Ben Waber

President and CEO, Sociometric Solutions

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Ben Waber is President and CEO of Sociometric Solutions, a management services firm. His new book People Analytics, from the Financial Times Press, will be released in May. He is also a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Lab, where he received his PhD in the Human Dynamics Group working with Prof. Alex (Sandy) Pentland. He was previously a Senior Researcher at Harvard Business School in the Organizational Behavior group. His work centers around using real time data flows to rethink management of people, physical architecture, corporate planning, and training, among other things. Previously, he received his BA and MA in Computer Science in four years from Boston University in 2006. During this time, he was a member of the Image and Video Computation Group. Waber has also worked at various research labs in Japan, including Hitachi’s Central Research Laboratory and Ricoh’s Central Research Laboratory. Waber has also consulted for industry leaders such as LG, McKinsey & Company, and Gartner on technology trends, social networks, and organizational design. His current research interests include dynamic organizational design, organizational behavior, social networks, sensor networks, prediction mechanisms, and information flow.

On the show, Waber discussed how the physical layout of an office can play a role in how innovative the firm’s employees are. Specifically, he cites research showing that despite the best intentions, people actually do talk far more frequently with those they sit near in the office, and far less with those they sit far from. In addition, he discussed what an office designed to stifle innovation would look like, as a counter example. It would include the closing off of functions from one another, different teams in different floors or even buildings, lots of small coffee and snack places so that no one has to meet in the middle and bump into one another, no central cafe so that employees eat their lunch at their large, isolated desks, and plenty of corners and turns in the corridors, such that individuals don’t see people coming and interact with them. Essentially, Waber advocated the planning of new office space to cause more interaction between people who have no need to, in order to spur serendipitous conversations that will lead to ideation and innovation.