The Hawthorne Effect famously demonstrated the changes to worker productivity resulting from changes in work environment. Like many studies the key learning turned out to be somewhat different than anticipated. Initially intended to figure out if lighting levels or other environmental factors impacted productivity the result turned out to be that workers did better when working together to improve the conditions. The improvements were not dependent on the changes but on the process of working together to make the changes.
I have to wonder if the same thing is happening in the Microsoft/Google/Apple race for the hearts and minds of the workers. Each is courting the users with new and improved ways to be productive. Microsoft has of course dominated the worker productivity area with the Office suite and the addition over the years of Outlook, Access, Visio, and OneNote. Google helps workers find stuff and has innovated around the edges with priority inbox in gmail and better spam filtering and Google docs and drive. Apple has turned the world mobile, brought about the app revolution, and companies now shower iPhones and iPads on their employees like they used to do with sales trips to Hawaii.
I am 24 hours into using my new Windows RT Surface and all I can think about is how much work I could do on the thing. It has been 90 years since Elton Mayo did his study in Hawthore, IL, maybe it is time for a new study. We could call the key learnings the Microsoft Effect.