I recently read a piece in The Economist on the backlash against “Montessori Management”, which called into question a lot of what we do at Dyn. Like companies called out in the article (Google, Box and Red Bull among them) , we’ve built a culture that is lauded by some (and perhaps derided by others) as being “creative.”
We have a speakeasy, a putting green, a ping pong table, a climbing wall, a solarium, a treehouse with swings and a small arcade. However, while these amenities make for interesting photo ops and speak to important themes in our company culture, we also have lots of (albeit less photographed) cubicles and conference rooms.
By not recognizing that Google, Box and Red Bull also have lots of cubes and conference rooms, the article completely misses the point of these ‘innovations.’
Swings and slides are not replacing desks and chairs. Adult “children” are not replacing employees. However, the physical work environment, along with its virtual analog, is adapting to support the increased demands for creativity and dynamism that is being placed on today’s workforce.
More than ever, and more than the article realizes and the detractors it reports on admit, the blending of workplace practices is the essential strategy for enabling business success. The workplace must be creative and corporate, social and solitary, mobile and motionless.
Creative by Default
Dyn’s office amenities (the speakeasy, a putting green, a ping pong table, etc.) foster creativity by ‘default.’ Accessing a “Northern NH” themed speakeasy via a server closet celebrates the unexpected discovery. The landscape mural ensconced putting green, which sits right next to a small conference room that sits right next to our sales department that sits just down from the ping pong table, almost demand that employees exercise different parts of their brains.
The design choices about where departments sit, where food and the bathrooms are located, and how people flow in the space all incite repetitive and chance interaction. However, with that said, the mainstays of the productive corporate environment – cubicles, chairs, conference rooms – continue to be the fundamental pieces that make up the physical structure to the work experience.
Social by Default
Dyn’s physical environment is social by ‘default.’ The vast majority of the work space (including the desk of the CEO) is given over to low-walled, collaboratively configured cubicles that allow for constant communication and situational awareness. Beyond that, there are plentiful meeting rooms and spaces, purposely built for gathering groups from two to 200.
However, with that said, the office also encourages solitary work by scattering quiet, cozy nooks and high traffic area ‘bar seats’ across the space to give people plentiful space away from people in general or simply from the people one frequently sees.
Mobile by Default
Dyn’s tool environment is mobile by ‘default.’ Upon hiring, every employee is given a laptop, a soft phone, and encouraged to BYOD so that he/she can move around inside or outside the office and still get work done. Beyond the basics, the company also focuses on choosing productivity tools (Google Apps, etc.) that are location and platform agnostic (inside, outside, laptop, tablet or smartphone) to further enable worker mobility and remote collaboration.
However, with that said, the laptop, soft phone, smartphone, and software can all get used from the same cube every day.
In sum, rather than faddish devotion to the ‘management trend of the day’ or dogmatic dedication to ‘traditional’ management ideas, commitment to enabling a diversity of practice is what will drive business success.