The White Collar Revolt, Part 1

Related to my earlier post about saying ‘No’ (Some of the Passengers, Some of the Time) fed up computer programmers at Electronic Arts are suing their employer over “extreme job stress and health problems”.

NPR had the story this past weekend on Weekend Edition.

Employees are gaining more control over their work conditions with each passing day. And if a specific employer doesn’t allow employees to have control over their schedule, environment, and work – they should prepare to see a similar suit against themselves shortly.

Ricardo Semler outlines how to structure a supportive and profitable organization in, Maverick. I can’t say enough good things about his book.

Get more details at the Social Customer Manifesto.

Clicks vs Impressions

Eminent writer Bob Bly dissects the difference between direct marketers and non-direct marketers.

In my experience, his analysis is spot-on.

I had a client where both mentalities struggled for dominance. The incumbent mentality (non-DM) was all about branding, impression, design, and well known for it. A team of direct marketers was brought in to handle the website. They brought measured click-throughs, ROI, incremental A/B test, all that.

These new tools brought success – but at the price of completely disenfranchising the non-DMers. Not good, at all. In fact, it’s a huge lost opportunity considering the internet gives non-DMers these DM tools out of the box. This means, the brand managers and advertising buyers can know – exactly which 50% of their ad dollars are wasted. About time.

Job Security is the Ability to Get a Job


My sister and I recently shared a phone conversation on the state of work. While she finishes her undergrad, she’s working for a temp agency. She’s continually negotiating with the agency on work; she calls the temp agency with her schedule, they call her with jobs. When there’s a match, there’s a match. If not, no harm, no foul.

She was forecasting life after school and lamenting the schedule flexibility with a full-time job. I offered that my near-decade “real world” work experience proved to be extremely similar to her relationship with the temp agency.

My mom has worked for the same organization for more than a quarter century. 25 years in the same building. Not something possible today. Today, employer-employee relationships is more akin to the Dread Pirate Roberts and Westley in the Princess Bride:

“Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” – Dread Pirate Roberts

What is job security in this new world?
Having an active network of people to help you get the next project.

With that, all the benefits of traditional fulltime employment take care of themselves.

I want to thank Evelyn Rodriguez at Crossroads Dispatches for her recent Accidental Entrepreneurs post which inspired this post.

Pajunas Hosts More Than Your Website

Like a midwestern version of Gate 3 Work Club, Allie at Pajunas is offering monthly office subscriptions.

That’s right, for a couple hundred dollars a month, you can move your start up out of your house and into downtown St. Paul’s fantastic Renaissance Box.

I spoke with her at the Pajunas open house tonight. We had a great conversation on the value of community, quiet, and internet access in getting a business off the ground.

If Pajunas doesn’t have the right space, check out the $50/month writer’s refuge elsewhere in the building. Perfect for your great american novel (breaks down to $1 / word) .

One Sheet Wonders

I’ve been reading Ricardo Semler’s fantastic book, Maverick on how he turned around SemCo in the 1980’s. Each chapter ends with a nugget of organizational wisdom concisely delivered in a sentence or two. This is exactly what I was talking about in my earlier post, Once More, In Half the Time.

In addition to also using Twain’s quote, Semler took the principle one step further.

All the documents at SemCo are kept to 1 page. Everything – memos, proposals, market surveys – one page. If you read my Once More, In Half the Time post, I’m sure you’re wondering the benefit of continued revisions when you could just finish it. Here’s Semler’s response.

This has not only reduced unnecessary paperwork, but has also helped us avoid meetings that were often needed to clarify ambiguous memos…The longer the message, the greater the chance of misinterpretation.

Boiling down important messages to as little as needed guarantees the message will be received. I’m reminded of an example I heard about during a conversation with Caterpillar. Originally, they had a multi-page print-out describing the classification of a given document on a scale of confidentiality. It was never used or misused. Obviously, this is dangerous for all involved. They were able to boil the print-out down to one sheet. One sheet – posted at every desk I walked past.

Concision is something we’re comfortable and familiar with here at Working Pathways. All our proposals are one page. Our research reports are boiled down to just the important bits. As an example, the findings from a recent, 2-week-long intensive customer research project were delivered in an easy-to-read 5-page PowerPoint deck.

The level of concision both Semler and I are talking about requires a deep understanding of what is to be communicated and the most effective means of communicating it.

Gate 3 Work Club Opens

The Gate 3 Work Club officially opens this week in Emeryville, CA.

The culture of work in the US is dramatically changing. No longer segregated to the industrial parks and office buildings, knowledge workers and other members of the Creative Class are more mobile, more collaborative, and more flexible with their work.

This cultural change creates an opportunity ripe for the picking. Gate 3 Work Club is the first to pluck.

Gate 3 WorkClub is a flexible, “out of the office” workspace, designed to meet your needs – whether you work for a corporation or for yourself….Gate 3 WorkClub members discover an alternative to noisy cafes and the isolation of home offices.

All the amenities of a “real” office are there:

…WiFi, conference rooms, copiers, printers, phone, mail service.

My initial reaction is that the overhead could be lower. A place like this doesn’t need to be furnished by Herman Miller, IKEA would be fine. I also say nix the workstations and wired internet – those in need of a place like this already have laptops with wifi and mobile phones.

In all, best of luck to Gate 3 Work Club on their opening. I expect to see more competitors and locations soon.

Yes, and – not But

Improvisational comedy, like all team sports is about effective, high-energy, spontaneous collaboration. One of the seven major tenets of Improv is building off each person’s comment and suggestion with “Yes, and…” rather than dismissing it with a “but…”.

“Yes, and…” extends, explores, and enhances the previous suggestion – building trust among all the team members, moving the entire team closer to a successful solution. “But…” stalls the conversation. Cold. Even worse than dismissing the initial suggestion, team members are now second-guessing their solutions to the problems for fear it will be destroyed by the next “but..” This provides a disincentive to solving to the current problem. Turning the team and project into the stagnant, stereotypical office meeting blah. On a related note, questions frequently have a similar effect on teams – see Stop Asking Questions.

In working with different teams, I’ve heard “but..” used in 3 major ways. Though each usage may not contradict the preceding statement, it does stall the conversation and turns a peer-to-peer collaborative opportunity into a unequal power play.

    The 5 Breeds of ‘But’:

  1. “I have information you, the ignorant peon, didn’t consider.”
  2. “A different team tried that under different circumstances, so it won’t ever work.”
  3. “I don’t want to do and don’t actually want to be involved in this project.”
  4. “I have something off-topic to say, and don’t know how else to make my opinion heard.”
  5. and my own personal favorite:

  6. “I completely agree with you and want to take credit for your suggestion.”

    Here are 3 tips for transforming a serial “but” into a ‘yes, and’:

  1. Firmly focus on starting a solution.
    The final solution is rarely needed immediately. An initial starting point and direction will go far in gaining forward momentum. This means any solution is viable, and the objection raised in the ‘but’ can be addressed when it arises.
  2. Question specifically how the ‘but’ affects the situation at hand.
    This is a simple and effective way to specifically identify which one of the 5 breeds of ‘but’ you’re dealing with.
  3. Force the ‘but’ into a solution
    For often entertaining results, have the offender, repeat the statement back substituting ‘yes, and’ for the offending ‘but’.
  4. Completely ignore the ‘but’.
    There’s a fair chance, the objection is a defensive reaction to a fleeting situation. This is especially true for a #1’but’.

Want Better Collaboration – Improvise

The earlier collaboration techniques post (Stop Asking Questions) was based a key to successful improvisation. This post digs further into the relationship between improv and collaboration.

Good improvisational comedy teams believe a group of individuals working together can start with nothing and quickly create something engaging, desireable, useful, and valuable. From this perspective, the keys for successful Improv apply to any collaborative effort.

As such, there are 7 keys to successful improvisational collaboration:

  1. Acceptance of a new idea from the standpoint of exploring its possibilities; An attitude of “Yes, and” rather than the destructive “but” .
  2. Attentive listening to all the partners on the team.
  3. Temporary suspension of critical judgment.
  4. An attitude of relaxed openness to new ideas. Exploring the far reaches of “What if ___?”
  5. Reframing situations to explore creative possibilities.
  6. A willingness to take chances, to risk appearing foolish, i.e. Stop Asking Questions.
  7. An understanding that no choice is absolutely right or wrong, though each may turn out to be more or less productive in a given situation.

Thanks to the Applied Improvisational Network.