Many years ago I worked for Nokia. This was when it was big. Really big. Over 50% market share. It employed tens of thousands of people. Our main activity, as it is to so many other people in these corporate jobs, was meetings.
The vocabulary in a meeting is mix of industry words, company words, and buzzword statements that make you seem important. We would, as many other people in similar jobs, use this vocabulary throughout our meeting. Dragging ourselves through the process of a resolution of a meeting, often forgetting why we gathered there in the first place. Many of these meetings probably didn’t need to take place. They were poorly run. Usually lacking a agreed agenda, a clear purpose, or expected outcome. We seemed to take up an hour (that was the default on Outlook) of our time in it what seemed like a purposeless task.
It occurred to me after yet another day of meetings, that so much of the discussion could be potentially automated. We had so many buzzwords that just applying these randomly within broad themes could get you through the majority of meetings.
At the time Nokia in the UK was based about 40 minutes outside of London. Many of us commuted this route and it was here where I started to comprise the ‘Could Work Bot work?’ game. Over the years since I have returned to it periodically and updated. The final push I needed was its acceptance to the “How Will We Work”, exhibition at this years Vienna Biennale, curated by Anab Jain, who, also happens to be an old colleague from those Nokia days.
Closure Experiences and ‘Could Work Bot work?’
As many of you know I have been working on a project around endings called Closure Experiences for the last couple of years. The majority of this work is going to be shared in a book due to come out in June 2017, called Ends.
Alongside this, I have been investigating the issue of Closure Experiences in projects, teaching, lectures, workshops, and conference talks. ‘Could Work Bot work?’ is a design experiment that highlights techniques around endings. The particular technique that it uses is a process called Role Exit Technique, that Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh first shares in her book Becoming an Ex.
She describes how we start to think about leaving or ending a role (job, husband, wife, alcoholic, convict) after experiencing an event. We then look for subtle indicators that nudge and reinforce that decision. ‘Can Work Bot work?’ provides an event of reflection and a mechanism to expose doubts about a role by showing you how little or how much you are needed.
The technique is commonly used by Price Comparison Websites, who introduce a small amount of doubt in to a relationship with a service provider. Exposing those doubts through comparison and providing mechanisms to leave the relationship smoothly. These companies are some of the most successful in selling services though this technique.
The game ’Could Work Bot, work?’
In the game, you need to respond to discussions through random meeting phrases from cards.
As broad meeting themes emerge; somebody is having trouble with technology, play a theme card from the 'Appear Technically Challenged' theme. If it is a more general chatty part of the meeting, maybe people are talking about what they done at the weekend, play a card from the theme of 'Appear Personable'. Etc.
The point of the game is to get through as many cards in a meeting as possible without being found out that you are playing the game and with somewhat of your corporate ‘Humanness' intact.
If you get through 40+ cards, you really could walk out tomorrow. If its around 25+ cards, you are at risk and should update Linked-In. Only 10+ cards, suggests you're surprisingly needed. Who knew? And if you got found out pretty quick with 5 cards or under, maybe you should stick around, it might get better.
There are 49 cards in the pack. And 1 instruction card, with a helpful chart describing your situation.
After the “How Will We Work”, exhibition at this years Vienna Biennale, I might build additional packs and sell them. Then you can check and see if your own job is automatable?