Helios. The Democratic Organisation

Helios. The Democratic Organisation

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THE BLUE TREE

Business English

CEF B1

CEFR B2

Upper
Intermediate

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INTRODUCTION

Welcome to a lesson on company culture and a democratic organisation. 

This lesson is based on a fragment from a series “For All Mankind” available on Apple TV.

It discusses the topic of open space office layout, democratic decision making and company culture. 

Enjoy!

Practise speaking by describing this image
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warm up

Answer the questions below. Listen to sample answers. Report back what you heard.

  • How would you describe the company culture of the firm you work for?
  • Do you think companies should be run tightly or rather more liberally?
  • Can the rules of democracy be implemented in the business setting?
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key language

Study the language below. All of these words will appear in the video we will watch later in this lesson.

1. “Is this your first time at Helios?”

Polish Translation: Czy to jest twój pierwszy raz w Helios?

Usage: This question is often used to ask someone if they have been to or experienced something before, in this case, “Helios,” which could be a place or an event.

2. Foosball

Polish Translation: Piłkarzyki

Usage: This word refers to a table game which simulates soccer, where players turn rods fixed on top of a playing box to kick the ball and score goals.

3. Hierarchical Structure

Polish Translation: Struktura hierarchiczna

Usage: It refers to an organizational structure where every entity in the organization, except one, is subordinate to a single other entity.

4. Collective

Polish Translation: Kolektyw

Usage: This term usually denotes a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest.

5. “What is it you wanted to see me about?”

Polish Translation: O czym chciałeś ze mną rozmawiać?

Usage: This phrase is used to ask someone about the reason they wanted to meet or talk.

6. “How come?”

Polish Translation: Jak to?

Usage: This is an informal way to ask “why?” or to express surprise or disbelief about something.

7. “He is not going to cut it / It’s not gonna cut it”

Polish Translation: On sobie nie poradzi / To nie wystarczy

Usage: This expression is used when someone or something is not sufficient or capable enough to meet the requirements or expectations.

8. Laugh at Somebody

Polish Translation: Śmiać się z kogoś

Usage: This expression is used when someone finds another person’s actions, words, or situation amusing or ridiculous.

9. Credibility

Polish Translation: Wiarygodność

Usage: This term refers to the quality of being trusted and believed in.

10. Galvanize

Polish Translation: Galwanizować, pobudzić do działania

Usage: This verb means to shock or excite someone into taking action.

11. To Buckle Under Pressure

Polish Translation: Załamać się pod presją

Usage: This expression is used when someone cannot handle stress or pressure and fails to perform or respond appropriately.

12. Thrive Under Pressure

Polish Translation: Kwitnąć pod presją

Usage: This phrase describes someone who performs well and is successful in high-pressure situations.

13. “Bring it in.”

Polish Translation: Zbierzmy się.

Usage: This phrase is often used to ask people to come closer together, usually for a group huddle or a team meeting.

14. “She has just pitched me an idea.”

Polish Translation: Ona właśnie przedstawiła mi pewien pomysł.

Usage: This phrase is used when someone has proposed or suggested an idea to the speaker.

15. “That’d be radical.”

Polish Translation: To by było wspaniałe.

Usage: This phrase means that something would be extremely wonderful

16. Babe Ruth

Polish Translation: Babe Ruth

Usage: This is the name of a famous American baseball player, recognized as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture.

17. “No offense.”

Polish Translation: Bez obrazy.

Usage: This phrase is often used as a disclaimer before or after a potentially offensive statement, meaning no disrespect is intended.

18. “To be stuck in his ways”

Polish Translation: Utknąć w swoich nawykach

Usage: This expression describes someone who is unwilling or finds it hard to change their habits or views.

19. “I hear what you are saying.”

Polish Translation: Słyszę, co mówisz.

Usage: This phrase is often used to acknowledge that the speaker understands the other person’s point of view or opinion.

20. No Brainer

Polish Translation: Rzecz oczywista

Usage: This term refers to a decision or choice that is very easy to make and requires little thought.

21. “All in favour, raise your hands.”

Polish Translation: Wszyscy za, proszę podnieść ręce.

Usage: This phrase is typically used to conduct a vote, where those in agreement with a proposition are asked to raise their hands.

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watch the video

Watch the video. It’s a fragment of a series “For All Mankind” from Apple TV. A woman comes to an office of Helios. She talks to the boss of this company. They discuss a candidate for a job. Later a decision is made. 

When you watch this video, focus on how the office looks like and what the decision making process is like.

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Comprehension

Answer these comprehension questions.
Some of them are quite detailed, so watch the film again if you need to. 

  • ⌚ 0:19 Has Karen been in this office before?
  • ⌚ 0:32 What are some of the things Karen is surprised about?
  • ⌚ 0:43 Why does Karen begin with the question: “Is this your office?”?
  • ⌚ 0:54 How did Dev describe the work culture at Helios?
  • ⌚ 1:26 What drink does Dev offer Karen?
  • ⌚ 2:25 Who did Karen recommend for the position of Mars expedition leader?
  • ⌚ 2:35 Why doesn’t Ed want to work for NASA anymore?
  • ⌚ 2:55 What happens when Dev says: “Hey, everybody, bring it in.”
  • ⌚ 3:23 How do people react to the idea of Ed Baldwin becoming the leader of their expedition?
  • ⌚ 4:04 How is the decision finally made?
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PRACTICE

When talking about company culture you can use many different adjectives. Go through this poll. Listen to and read the short description of each pair of adjectives. Check any new language if necessary.

Use your answers to create a description of company culture of your current or former employer.

1. Supportive - Unsupportive


A supportive company culture prioritizes the well-being and growth of its employees. Such companies offer guidance, resources, and encouragement to help individuals succeed. Employees often feel valued, understood, and safe to share their concerns or aspirations. This nurturing environment can lead to higher morale, loyalty, and mutual trust, facilitating both personal and organizational growth.
In contrast, an unsupportive company culture might lack the mechanisms or intent to cater to the needs and aspirations of its employees. Feedback might be sparse or non-constructive, and individual concerns might go unaddressed. In such environments, employees might feel isolated, undervalued, or stressed, potentially leading to decreased job satisfaction, lower productivity, and higher turnover rates.

Supportive
Unsupportive
2. Competitive - Collaborative


A competitive company culture thrives on challenge, achievement, and outperforming rivals. Within such companies, employees might be motivated by individual targets, rankings, or direct comparisons with peers. This environment can drive high performance and excellence as everyone strives to be the best, but it can also sometimes lead to internal rivalry or stress.

On the flip side, a collaborative company culture emphasizes teamwork, shared goals, and mutual support. Employees in such environments often work together, pooling their skills and knowledge to achieve collective objectives. There's a strong sense of unity, where the success of one is viewed as the success of all. This approach can foster a more harmonious workplace and drive collective innovation, though individual achievements might not always be as highlighted.

Competitive
Collaborative
3. Innovative - Traditional


An innovative company culture values creativity, novelty, and the exploration of new ideas. Such companies are often at the forefront of their industries, continually seeking to disrupt the status quo. They encourage their employees to think outside the box, experiment with new solutions, and challenge conventional wisdom. This mindset can lead to groundbreaking products, services, or methodologies, though it also carries the inherent risks of uncharted territory.

Conversely, a traditional company culture reveres established practices, wisdom, and methods that have stood the test of time. Such companies often prioritize stability, relying on proven strategies and methods. They believe that there's merit in what's been handed down through generations or what's been consistently effective in the past. While this can offer a stable and predictable environment, it might sometimes be slower to adapt to new market shifts or technologies.

Innovative
Traditional
4. Hierarchical - Flat


A hierarchical company culture is structured with multiple levels of authority and clear chains of command. Decisions often come from the top and flow downwards. Each person has a distinct role and level of authority, and communication typically follows these established channels. This structure can provide clarity in roles and responsibilities but might sometimes slow down decision-making processes.

On the other hand, a flat company culture minimizes levels of bureaucracy. Decisions can be made more collaboratively, and employees often have more direct access to leadership. Everyone is seen as more equal in terms of their voice and influence, leading to a more inclusive environment. This can foster quicker decision-making and a sense of collective ownership, though it might sometimes blur role distinctions.

Hierarchical
Flat
5. Flexible - Rigid


A flexible company culture is adaptable and open to change. Such companies readily adjust to new situations, be it market demands, employee needs, or unforeseen challenges. They often have a more relaxed approach to rules and procedures, allowing for personalization and individual solutions. This can lead to a dynamic work environment where employees feel more autonomy and are encouraged to find the best path forward.

Conversely, a rigid company culture strictly adheres to set rules, procedures, and hierarchies. There's a specific way to do things, and deviations are not typically encouraged. Such companies believe in the efficiency and predictability of established systems. While this can ensure consistency and standardization, it might sometimes limit creativity or rapid adaptation to new scenarios.

Flexible
Rigid
6. Progressive - Conservative


A progressive company culture is forward-thinking and often embraces change. Such companies are open to new ideas, technologies, and methodologies. They often challenge traditional norms and are quick to adapt to evolving market demands, societal shifts, or technological advancements. This can lead to innovation and a proactive stance in their industry.

In contrast, a conservative company culture values tradition and stability. They often rely on established practices and are hesitant to adopt new methods without thorough consideration. Such companies prioritize preserving their legacy and maintaining a steady course, believing in the strength of their foundational principles. They might change, but typically at a slower, more deliberate pace.

Progressive
Conservative
7. Risk-taking - Risk-averse


A risk-taking company culture embraces challenges and uncertainty, believing that greater rewards often come from taking bigger risks. Such companies are more willing to venture into uncharted territories, try innovative solutions, and take bold steps, even if the outcomes are uncertain. This can lead to breakthroughs and rapid growth, but also potential setbacks.
On the other hand, a risk-averse company culture is more cautious. They prefer stable, predictable outcomes and often stick to tried-and-true methods. Such companies aim to minimize potential losses or failures, often resulting in steady but possibly slower growth.

Risk-taking
Risk-averse
8. Empowering - Micromanaging


An empowering company culture trusts and believes in the abilities of its employees. Workers are given the freedom to make decisions, take risks, and contribute their unique perspectives. This trust can lead to greater job satisfaction and innovation as employees feel valued and capable.
Conversely, a micromanaging company culture closely supervises and controls nearly every aspect of an employee's work. Managers often dictate how tasks should be done, leading to employees feeling less trusted and possibly stifled in their creativity or decision-making abilities.

Empowering
Micromanaging
9. Individualistic - Team-oriented


An individualistic company culture values the independence and unique contributions of each employee. Employees are often encouraged to shine individually, make independent decisions, and are recognized for their personal achievements.
In contrast, a team-oriented company culture emphasizes collaboration and unity. Employees work closely together, share responsibilities, and celebrate team successes. Here, the collective effort and harmony of the group often take precedence over individual accomplishments.

Individualistic
Team-oriented
10. Sustainable - Short-term focused


A sustainable company culture prioritizes long-term growth and stability. They consider the future impact of their decisions on the environment, society, and their business. They believe in making choices that benefit not just today, but also tomorrow. On the other hand, a short-term focused company culture aims for immediate results. Their primary concern is quick profits and short-term gains, often without considering the long-term consequences. While they can achieve quick success, it might come at the expense of future stability.

Sustainable
Short-term focused
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DISCUSSION

Discuss these questions. Refer to the video fragment you have just seen and your own experience.

  • What do you think of the open office plan of modern offices?
  • How would you feel working for Helios?
  • Should companies take care of employees wellbeeing?
  • What do you think of Dev sitting together with everybody else?
  • What do you think of the democratic decision making process shown in this clip?
  • What are the pros and cons of adopting democracy in a business context?
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COMMENTS

Share your views and opinions here.

An ER doctor on triaging your “crazy busy” life by Darria Long

An ER doctor on triaging your “crazy busy” life by Darria Long

An ER doctor on triaging your “crazy busy” life by Darria Long
Learn more words

THE BLUE TREE

Entertainment

CEF B1

CEFR B2

Upper
Intermediate

Practise speaking by describing this image
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warm up

Answer the questions. Listen to the sample answers. 

  • What are some common signs or indicators that suggest you may be experiencing burnout from a hectic lifestyle?
  • In your opinion, what are the key challenges in balancing work, personal life, and self-care in today’s fast-paced world?
  • Have you tried any time management techniques or strategies in the past? If so, how effective were they in helping you regain control over your busy schedule?
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part one

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key language

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watch the video

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COMPREHENSION

  • ⌚ 0:20 Would you have risen your hand to the question: “Have you ever used the phrase “Crazy Busy””?
  • ⌚ 0:34 Does Darria use this word in the ER?
  • ⌚ 1:11 How does the Crazy Mode diminish our capability of handling the ‘busy’?
  • ⌚ 1:37 What does the research show about our ability to react to a stressful situation?
  • ⌚ 1:48 What does Darria contrast the “Crazy Mode’ with?
  • ⌚ 2:19 What does being in the “Ready Mode” mean in general?
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part two

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key language

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watch the video

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COMPREHENSION

  • ⌚ 2:35 What is the first step to go from Crazy Mode to Ready Mode?
  • ⌚ 2:50 What does it mean to triage? 
  • ⌚ 2:58 What does the work of Dr. Robert Sapolsky show?
  • ⌚ 3:15 What are the colours of triage? What do they mean?
  • ⌚ 3:34 What is part of the problem with Crazy Mode?
  • ⌚ 4:11 How does noise make triaging more difficult?
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part three

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key language

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watch the video

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COMPREHENSION

  • ⌚ 5:19 How does Darria approach the green tasks?
  • ⌚ 5:34 What does the black colour mean in triage?
  • ⌚ 5:51 What are black tasks in our lives?
  • ⌚ 6:12 What is the next step in moving from Crazy Mode to Ready Mode?
  • ⌚ 6:28 What does science tell us about the relationship between a number of choices and our decisions?
  • ⌚ 6:40 What is the second step about?
  • ⌚ 7:39 How does planning, autonomating, collocating, and decreasing temptations help with designing?
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part four

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key language

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watch the video

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COMPREHENSION

  • ⌚ 8:09 What is the third step of getting from Crazy Mode to Ready Mode?
  • ⌚ 8:44 What matters when we get scared?
  • ⌚ 8:59 How can being scared derail us?
  • ⌚ 9:18 How does Darria get our of her head?
  • ⌚ 9:42 What effect does compassion have on tunnel vision and negative internal monologue?
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part five

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key language

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watch the video

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COMPREHENSION

  • ⌚ 11:04 How did the other patients react when Darria helped deliver a baby?
  • ⌚ 11:13 What happens when you go from Crazy Mode into Ready Mode?
  • ⌚ 11:29 What does Darria encourage us to do?
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DISCUSSION

  • Have you ever found yourself in “Crazy Busy Mode”? How did it affect your ability to handle your responsibilities, both at work and in your personal life? 

  • Dr. Darria Long mentions the importance of triaging tasks and prioritizing by degree of urgency. Can you think of a recent situation in your life where proper triaging could have helped you manage your busy schedule more effectively? 

  • According to the presentation, reducing daily decisions can help alleviate stress. How do you currently manage decision-making in your daily life, and can you identify any areas where you could implement automation or planning to make it easier? 

  • Dr. Darria Long talks about getting out of your head and focusing on others as a tactic to disrupt tunnel vision and improve decision-making. Can you share a situation when this approach could be helpful in your life or work? 

  • The presentation emphasizes the importance of being in “Ready Mode” and embracing challenges with confidence. How can you apply the concept of “Ready Mode” to your daily life, and what steps can you take to build resilience and preparedness for handling busy times?

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POLL

Cast your vote in the poll below. How does your answer compare with the other respondents?

Which part of Darria Long's advice on how to get into a Ready Mode do you find the most practical?

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lesson glossary

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COMMENTS

Have you got your own strategies for dealing with Crazy Mode?

Share your views and experience here.