Paper Less or Paper Independent?

In change programs about new ways of working, we are noticing that most users are becoming nervous about the notion that they need to get rid of paper. Why is that?
Putting this concept in the correct context will help reduce the fear in most people. Activity Based Working is the philosophy that organisations should support their people with the most productive ways of working which combines effectivity (doing the right things) with joy and efficiency (doing the things right).
In regards to the ABW philosophy, it would mean that paper still plays a vital function. However we should challenge ourselves to discover the real meaning of paper versus the useless meaning of it.

Most of the written material is produced in the virtual world

By today, most of the written material (let us assume 99%) is produced by the virtual world. Therefore, it is created in a digitised way and is accessible and shareable through technology. So its obvious we don’t need to print 99% of what is written by today. However, if this is the case, then why are so many desks cluttered with paper? Why are many briefcases filled with kilos’s of natural cellulose? And why are we still coming to meetings with piles of documents or at least a simple paper notebook?

Lets focus on the last question… I want to share with you three uncommon thoughts that could be a potential answer why we take a paper notebook to a meeting:

Trust yourself

Do you trust yourself enough to capture the most important message by listening? If so, don’t start writing on a sheet of paper. As soon as you start writing, your capability of listening is reduced by more than 80%……

My advice: at the end of a meeting, capture the important information in a common and a digital and therefore shareable way.

Listen and don’t write

Does having a piece of paper and a pen in front of you give you a kind of psychological feeling of protectiveness? It can feel “naked” and vulnerable to have a business conversation without something in front of us even if you don’t use it. But I haven’t experienced many occasions with family, friends, etc… where everybody has a piece of paper in front of them. Have you?

My advice: in your next meeting, open the conversation around the use and presence of paper in that meeting and share your feelings at first.

What is my role

Do you perceive that if you wouldn’t bring “something” with you in a conversation you are potentially being judged as disengaged? If so, it could well be your own projection of being busy and trying to justify your existence within your organisation.

My advice: check in on your perception and rely on a constructive dialogue.

Increase awareness using less paper

These thoughts could potentially help you increase your awareness about using less paper. Not only in meetings but also in and around desks, and the rest of the workplace. My thought is that it also touches on a deeper meaning of your dependency on paper. Maybe even more on paper than on yourself. The philosophy of Activity Based Working aims to help all of us become more aware of what it is that we are doing, and what we need to do in an effective and efficient way. Supported to its utmost by technology. And yes paper has and will have some roles to play. However as Peter Druker said:

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Secretly I am wishing for slower printers ……or even better let us throw out the printer! Such a decision adds to deep transformation.

If I have made you curious to know more, let us discuss.

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Gijs Nooteboom Managing Partner
Australia & New Zealand Want to know more? Contact
+61 499 553 608 gijs@veldhoencompany.com