The Digital Workplace & The Platinum Rule

We know the golden rule – ‘treat others as you want to be treated.’  However, as we have better come to understand the diversity of people we have also come to realise there is a better standard.  The platinum rule is ‘treat others as they want to be treated’. The platinum rule should be at the heart of any digital workplace plans. After all, the digital workplace should not meet your needs, it should meet all needs. 

Diverse Needs

I’m not a huge fan of the GIF.  I generally prefer to express something myself because ironic or cultural references can easily go astray. Also easy to use distracting shorthand can often get in the way of effective communication, especially in work contexts. However, I understand that the use of GIFs presents an opportunity for pop culture references, humour, irony, emotional and shorthand exchange. All these help build connection and deepen a sense of shared community. 

I don’t need GIFs to be embedded in every social media platform, but I can understand why they are there. When I hear examples of organizations using GIFs for employee communication and learning, I know that intrapreneurs and Change Agents are leveraging differences to creative ends. 

Building a digital workplace platform for my needs alone would be a mistake. Too many digital workplace strategies are targeted at one user, often a proxy for the manager’s preferences hidden behind a series of employee personas. They fail to account for the diversity of experience, capability, preferences and working style of a real and ever changing base of employees and partners. 

A Platform for All

The platinum rule is important in the design of your digital workplace because it can take you to valuable places far beyond the comfort zone of you, your managers and even your employees. 

One of the key challenges of any digital workplace is ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘unknown unknowns’ are surprisingly common when introducing new technologies into work patterns & processes. Lock too much down to the needs of one user or a few users and you will miss the ability to adapt and experiment as proficiency and understanding goes. In many cases, employees cannot tell you what they want or will do when they start. Like me when first confronted by a GIF, they go ‘why would I use that?’  

Experimentation and discovery is critical to any digital workplace because it is a way to surface what employees need and support those needs as they evolve. That’s how you remain able to fulfil the platinum rule. Except your job is not to decide for employees what they can and can’t do. You do your job by enabling employees to discover and meet their own changing needs. 

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