Why play is good for business

The technologies and software you use at work need to be friction-free to unleash the best results.

Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Mac, enterprise, enterprise IT

If you’re having no fun at work, that’s a problem. And if your workplace culture is no fun, you’re probably already finding it hard to recruit and keep the best staff.

Workplace iPod culture

October 2001: Apple introduced the iPod, a product that quickly became iconic, boosted Mac market share, transformed the music industry and begat the iPad and iPhone.

January 2007: That’s when Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. He made one of his rare errors when doing so, describing it as just three things in one: “An iPod, a phone and an internet communicator." History now shows that iPhones are much more than three tools in one.

Both products sparked the big tech changes of the first 10 years of the century, when user interfaces and usability became tech, and tech became deeply embedded in daily life.

Sure, we all had Macs (well, most people had PCs), and later we all had iPods (and then iPhones) as well. However, as the internet moved from the box in the corner to the device in our pocket, and as the things we could do with those devices expanded, people became culturally connected with mobile.

This extended deep into the workplace, where Apple’s smartphone revolution forced the introduction of device-agnostic Bring Your Own Device culture.

One thing leads to another, of course, and today (as I often point out) Apple is in the enterprise, and employees demand choice when it comes to the tech they must use.

Putting employees at the center

History also shows that the emergence of smartphones at our cultural center has transformed – and continues to transform – how we do business. This has led to better business software, better business processes and what is often called an ‘iOS-ificaiton’ of working life.

That’s important, of course. After all, when did we begin believing that the tools we used had to be complicated and the way we did tasks had to be dull, just because we were at work?

Millennials won’t subscribe to those old models. They demand tools at work be as good as those they have at home, and they demand that the business applications they interact with are at least as frictionless as the ones they use at home.

It’s not just me saying this, I’ve pointed to umpteen reports making this claim.

Going where your customers are

Of course, business isn’t just about making sure you deliver the tools your employees want and will use – it’s also about ensuring you are where your customers are.

In smartphone terms, that means being an app, or in an app, or supported inside an app.

You don’t have to look very far for evidence, from IKEA’s innovative AR apps to the proliferation of Apple Business Chat, enterprises recognize that some of their customers are (like their employees) spending at least some of their existence on Apple’s devices.

It is possible that the most successful customer relationships are forged on Apple devices, given the higher engagement levels Apple users have with those devices. If you can make them part of your experience there, you have a direct line.

What about BIG business?

The world of enterprise culture isn’t entirely defined by the tech customers use or employees endure, it’s also about the vibrant market in enterprise business systems.

IBM is already deeply engaged in supporting Macs, both internally and for its external clients.  IBM CIO Fletcher Previn has shared his observation that Apple users are “happier and more productive,” citing statistics to support this claim. (It is interesting IBM recently also selected easy-to-use Slack for internal use, rather than choosing Microsoft Teams.)

SAP is another of the big names in business services that makes extensive use of Apple technology internally (internal Mac adoption has doubled during the last 15 months). The company this week released Privileges 1.5.0. This is a product from the Mac@SAP team that gives users Admin control of their Mac while also securing the overall enterprise environment.

There are many examples of big firms moving over to Apple’s solutions. What they all have in common is an understanding that the world of enterprise IT has changed, that work doesn’t need to be tedious or frustrating in order to have intrinsic value.

Indeed, a business built on the principle that if you are paying people to do something it must be difficult to do (and I’ve heard some employers who still believe that) doesn’t tend to last especially long in today’s agile, user-centric, people-focused enterprise environment.

Play is good

You see, in these environments play is good.  Productivity is about unleashing personal potential and the rewards aren’t just in the paycheck, but also in the journey and the opportunities for personal development. (Maslow got this right.)

It’s not all just about a wholesale replacement of existing business processes with new ones based around Macs, iPads and iPhones; it’s about understanding which technologies will most effectively deliver the best results.

I’m an Apple man, and while I do believe that company’s products are the right choice more often than not, it’s also true that every business has its own unique technology needs – and that the emergence of the iPhone-driven mobile culture means that meeting such needs often comes down to developing an app for them. But even that isn’t always appropriate.

However, if you’re having no fun at work, it’s time to take a look at how your work works, because jobs that are emotionally cumbersome tend to deliver limited results. And in an age defined by higher productivity, making work fun can be good for business, if only because it empowers the creative process.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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