career, community, work

Working alone, together

With the ever rising cost of commuting and increased pressures on our time, more and more companies are open to team members spending one or more days per week at home. I’m very lucky to have this type of deal – whenever we have a half day at work, I work from home provided there isn’t some pressing reason that I must be in the office. I’ve often spent that time at home, alone, in my studio apartment in front of my laptop. 

Recently, I’ve found myself seeking outdoor areas, cafes, even the occasional bar (only after 12 noon of course) that lets me set up shop. At first, my motivation was that a new setting would inspire some creativity, would afford me a different outlook. Then, I chalked it up to craving the nice weather or air conditioning. After a conversation with my friend, Moya, I know what’s going on. I want to work independently, but I also want to feel some sense of community while I work. Luckily, I am not alone in this pursuit. 

Last week, the New York Times ran an article entitled “Working Alone in a Group”. It spelled out this situation of telecommuters – grateful for the opportunity to not have to commute to work, but wanting a space other than home to get their jobs done. Telecommuters want a little company, a wi-fi connection, and a comfy chair. They don’t want distractions. And they’re willing to pay a little for it. The article provides a website that allows you to search for co-working spaces by zip code. 

The article goes on to detail a couple of the key areas in the Bay Area that offer this type of space, and then notes that what it all comes down to is moderating the distraction level. I think there’s something more though – having other people around us, even if we interact with them minimally, drives our creative pursuits. We are social beings, and while we may enjoy some degree of solitude, we also need to balance that solitude with a sense of community. Give this idea a couple years, and we’ll see co-working spaces popping up in every neighborhood.  

career, innovation, work

Innovation is an investment, not a cost, not a luxury

In case no one else has told you, the sky is falling. According to an article in the New York Times today, we’re going to hell in a hand basket, at least for the time being. This puts people like me who work in the innovation field into a bit of a bind. I whole-heartedly support (actually vehemently encourage) employers to consider how and how much each member of a team adds value. I’ve seen too many companies burn money in the street because they’re uncomfortable with asking every team member to articulate how they add value. And companies are worse off for it.

What I do object to is the idea that areas such as innovation, product development, and research are luxuries. Prada shoes are a luxury. Gourmet meals at 5-star restaurants are luxuries. Innovation, product development, and research are a company’s lifeline to the future.

Paull Young from Converseon sent me a blog post yesterday that is so good, I have to pass it on.
In the post, James Gardner, who works in innovation at a UK bank, talks about the five ways that innovators within companies add value. And suggests that if we wants to preserve our place within our companies, we should develop each of these five areas: invention, influence, entrepreneurship, thought leadership, and sponsorship.

The trouble I see is that areas like innovation are viewed purely as a cost – a nice to have if you can get it for $0. Bad idea. Innovation is an investment. Over time, it generates cash flow and does wonders for getting the best and brightest minds to beat down your door to play a part. And with tough times ahead, that talent is the only way a company is going to save itself from going under.

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