Dawna Jones is the author of “Decision-Making for Dummies”, co-author of international bestseller “Hierarchy to High Performance” and host of the “Inspirational Insights Podcast”. In July of 2021, Mike Petrusky hosted a webinar called “Every Space Counts in the New Workplace” during which Dawna explored the role workspace plays in good decision-making, finding places for focused and creative work, breaking down cross-functional silos and creating a more innovative environment to drive transformational success. Check out this audio edit of the broadcast and then download the video of their full conversation to find out how office environments enable productivity, can create a feeling of well-being, and help your employees achieve more!
Ep. 173: Every Space Counts in the New Workplace & Good Decision-Making
Full Episode Transcript
Dawna Jones: So I think there’s an opportunity to really use space to set up some exchanges across silos and make it a part of just coming back, reframing, resetting, and just reestablishing connections where they may not have been before.
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Mike Petrusky: Hey folks, and welcome to Workplace Innovator Live. I’m your host, Mike Petrusky, but you know, you can call me DJ Mike P. I am thrilled you’re here and joining me today from north of the border in Vancouver up in Canada, I am thrilled to welcome Dawna Jones. Hey Dawna.
Dawna Jones: Hey, nice to be here. Thank you.
Mike Petrusky: Well, it’s great to have you. I am so excited for this conversation around, not just the headline here, how every space counts in the new workplace, but Dawna, you have experience and expertise about human beings and decision- making and how we can all come to this next frontier in the workplace with some understanding and inspiration. And I’m counting on you to deliver that today. No pressure, right? You feeling good?
Dawna Jones: I’m feeling great. Hopefully, I can fill that bill, but you know.
Mike Petrusky: No, we’re going to have a great time. And Dawna, let me give you a more proper introduction. You are a design ecologist and an author and you’re also a podcast host, so, tell me about that. What is a design ecologist? And tell me about the books and this podcast you host.
Dawna Jones: Well the podcast has been running since 2008 and that had everything to do with the observation that we weren’t evolving fast enough to meet the challenges of the day. I noticed that when I was… I’m a professional facilitator by trade and so I was doing some work and I noticed that we were just getting incremental change when we really needed something more radical. So, that’s where the podcast came in. It’s starting to look at everything through the lens of systems, complexity, nature’s principles, in other words, distilling it down to some core principles. So that’s how that started. And then yes, in 2014 I wrote Decision Making for Dummies, which was sort of like a compendium of all the facilitation experience multi- party stakeholder work I’d done and quite a bit of that. So, that’s that. And I ended up just deciding decision ecologist or design ecologist, whichever one… it sort of captures the port, that’s the doorway that we can make the biggest impact. And so I sort of framed it up around ecology because everything is interrelated. Any decision anybody makes has an impact, whether you notice it or not, or pay attention to it or not. And quite a few of these decisions that we’ve been seeing during the pandemic have not been entirely thought through, at least in terms from an impact point of view. So same we’re talking about going back to the workplace decision- making is the highest leverage point. How can we really use the decisions we make individually and collectively to really do things differently?
Mike Petrusky: So good and so true, Dawna. I have so many thoughts about this and we’re going to talk about it all, not just the practical areas of designing the right space with the right features that will allow human beings to be their best, most productive selves, but this idea of decisions and flexible working and agile spaces and also managing people in a hybrid environment. You’ve got some that will be onsite human being sitting next to you. Others will be joining via Zoom or other type of call. Is it even possible to manage a distributed workforce when half is out there and half is right there with you? So many of these questions I have been debating in my own mind and doing a lot of discussion around it here on the show. And because of that challenge, I know we have to get ourselves into the right mindset. So, I asked you to share an inspirational quote and you got a good one here from, is this guy a jazz trumpeter down from New Orleans?
Dawna Jones: Yeah, he’s a musician. I don’t know actually where he’s from. He’s going to be based out of LA because they all are it seems, but yeah, this is Terrance inaudible. I found this in Fast Company one day and basically the quote is, ” I’ve always believed that the universe will put things in front of you and how you react will determine your future.” And frankly, I selected that quote because I think that’s where we are right now. That’s where we’ve been ever since the pandemic hit. You’ve got a lovely interruption to life’s routine and life’s patterns and you get to decide what do I do with this and how do I react? And what can I learn from this? How much more of who I am can I bring forward because I’m faced with the situation? So, going back to the workplace, it’s a template for more of that kind of an awareness, more of that kind of more conscious decisions around how we react to what we encounter.
Mike Petrusky: I love that. And I love music too. Anybody who listens to this show knows that that is my happy place, listening to music. In fact, when I was a kid I was a trumpet player. Thank you. So when you mentioned this guy, I hadn’t heard of him and I pulled him up on my Spotify right away. So Terrence and I will be spending some time together as we jam. And before we get too far, I’ve got to mention this. When we first met Dawna, I think it was either on one of the workplace evolutionary mosh pits, or maybe at the IFMA inaudible brain trust collaboration. But, you popped up on my screen and somebody mentioned your name, or maybe you said your name was Dawna. And I don’t know if you know this. I grew up in Northern New Jersey. So at first I thought, oh, it’s Donna D- O- N- N- A, but she pronounces it like I used to hear my friends in high school pronounced Dawna, but no, it’s actually Dawna with a W which is fantastic. Where’s that name from? Is that a Canadian name?
Dawna Jones: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s just what happens when you are born at 4: 00 AM and you’ve got a last name of Jones and you need to do something creative at the front end, otherwise you’ll inaudible. The big joke is my sister- in- law is D- O- N- N- A so she married into the Jones part but there you go. So yeah, that’s the best story I’ve got for you on that.
Mike Petrusky: I love it. I love it, Donna and Dawna, but again, the New Jersey accent coming through. So everybody out there let’s set the stage and hear from Dawna as far as where you think we are today heading into the fall of 2021. And we’ve been talking about all of these changes in the world of work, hybrid work, returning to offices safely, giving people the tools and the strategy and the comfort they need to get back to some type of a new experience. And I want to hear your thoughts on this. Where do you think we are today and what’s coming next?
Dawna Jones: Okay. Well, first of all, where I think we are today is coming back into a fresh slate. We can design what we want and so fresh eyes would be the stance I would suggest we’re taking when you’re going back into the workplace. So it’s very much human centered. We’ve got much more awareness I hope for wellbeing. Creating well- being spaces, creating spaces designed around the environment rather than just functionality like meeting room here and sitting room here. But more what environment do we want to create because the decisions that anybody makes are based on the environment they’re in. And that’s a very big picture. We’ll get into that further but, just to say that I think we’re in a creative spot where we can actually design the experience not just from a facility management point of view, but from a much wider, more holistic approach to what’s it going to take for people to feel well, stay well, be comfortable, be highly productive in an environment where there’s some new elements thrown in. Are they vaccinated? Are they not vaccinated? All of those questions that evoke different responses in people. I think this is going to be a definite place for facility managers to perform a leadership role more so than ever before. And I think that’s extremely exciting. So there’s going to be some tentative coming back in, but my hope is that people will come in with fresh new eyes on how space, what space does and that every corner counts. That you have in the title of this conversation was just great because it does speak to rethinking the corners, rethinking how we use space. Before you’ve got little cubicles and whatnot, but now we’ve got a greater need for people to have a sense of belonging, a sense of trust, even though the conditions are such that the trust may be fragile. It may be a place where I’m not quite sure what the situation is going to be here. So, tremendous opportunity that’s what I see. I see some experiments being run. I see a different version of how space gets used and more focused on creating environments versus functioning, pure functionality. Because that has a direct impact on wellbeing decision- making and cross- functional conversations. In fact, one of the things I love to see speaking to crossing silos and whatnot is social spaces that are allowed, are there for people to go and visit other people socially. And that could be done in whatever that looks like, but those connections get made. Really the operative word right now is connection. And that’s connection at a human level. It’s not connection on your wifi or are you connected on Facebook or whatever? No, this is real human connection so asking those questions that reveal care, they’re centered in care. And so I think there’s an opportunity to really use space to set up some exchanges across silos and make it a part of just coming back, reframing, resetting, and just re- establishing connections where they may not have been before. A bit of a reset.
Mike Petrusky: I like that a lot and that philosophy aligns with what we’ve been hearing from the experts in our industry. It seems like everybody’s honed in on this idea of flexibility and choice. I know that human beings want to have control. I know I do. I want to be able to make my choices and be in control of how I work best and how I’m feeling, not just in general, but that particular day or that even hour of the day, it varies from moment to moment for me during the pandemic experience. But there’s a flip side of that, right, what I call the paradox. There’s this other side where too much freedom, too much choice could become potentially problematic. And that’s where good decision- making comes into play. Let’s talk about your expertise in the fact that these choices and these strategies and developing these policies for what comes next in the future workplace is going to require some decision- making on both the side of the leaders. And then now if we’re putting more control into the hands of the employee, they have to make choices and decisions. Talk about that framework and maybe some of the potential pitfalls.
Dawna Jones: All right. That’s a big basket. I’m going to talk about the ones that I’ve been always excited about with respect to how space gets used. And one of them is going back to your sound conversation. So in 2009, I interviewed Mark Romero who was a CEO of a semiconductor firm. It was killing him and his partner at one point just said,” Hey, stop. Stop doing this, do what you love.” And he started playing music and he then had a quantum physicist come up and say,” Look, there’s some quality about your music that’s very interesting.” They went into the lab and they discovered that his music brought the body into coherence meaning you feel better. Now you don’t even have to be listening to it consciously; it can be running in the background. So that’s the use of sound and music. You sound like you’re listening to some Latin music, but it’s actually bringing you into alignment. It’s making you stronger as an individual. That’s a way better place to be making your decisions from. Far better than feeling pulled around in multiple directions. Mentally, feeling the emotion and the space, but not necessarily perceiving it. If you can actually create the space to be well from the get- go just using some background sound that you don’t even have to know is running, then I think that’s one way to use space. So, that’s a bit of an innovation. He hasn’t had any receptivity in the corporate side of it. I think it’s time. That conversation happened in 2009 so I think it’s time. And, and I think it’s an easy way to create a really good ambient space for better decision- making right across the board, personal organizational team at every level. So that’s one simple thing. Looking at functionality, the other one that comes to mind is lighting. And again, this goes back to when I was writing Decision Making for Dummies, I found a research paper that was done in 1998. Could it be something updated since then? I saw an article from Psychology Today that dove in more to from that point of view. But most of these offices are lit with the older fluorescence and the older fluorescence have been shown to at least in some individuals compromise brainwave states. So, most offices run on beta. They’re task, task, task, do, do, do and that’s a very high stress level. And so you want people to be able to chill. You want to be able, especially if you’re asking them for innovation or creativity, you really want them to be able to kind of go into a place of relaxation and in order to stay well, you have to do that anyway. So, basically what they’re finding out is certainly they’re finding out that some of the people that are on the stress- related illness list are there because of the lighting. It’s not working for them. There’s too much EMF, electromagnetic frequency bouncing off those lights. I met up with a guy down near Santa Cruz, actually, who was an electrical engineer who had gone into energy healing. And that’s all of what he was dealing with was pretty much people that were in pain. This was in 2012. People who were in pain from stuff in the workplace. So I think that’s another opportunity. Again, and then the third thing is with respect to decision- making is that we’ve got different styles. We’ve got extroverts, we’ve got introverts and we’ve got a lot of noise in the workplace. I would love to see a space set aside where people can just go and be still for a bit. Clear the noise because you cannot hear. Personal and organizational intuition cannot surface when you’re in think, think, think, think mode. It can only surface when you’ve got a quiet space. It’s like a little whispers. You can’t hear the whispers when there’s a train going by, so you really want to be able to have these open spaces that are… we used to have this when I was delivering leadership programs years ago. We created a little, I called it a meditation room, but you don’t have to call it that. It was just a space where people could go in, it was quiet and they could just kind of go and you would have all sorts of managers come down and just go in that room and just completely recalibrate preferably before you’re making a big decision because that’s how you stay in touch with both dimensions of decision- making my data as well as my intuitive instinct for what makes sense.
Mike Petrusky: Yeah, it all makes sense to me and I think our audience would agree that we do need these different types of spaces to move us into the right mindset for making decisions, for being creative, for being innovative. How do we do it in a hybrid environment, Dawna, if some people are hesitant to return to the office setting and they can’t be there in person with their team? Do you have any suggestions, ideas, strategies around achieving these outcomes of innovation and creativity while we’re not necessarily sitting next to each other in a conference room?
Dawna Jones: Yeah. Well, first of all, my instinct says that a lot of those people that don’t want to come back either it’s for long commutes, but some of them are going to be introverts and quite a few of them are going to be dealing with racial bias or diversity bias in the workplace. And it’s just you can do more when you’re not having to deal with all these other overlays that compromise yourself. So, if workplaces can be designed, the spaces can be designed so that the introverts have a place to just kind of chill, there’s a better environment set for the balance between I’m out, I’m in, the process and the way an introvert would process, I think that will go a long way toward inviting a lot of those people back in, not for full time. I don’t think that will work, but I certainly think for some of the time. I’m an introvert generally. When I go into social settings, I go home and if I’m on a road trip, for example, because I do quite a bit of work internationally. And when I come home, I’ve got to take about a week and I don’t want to talk to anybody. So it’s very much a place to recharge and there’s a natural fluency with that. And I think that we need to respect that.
Mike Petrusky: And all those things being true, it’s kind of wrapped up in the culture of an organization and the effectiveness of management and leadership and that’s what we’re trying to get to as a place where humans can be empathetic, trustworthy leaders that don’t just take the shortcut or don’t just go to the easy answer of we’re going to do it this way and I’m going to tell you what’s best for you. It takes more effort to give people choice with guard rails, with intentionality and to guide us along. But that’s what leadership is from my perspective anyway and a good leader is one that takes time to understand the employee, the people on their team and doesn’t just rush to a conclusion based on their own bias, their own perspective. We all have different views. Let’s be empathetic. Let’s be understanding and let’s be kind to one another. And I can’t go too far, Dawna, without talking more about music. Workplace Innovator live is something we get the chance to do and I asked you to share your favorite music and you honed in on this movie that I’ve heard about, but I’ve never seen it. So tell us what Sing is all about and then we’ll talk about a couple of the songs you like.
Dawna Jones: It’s just the cutest thing. They’re doing a Sing 2 and you’ve got a whole bunch of people who in this case animals, as you can see, who are… think they’ve got potential. They want to express themselves but they all have very different styles and basically it’s the story of how they bring their voices forward. And I think if we look at that as a metaphor for what we’re in today, there’s a lot of needs that have not been met by the previous workplace design and this is the opportunity to hear and listen for those needs. Going back to people that are staying at home instead of coming in
Mike Petrusky: And the gorilla is doing a song here by Elton John, I’m Still Standing, right?
Dawna Jones: Yeah, which is a good theme song.
Mike Petrusky: Great lyric. Great’80s tune that I know very well and a great theme as you tied it together with what’s going on in the world. You want to sing it with me? Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did.
Dawna Jones: Looking like a true survivor.
Mike Petrusky: Feeling like a little kid.
Dawna Jones: I’m still standing all this time.
Mike Petrusky: Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind. I’m still standing. Everybody. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Great stuff. That’s what we need folks to get into this challenging time ahead, keep the optimism flowing and a little upbeat music is something we can all embrace. Thanks for doing that, Dawna, playing along. Thanks so much.
Dawna Jones: Thank you.
Mike Petrusky: This has been fantastic. I appreciate you taking time to be on the Workplace Innovator Podcast.
Dawna Jones: My pleasure. Wonderful, great fun.
Mike Petrusky: And thank you all for joining us today. I hope that you found what Dawna had to share to be inspirational. Certainly I learned a thing or two and we’ll continue to work together as human beings trying to navigate the next frontier in the world of work and the workplace. We need to encourage each other to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee- centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iofficecorp.com.
Connect with Dawna on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dawnahjones/
Watch the full hour-long video with Dawna and Mike: https://www.teem.com/webinar-download-every-space-counts-in-the-new-workplace
Learn more about Dawna’s books & podcast: http://www.frominsighttoaction.com/
Discover free resources and explore past interviews at: https://www.workplaceinnovator.com/
Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/
Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com