A little guide to inbox etiquette

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© Suzanne Jutzeler

By Raphaël Bonnet

The average office worker spends 30% of their time answering emails, without always knowing how to go about it: the exchange of intangible, out-of-context messages is a peculiar way to communicate, and its rules difficult to grasp… But ignore them at your own peril!

It’s 9 p.m. on a Friday night, and you’re about to send the last of a long, soul-destroying string of emails. But then you get that niggling doubt: “kind regards” or just “regards”? Or maybe a less uptight “all the best”, or simply “best”? You’re not sure. Who are you writing to, exactly? Perhaps you were a bit heavy-handed with that mailing list… Someone once told you about the art of “blind carbon copy”, or “bcc”; but shouldn’t it be used with parsimony, for those special relationships of trust? You wouldn’t want to be misunderstood, or ignored, or hated, or mocked! …


The trouble with Marie Kondo’s “art of decluttering”

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Unsplash

By Samuel Lacroix

Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has prompted people across the world to declutter their homes and offices, whilst catapulting its author to guru status… But if we follow Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of art, this new obsession with order could come at the cost of creativity.

“Gosh! Your desk is such a mess! If it gets any worse, I’ll have to call Marie Kondo!” The name alone sends shivers down my spine. For if my colleague follows up on her threat, I might lose it all: the piled up coffee cups, the unread postcards from my grandmother, the crumpled ping-pong ball that’s been lying there for years… Not to mention the dozens of A4 sheets of paper covered in scrawled notes, which might — or might not — come in handy one day. …


The limits of catastrophism

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Joshuah Sortino / Unsplash

By Anne-Sophie Moreau

People’s trust in their institutions and in the future is growing thin, a recent McKinsey survey has found. Why? And what is to be done? Caught between sterile alarmism and passive acceptance, Western democracies are in need of a common vision.

In his essay on “trust”, the German sociologist Niklas Luhman describes it as “an elementary situation of the social life”, without which we would struggle to get out of bed in the morning. This is a fundamental, almost metaphysical faith in the world, that allows us to engage in it without fear. In more prosaic terms, economists talk about “consumer confidence”, with which we continue to spend without a care for the morrow, and quite consistently too. Even the French, who regularly top global pessimism rankings, continue to exceed market expectations. Talk of terrorism and global warming hasn’t kept them off the high street; nor are they indulging in pre-apocalyptic mass debauchery. So what happened to the end of the world? …


What did I miss?

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Gilles Lambert / Unsplash

By Mathilde Ramadier

The fear of missing out (“Fomo”) can cast a dark shadow on both our work and private life, no matter how “connected” we are. So how can we overcome this feeling of angst? And how can we rediscover the joys of solitude without feeling lonely?

Summer has arrived. You’re on holiday with your family in a nice countryside cottage, and you’ve sworn to “switch off”… But you just can’t help it: every morning you check your work inbox (“just in case”), open Facebook robotically, and follow Whatsapp group chats about ongoing projects, even though you have an assistant to take care of everything at the office… You’re not a control freak — in fact you complain about how addicted we’ve become to our devices –, but deep down you’re still afraid to press the “off” button. …


The rise of the inner clock

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Adrien King / Unsplash

By Sophie Gherardi

The days when everyone was present and available at work have become few and far between… But this isn’t so much due to working hours as a disparity in work rhythm. Here’s why.

One morning, around 9 o’clock, two colleagues have the following discussion :

-I’m knackered… I feel like I’m working seven days a week.

-The key word here is feel. You might be stressed out about work seven days a week, but that doesn’t mean you actually work seven days a week.

-Well, I need to keep up to date with what’s going on, keep an eye on the competition, discuss things with…


When jargon gets nasty

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Unsplash

By Jack Fereday

Corporate newspeak isn’t just an aesthetic scourge, it’s a moral one too: by allowing us to intimidate and deceive, the use of unnecessary jargon reinforces implicit power relations. Here’s the case for plain language.

“A paradigm for benchmarking lean initiatives”, “an incentive-driven blockchain market”, “a design-led horizontal market”. One of these phrases comes from an online corporate bullshit generator (of which there are surprisingly many). But which one? If you can’t quite tell, or if you think you know but have no clue what the other two mean, or if you sometimes hesitate for a second before clicking the “I am not a robot” box, then it’s time we had a conversation about corporate jargon — and how it’s contaminating our everyday vocabulary. Everyone agrees: it has become a bit of a plague lately, but few would consider themselves among the culprits. Yet without our tacit consent, most of these empty buzzwords would die a natural death, instead of being thrown around like sweets at a pantomime. So how did the English language get so far out of hand? …


Companies in the age of itchy feet

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Austin Neill / Unsplash

By Anne-Sophie Moreau

As society gradually continues to grow into a cluster of independent individuals, companies increasingly struggle to get employees to be fully engaged at work. Work, once a lifelong occupation, is fast dissolving into a series of temporary and and abstract relations. Yet we still yearn for commitment, in love and at work. How can we rediscover a more tangible form and long-term form of freedom which, according to the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, holds the key to self-fulfilment?

They say romantic love lasts three years. And at work? How many harsh words and rejected suggestions can you put up with before your enthusiasm implodes like a French soufflé? We’ve all been there: suddenly, you lose the will to give your best — if you ever had it in the first place… Of course, some alliances are merely circumstantial. Employees can be bound to employers for financial reasons, or because it’s in their interest to do so for the time being. Eternal bachelors have Tinder; slashers have their temporary contract. But at the end of the day, it’s hard not to expect anything from the work we do. You might well have negotiated a nice salary and told yourself to just “think about the money”; when you first show up at work, it’s hard to repress that jittery feeling that you might be happy this time, and that the old you, once sluggish and disengaged, might finally hatch into one of those radiant individuals who can’t wait to get to the office in the morning. …


How to collect multiple intelligences

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Giuseppe Mondi / Unsplash

By Jack Fereday

Talk of “collective intelligence” risks overshadowing the diverse nature of people’s intellectual abilities. To get the best out of your team, you’ll need to cater to multiple intelligences…

The 21st century will be shaped by collective intelligence. Forget Rembrandt’s Philosopher or Rodin’s Thinker — this is the era of collaboration; of noisy brainstorming sessions, open-source software, and bustling hackathons. You need a new marketing strategy? Gather your brightest recruits in a room with a whiteboard and an espresso machine, and let them work their magic — like the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who holds eccentric inventors captive in his dungeon so they can build him a flying car… Let your Steve Jobs rock the stage like solitary gurus — we know the real heroes are the multinational tech geeks who collaborate behind the scene. …


Maximise collective decisions… with Kenneth Arrow

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Edwin Andrade / Unsplash

By Raphaël Bonnet

In Social Choices and Individual Values (1951), a future Nobel prize in Economics challenged our confidence in voting as a solution to collective decision-making. For the enlightened manager, Kenneth Arrow’s work could carry some valuable lessons.

So you’ve decided to change the organisation of your department by introducing weekly meetings, and being a firm believer in democracy, you want to set a time and day that suits everyone. How? By putting it to the vote, of course! …


Put yourself in someone else’s place

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Unsplash

By Laure Dumont & Anne-Sophie Moreau

IN BRIEF

Design thinking is a method for collective innovation which focuses on the user’s needs.

WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

The method was born in California in the late 1960s, with the development of cognitive psychology and “user centered design”, which focuses not on the reasons consumers buy a product but on the difficulties they encounter whilst using it. It’s also closely related to the advent of computers: faced with the new, unexplored possibilities they offered, design thinking sought to gather experts from different fields to respond to the needs of users, and not just customers. The genius of Steve Jobs was that he implemented this approach intuitively, from the start. But for the last fifteen years, design thinking has been the object of academic teaching and research, most notably at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, also known as the “d.school”. …

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Philonomist

A philosophical look at business, economics and work

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