tools they are using. Through the collection of this data we’ve been able to paint a more nuanced picture of how the workplace is used over the course of a day.
For example, mobile polling data showed that a majority of collaboration occurred in groups of three to five people. As a result, we have been able to allocate meeting spaces in our design that support groups of that size. The collection of this data has not only helped us think about our new workspace; we can also leverage these insights into best practice recommendations for many of our clients.
Ultimately, polling applications offer a new approach to thinking about the process of collecting opinions, not to mention garner richer data.
- Apps allow for short surveys to be sent out over the course of the day.
- Smartphone touch screen interfaces enable quick, intuitive responses. Participants can answer survey questions in less than 15 seconds.
- A shorter survey and a more intuitive interface can spur survey participation as well as capture data throughout the day, thus correcting bias that might exist if the survey were only taken once.
- Applications can take advantage of capabilities that exist on a common smartphone. Specific question sets can be triggered when individuals enter specific rooms or even interact with one another. This enables us to not only understand how spaces are utilized, but to probe deeper about workplace interactions.
It is this last point that ultimately holds the most potential in terms of how we are moving forward in tapping the potential of mobile technology. While we architects frequently talk about using sensors to make smart buildings, we also know this technology can extend beyond buildings to inform all of the aspects that inform the workspace. We’re continuing to leverage this accessible technology in new ways— to understand organizational performance and ultimately create smarter, better-performing organizations.
This post authored by Paul Schuette.