Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Maybe I need to stop going to work

I recently ran across this article "A Plea to All Creatives: Stop Going to Work" by Joe Duffy and I loved it.

I find myself regularly reminding my team that there is a whole world outside where inspiration and contemplation abound. We are blocks from the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Chicago (free on Tuesdays.) A short jaunt from the Art Institute of Chicago (free on Thursdays). And we are surrounded by public art and architecture and people and stores and unlimited stimuli from which to draw new ideas and reconsider old ones.

And yet daily I see talented people staring at the computer screen on their desk and finding more value in Facebook than in the faces of people on the street. Devoting more time to texting than to people-watching.

Certainly we all have a job to do, and I will never be one to advocate the squandering of time. I come to work early. I generally leave late. And I clock back in from home most evenings after dinner. And perhaps I, too, need to take heed of Mr. Duffy's advice. But rarely do I have a young eager soul come to me and tell me they are going out into the world to refuel their brain and find new ideas. It is not often that I see people start first with a physical change in space and surroundings when trying to solve a creative problem. No, we generally go back to our standard space and stare at the screen in front of us, willing it to bring us the answer.

"Being someplace, like in the office, for appearances sake is futile," Mr. Duffy tells us, and I concur. These days much of my time is spent in meetings, and in my role, that's to be expected. But is that an excuse? Am I doing the very thing I tell my team not to do?

As I sit here and type this, I begin to wonder if maybe I'm setting a terrible example. Certainly I expect them all to deliver. And I want them all to self-manage and be responsible. But if I tether myself to my desk and a few random conference rooms within the office... am I not part of the problem?

"Fresh ideas come from fresh minds. Fresh minds need constant and new stimulus," is what Mr. Duffy tells me. And again, I agree.

In the end, he advises that when you look at the idea of "work" differently, and when you use the power of technology and our ability to connect with others across space and time in a number of different ways, you can view your office in a very different light. And I would argue, define your working space on a much larger scale.

What example are those of us in management setting for those we lead?

I don't know about you, but I'm going to try to lead by example. After all, it's Tuesday. The Museum of Contemporary Art is two blocks away. And I'm sure I have an hour or so to spare.