Talk IS cheap

Talking is easy and basically free.  I’ve heard the phrase “talk is cheap” a lot lately. Most often, people are referring to the idea that it’s easy to talk about something but entirely different (read: more difficult) to actually DO something.  I’d like to make the argument that talk is a cheap solution, especially when this basic tool nets your company an extra $15 million in productivity gains!

Source: MIT Human Dynamics Lab

Source: MIT Human Dynamics Lab via Forbes magazine

Thumbing through the August 30th issue of Forbes today was enlightening. Normally I’d be reading The Oatmeal on a Friday afternoon but inspiration struck as I leafed through what I refer to as the “millionaire’s guide to making me feel poor”.

MIT did a ‘reality mining’ study by placing sensors around subjects’ (employees of a call center) necks.  The sensors recorded who each person talked to and for how long. The results yielded some interesting patterns in human behavior and productivity.

The employees who “talked to MORE coworkers got through calls faster, felt less stressed and had the same approval rating as their peers.”

In an effort to capitalize on these results, the company made a simple shift. They allowed employees to take coffee breaks at the same time rather than staggering them throughout the day.

What happens between employees on a coffee break isn’t just office gossip. They talk about customers *gasp* and those customers’ problems, which creates a very large, very useful database of information that is not stored ANYWHERE else.

“Informally talking out problems and solutions…produced better results than following the employee handbook or obeying mangers’ e-mailed instructions.”

One simple change: allowing employees to talk to one another over the water cooler increased productivity to the tune of $15 million in one year.

You don’t need to fully understand a phenomena to implement it or benefit from it. And that’s why we cowork. Every member of the Cohere Coworking Community has come to realize that “coworking” together offers a set of benefits that are quite impossible to get at home or in the coffee shop. We increase our stores of readily available knowledge of technical tools, social networks and every day problem solving by talking, asking questions and sharing information. Together, we can solve problems more quickly and find answers more easily all day instead of waiting for a mandated coffee break.

The message from this story is simple.  Get more work done faster by leveraging social networks and talking to a wide variety of people every day.

What have you learned today?

Read full Forbe’s story.