I prefer the open office as does Jason Fried ay 37Signals. However, my office is loud and noisy - customers and coworkers can just walk in anytime and distract me from what I am focused on - which is generally Ok, I mean it is a good thing to have customers visiting you these days.
I honestly don't even get one hour of peace and quiet in a normal 8-10 hour day because of all the distractions. In this kind of environment should it really be a surprise when I've screwed something up? I'm surprised it does not happen more often.
Here's what Jason has to say about working at work:
Refocusing after a distraction is tough, I am constantly asking myself, "Now, what was I doing again?" I often get sidetracked and drawn away from what I had planned to do that day. It's seriously a miracle that I even manage to get anything done.
I've learned to adapt over the years, a simple list of To Do's works great. When I get distracted I just go back to the list to see where I left off. When an issue comes up I ask, "Does this need my immediate attention? Or, can I put it on my To Do list and get to it later?"
One thing I haven't thought much about is designing my office space so that it is more conducive to working. Jason has set a superb example for me with the new 37Signals office in Chicago. The office is open, yet the environment is quiet like a library. There are specific rooms where employees can go to talk, the walls are felt, and there are cool sound-proof phone booths so you can actually have a personal call without everyone listening in on what you are saying or trying to talk to you when you are one the phone - last I checked, carrying on two conversations at once is nearly impossible.
Check out the office:
I couldn't agree more with Rainn on stepping outside your comfort zone and looking inward to solve creative blocks.
I think everyone experiences blocks or times when they want to do something meaningful, positive, and fulfilling, but aren't quite sure what exactly to do or where to go.
Just read this Fast Company article about GE's Durham, North Carolina jet engine factory. I know, I know, what could possibly be interesting about a factory?
Well I'll tell you! What's remarkable about the Durham factory is that it has the highest productivity and quality out of all of GE's jet engine plants, YET no monetary bonuses were used as incentives and there were NO middle managers - just one general manager for the entire plant.
I wonder why GE hasn't taken this model to their other business units? Maybe because creating a culture like this isn't something that can be replicated without passionate linchpins.
I'm a firm believer that money is not a sustainable motivator. No matter how much a person is paid, eventually motivation will take a dive unless a culture of creativity, caring and passion in one's work is established. Sure, money is a big motivator at first but do you know of anyone who's left a high-paying corporate gig to create a startup?
Wouldn't you like to work in an environment like this? You can without changing jobs, if you want to.
In an effort to improve communication at work I got the idea to create a a "secret group" forum for our organization on Facebook. We have 3 spread out locations now and communication has become rather sucky as we've often failed at logistics between the locations.
The good thing is, everyone is on Facebook, and they all check it regularly on their computers and mobile phones. So we're going to Poke The Box, as Seth puts it, and try this out for a while and see if things improve. I am a little worried employees might waste time messing around on Facebook, but I trust that everyone is responsible enough to handle it - we've got a "No Cogs" culture going on.
I'm certainly excited to see how this will work and what we're going to learn from it.
I just read this article by David Ronick (@upstartbootcamp), the point that stood out to me most was when he stated “perfect is the enemy of good enough." I'm somewhat of a perfectionist, I like things neat, organized, on time or early. I often go overboard in the beginning diving into what I'm doing so I have enough time to refine the project, report, product, or whatever I'm doing in a stress free manner well in advance of the deadline. In college I preferred to turn my work in early so I could get feedback from my professors (once I was accused of plagiarism because my professor didn't believe a student would actually do something like this).
I finally learned that when I'm almost done...that means it's time to launch. I use to curse myself with constant editing when the product was actually "good enough," I would waste a great deal of time trying to make it perfect.
I no longer do this because Jason Fried taught me in on page 93 of Rework that once a product does what it needs to do, then it needs to go to market. I used to hold everything up because of a few leftovers, when I should have been shipping the product out the door, and putting off what I didn't need right at that very moment. Jason makes the point, "Build the necessities now, worry about the luxuries later."
I'm reminded of the founders of Crate and Barrel. They didn't wait to build perfect and fancy displays when they opened their first store. No, what they did was turn over the crates and barrels that the merchandise came in and stacked the products on top of them. I love the no-frills Costco credo! Drop the pallet and cut the wrap - that's it.
While this kind of approach could easily be mistaken for skimping on quality, cutting corners, laziness or procrastination, it's important to understand that the best way to create something great is through iterations.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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