Want to improve employee communication? ‘Pack ’em in’!

It took an innovative study of “prediction markets” at Google to reveal a musty truth: Employees who sit together think alike.

What if the source of employee opinion is just a hell of a lot simpler than we think it is?

What if employee opinions aren’t an infinitely complex mixture of pay grade, org chart placement, ethnic filters, age and education. What if employee attitudes aren’t formed in myriad ways—from communication to compensation to management “say-do” patterns? What if people’s points of view are far less influenced by the amorphous electronic communities they belong to than we thought?

What would an employee communicator do if it was discovered that the way a given employee thinks boils down mostly to who he or she sits next to?

That’s the provocative question that emerges from a study of Google employees.

“If you were looking for evidence of the death of distance” as a factor in making certain groups of employees think alike, “you’d look at Google,” says Wharton School assistant business professor Justin Wolfers, describing the company as “one of the most electronically mediated in the world.”

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