Expanding the Digital Radius of Action Instead of Worshipping Physical Presence

Instead of calling for presence again after this long phase of forced distributed work, now would be the perfect time to decouple the employees' radius of action from their physical presence and to consistently expand it into virtual space.

A cap­tain needs his crew on board just as much as the chess mas­ter needs his chess pieces on the board. Now, after the first wave of the pan­dem­ic has abat­ed, these nar­ra­tives of cult of pres­ence are lead­ing to a con­sid­er­able amount of per­sua­sion to lure employ­ees from the home office into the open-plan office. There is one argu­ment that is par­tic­u­lar­ly pop­u­lar: ran­dom encoun­ters allow for hap­py coin­ci­dences, short con­sul­ta­tions and per­haps even new ideas.

Of course, humans are social beings and like to inter­act in groups. In this respect, the office also ful­fills this func­tion and quite a few employ­ees are drawn to it pre­cise­ly for this rea­son. Whether this makes the work eas­i­er, the employ­ees more cre­ative and the com­pa­ny more inno­v­a­tive is of course anoth­er question.

Luck is what hap­pens when prepa­ra­tion meets opportunity.


An undis­put­ed advan­tage of phys­i­cal pres­ence seems to be the abil­i­ty to run into each oth­er, to start a con­ver­sa­tion, from which a good idea or a new solu­tion is born. I hope we all have seen that hap­pen. And we have often expe­ri­enced lone­li­ness in the home office, espe­cial­ly in recent weeks and months. Time spent togeth­er in the office cre­ates the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a hap­py coin­ci­dence. So far, so good.

But our phys­i­cal pres­ence is also always lim­it­ed to our very lim­it­ed radius of action in the form of one floor in an office build­ing. So it is always the same peo­ple who phys­i­cal­ly meet. This is also an effect of humans as social beings with a strong desire to belong to a group. Phys­i­cal pres­ence thus rein­forces the silos or at least does not com­bat the silo think­ing that is harm­ful to dig­i­tal and agile trans­for­ma­tion.

One can also cross paths in vir­tu­al space. Many peo­ple expe­ri­ence this every day in social media. Although this vir­tu­al space is exist­ing in many com­pa­nies in the form of an enter­prise social net­work, it is often either orphaned or, accord­ing to Con­way’s Law, a repli­ca of the large and small silos of the organization.

Any orga­ni­za­tion that designs a sys­tem (defined broad­ly) will pro­duce a design whose struc­ture is a copy of the organization’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion structure.

Conway’s Law

The cri­sis would now also offer the chance not to fall back into the famil­iar pat­tern best described as cult of pres­ence, but to con­scious­ly expand the radius of action of the indi­vid­ual into the vir­tu­al space of the Enter­prise Social Net­work and oth­er plat­forms (Slack, MS Teams, etc.). In this way peo­ple from dif­fer­ent silos could meet each oth­er much bet­ter and come up with real­ly inno­v­a­tive and over­ar­ch­ing ideas for digitalization.

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