This video, done by the fine people at RSA animate, was doing the rounds a few months ago but it really strikes a chord with me so I thought I’d re-share it here.

When I rule the world this will be mandatory viewing for anyone in a management position.

Company culture is set by its founders, and this can be one of the hardest things to get right. As a company grows the culture and humanity of a company tends to get diluted, and hierarchy and middle management put in place. Companies which have a failing culture (which I define as a company whose employees by and large hate going to work), have among their many failings a number of things in common.

Firstly, they all tend to have fairly deep hierarchies with layers of unnecessary abstraction between those in charge of strategic planning and those doing the actual work. Secondly, those at the coal face, so to speak, don’t feel as though they have any control of their own destiny and that their ideas don’t matter.

Companies which seem to do well, certainly those I’ve worked with where I’ve got the most enjoyment out of the interaction, listen to those in their employ and empower them to act on their own initiative to solve problems. They have flat hierarchies, value and give credit publicly to those that made a contribution.

While it is often raised as being a primary issue when workers are dissatisfied, money is generally a proxy for other issues.

It is the little differences between the US and the UK that really interest me.

I was out in Berkeley visiting a friend, it was late and we were sharing a few beers in his apartment before we retired.

On thing I notice is that Americans, contrasted with much of the rest of the world, seem to have much more faith in technology than most. I’m not sure what it is, perhaps just a symptom of the infectious American optimism and the idea that all technology is fundamentally a positive and infallible force.

Perhaps it was the beer.

Anyway,  in a moment of inspiration I realised this sort of bathroom lock (pictured) – which I’ve not seen anywhere outside of America – may be the perfect example of this sort of optimistic faith in technology.

When in the bathroom, you push the central button in order to lock the door from the outside. A twist of the handle springs the lock and opens the door.

What was interesting to me was that there was no feedback as to whether the lock was actually engaged. You pushed the button, and that was it.

There is no way to test it since twisting the handle would automatically disengage the lock. In other words, you had to trust that the mechanism was working as it should… which to my European software engineer’s mind left me with nagging doubts as to whether or not I would be interrupted while in the middle of something, so to speak.

This is to my mind a very good example of how an attempt to create a simple interface unintentionally creates a poor user experience.

Perhaps its just a cultural difference (which is nonetheless an important consideration), but I think many would find feedback comforting in this sort of situation.