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Steve Jobs Taught Me That Before Employees Can Be Creative, They Have to Feel Psychologically Safe

By Daniel Krivens // Quartz // 10:19 AM ET

Then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrates the new iPhone during his keynote address at MacWorld Conference in 2007.
Then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrates the new iPhone during his keynote address at MacWorld Conference in 2007. // Paul Sakuma/AP File Photo

I was once in a meeting with Steve Jobs where he admitted he has been wrong. I was involved in the design of the common dining area at the Pixar atrium at the time, and it was an awesome trust-building moment for the team. We were discussing the look of the exposed steel beams and how they should relate to the overall design.

Suddenly, Jobs stood up and started pacing around the front of the room, questioning the founding aesthetic direction he had set not just for the steel, but for the whole building. He asked us, “Is this aesthetic we’ve chosen the right story we want to tell?”

Jobs took time to re-examine his rational and, in doing so, set an example of how it’s OK to share doubt, even if it makes us look imperfect. Sharing that moment of vulnerability modeled what successful teamwork really felt like; strength is being able to reveal one’s vulnerability so we can all work better together.

Workplaces should be engines where new ideas are rapidly exchanged and tested, but great conversations and teamwork won’t thrive when you’re not feeling supported and psychologically safe. The need to feel...

Low-Skill Workers Aren’t Actually the Ones Most Threatened by Robots

By Dan Kopf // Quartz // June 26, 2017

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There are a lot of jobs that can only be completed with significant training, but don’t involve much critical thinking once the skill is learned—machine operators and office clerks, for examples. And in rich countries, they are on the cusp of becoming endangered.

Thanks primarily to automation, and to a lesser extent globalization, no rich country’s middle-skilled workers are safe.

A recently released report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a Paris-based economic forum for rich nations, found across OECD-member countries, the share of workers in middle-skill jobs fell from 49 percent in 1995 to under 40 percent in 2015.

The decline of the middle-skill job is not necessarily bad news. About 80 percent of those lost middle-skill jobs have been replaced by high-skill jobs, like managers and scientists. (OECD characterizes high-skill jobs as involving “complex cognitive tasks” not frequently repeated.) This trend has been great for young people who attended university, but hard on older workers who held middle skill jobs who don’t want to go back to school. One industry where middle-skill jobs were almost entirely replaced by high-skill ones is financial services. Clerical workers in those industries have been replaced by...

One Tiny Detail at Companies like SpaceX, Google and Airbnb Speaks Volumes About Their Culture

By Leah Fessler // Quartz // June 26, 2017

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Two weeks ago, in an act of somewhat desperate symbolism, Uber board member Arianna Huffington announced the ride-sharing service was renaming its “War Room” the “Peace Room” as part of a broader effort to reform its tarnished image. Name swaps alone won’t help Uber recover from allegations of widespread discrimination and harassment. But the change does highlight the way the names of conference rooms can reveal a lot about a company’s culture.

Sarah Brazaitis, an organizational psychologist and senior lecturer at Columbia’s Teachers College, says themed conference room names are tied to the rise of open-office layouts. Both elements of office design aim to inspire collaboration, innovation and happiness among employees.

“In contrast to cold, hierarchical, spaces where labor happens, village-like offices are designed to tie individuals closer to the organization’s identity,” Brazaitis says. “Companies that name their conference and meeting rooms according to themes are doing so to communicate their values and organizational culture to their employees, customers, clients and all who enter.”

Much like kitchen cleanliness and desk decor, conference room names are an easy way to gauge a company’s priorities—and an opportunity to assess whether the organization is actually living up...

Google Is Positioning its New Job-Search Product as an Effort to Save America

By Sarah Kessler // Quartz // June 21, 2017

Flickr user Niharb

Before Google CEO Pichai Sundar announced the launch of a new search feature at the company’s annual conference for developers on May 18, he shared a statistic: “46 percent of U.S. employers say they face talent shortages and have issues filling open job positions.”

He went on to describe how Google could help. “While job seekers may be looking for openings right next door, there’s a big disconnect here…. We want to better connect employers and job seekers through a new initiative, Google for Jobs.” The feature improves the company’s search engine results for jobs by aggregating listings from sites such as LinkedIn, Careerbuilder, and Monster.

USA Today’s exclusive story on Google’s announcement about jobs on May 17 presaged the theme of Sundar’s presentation with the headline “Google to launch Google for Jobs to help Americans find work.” And on May 19, Google reiterated the positioning again with a blog post announcing the new feature, titled “Connecting more Americans with jobs.”

Google has positioned “Google for Jobs” not as a new product, but as an effort to help America.

The branding fits into a messaging trend that has spread across U.S. companies...

New Technology Allows Companies to Do Away With Hiring and Just Buy Our Skills Online

By Sarah Kessler // Quartz // June 19, 2017

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Fredrik Thomassen, the founder of a newly launched startup called Konsus, calls his site “a full e-commerce experience.”

Konsus, based in Palo Alto, California, doesn’t sell t-shirts, or cars, or the latest tech gadgets—it sells work.

Through its website, clients can buy web design or research work for $35 per hour. Powerpoint work costs $29 per hour, and LinkedIn lead generation costs $19. To purchase, clients select an item from the menu, drop in the relevant information, and click “get started now.” Konsus finds a freelancer to complete the project. There’s no negotiation, no sorting through resumes, and no requesting quotes. The goal of Konsus—and increasingly, online work marketplaces in general—is to make hiring freelancer workers as easy as placing products into an online shopping cart.

Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 2.57.50 PM
Konsus sells work through a one-click process intended to feel like ecommerce. (Konsus)

Websites for hiring freelance workers, such as Upwork, Fiverr, Envato, and TaskRabbit, emphasize tools for searching though workers by category, much like browsing through a catalog of products. In some cases, they automatically surface specific workers to fill projects who can be hired on the spot—no application necessary. At others, such as Cloudfactory, routine, back...