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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Honey Nut Cheerios = Inspiration

'Nuff said.

More on the Concept of "Work Without Walls"

No, Mike and his Co-Conspirator (remember, we don't use the term Employee) don't actually work like this, wherein they have their desks outside in the middle of the backyard, with all the office trimmings like the phone and laptop interspersed with objects of play like a margarita and badmitton racquet. And wouldn't life be grand (as a healthy lusty male leastwise or other beauty appreciator) if a supermodelesque girl in abbreviated attire took dictation while sitting atop your desk!... What this photo is meant to illustrate is the following:

Principles for a New Order
1. There should be a balance struck between work and play. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so "they" say.

2. Tear down the cubicle. While Mike and CC do often work outside, they do it a little more practically, like at a patio table, in an Adirondack chair, at a local cafe or the beach. The point is, unless you're in a position where you have to facilitate a specific transactional function that demands a face-to-face setting, there is no reason you should be parked in a cubicle all day like a rental car in an airport space. Today's technology allows most work to be conducted whenever and wherever a person wants to conduct it via the use of laptops, PDAs, iPhones, Wi-Fi hubs, etc. When Mike drove around the country back in 2003 on his life-changing "Chasing Charley" re-creation of John Steinbeck's classic 1960 "Travels with Charley" trek, he was actually an independent promotion consultant working from the road facilitating projects for 3-4 different clients. There was nothing he couldn't handle in this way.

3. Eliminate the hierarchy! You could argue that CC (the "E" word) is being objectified here, but her purposeful positioning in a stance that is literally above Mike (the "B" word) is meant to show that support people should command equal if not greater share of voice in the workplace as they are the cogs in the engine and most knowledgeable about what is working and what's not working. In fact, support people need to be encouraged to be leaders and prolific contributors. "Why hire a dog and bark yourself?" someone once said. In Mike's Office Without Walls environment, everyone has an equal share of voice.

4. Have more fun at work. "Work" has traditionally been called that because it is just that -- work. Mike and CC don't go to work. They go to play, to be Adults At Play. And if you're not having fun, not playing in the workplace, then you're not in the right environment and you need to immediately extricate yourself. In Mike's Office Without Walls, Adult Playtime consists of reading entertainment magazines, creating some new dish from scratch and sampling it, mixing up interestingly flavored fruit drinks, talking about something that stood out as remarkable, reading each other's writing, going local for soup or a coffee or a grilled cheese sandwich... maybe even going out in the backyard and working in the garden. Spreading mulch is a terrific offset for a cluttered mind!

5. Find your comfort zone! Mike has known a lot of empty suits in his time -- people with big credentials who can't effectively get a job done. It's not the suit or outer shell that should impress but the person himself. It shouldn't matter if that person is wearing a three-piece suit and checked silk tie... or a tank top, boarding shorts and surfer shoes. Mike is a believer in comfort and has adopted that policy in his Office Without Walls. Often, he pads around his Space of Inspiration with flip-flops, shorts (on the hotter days) and a tee (or a sweatshirt if chilly). CC follows suit (if you'll pardon the expression). Free from the stress caused by the whole process of dressing up (matching shoes and other accessories with suit color, making sure everything is crisply ironed and polished, bringing change of shoes (one for walking around a city area and another to change into for the office), people in Office Without Walls environments can focus on the more important areas of productivity and taking ideas from paper into action.

6. Don't be afraid to like and care about each other. Traditional workplaces have long frowned on relationships between co-workers, sometimes even the most platonic, and in many cases tout policies that threaten termination for such fraternization. This has left people skittish about engaging each other -- which is exactly the opposite of what you want to encourage in a business environment that needs to be cooperative and team-based. As Mike has mentioned in his Writer's Workshop Manifesto, each day begins and ends with a hug. A hug is a simple but meaningful way of expressing to someone that you are glad to see them, you appreciate their efforts and you care about them personally. Medical research also shows that hugs are good for the soul and actually contribute to a person's greater happiness and health. Mike also expresses this open gesture of "like" by doing something unexpectedly "nice" as a token of appreciation -- be that footing the bill for a meal/snack, a gift card for personal items, tickets to a ballgame, etc. Co-workers (or Co-Conspirators as they're called in Mike's Office Without Walls) should like each other first before all else. Without common like and respect as a foundation from which to go forward, there can only be eventual disloyalty, grudging cooperation and crippled productivity.

7. No one should act like a dictator. In the staged shot above, Mike does appear to be dictating and CC certainly seems to be taking copious notes, but in reality he's guiding her on a doodle she was idly sketching. Mike has seen his share of Napoleans and Hitlers and Mussolinis in the traditional workplace -- out of which he recently tunneled -- and these types of so-called leaders should not be tolerated. Dictators shall be known by their use of expressions like "I sign your paychecks!", "I'm your boss! Get on my page!", "You want to argue with me?" and "Don't you see...?" Mike has actually seen fellow female co-workers in senior management positions driven to tears by bellowing, screaming, top-blowing so-called executives in more superior positions of authority than themselves.

Driving work product out of a person via a campaign of shouting, bullying, prodding, threatening, debasing, insulting and manipulating is a strategy doomed for failure and, potentially, could result in a violent reaction (can you say Going Postal?). How many times have we read about the disgruntled employee who returns to the workplace after being terminated or slighted and makes Swiss cheese out of his co-workers, filling them with enough holes to fill the Albert Hall? The only constructive way to work is to inspire, either with thought or action, and create a forum wherein all new ideas are embraced and discussed; people are taught and allowed to make mistakes instead of presumed to know everything and chastised for their mistakes to the extent that they become gun-shy; and collaboration is the rule of the day.

8. Overstep some boundaries. Though not illustrated in the above photo, a word or seven should be devoted to the idea of not only caring about your Co-Conspirator in the workplace but also about their personal happiness outside of the workplace. Take time to get to know that person beside you with whom you spend more time than anyone else in your life. Think about it: Out of a 168-hour week, on average we spend 56 hours sleeping (based on 8hrs/night), 2.5 hours commuting (if you're lucky), 5.25 hours eating (.75/day), 35 hours (5 hrs/day) with family and 29.25 hours on miscellaneous activities. At minimum in most cases, you spend a full 4o hours per week with your co-worker, the largest time block per week besides sleeping. Try as people do, it is very hard to disconnect oneself in the workplace from personal issues at home. People need a release, a sounding board, a caring ear, sometimes even a shoulder or hug. While a journey, life can also be a struggle and we're all in the same boat, trying to get through every day the best we can. Sometimes life comes at us real hard and we need a hand up or a pep talk or some reassurance that we're not alone and that there's someone to count on. Why can't that person be the same one with whom you spend most of your time each week?

Stay tuned to Writer/Author Mike Lauterborn Live's Blog Site for more insights on how to rethink your workplace and your life.

Creating Good Chi in Your Spaces of Inspiration

Mike's most excellent assistant expressed earlier tonight what seemed at first to be a random, alternate-state-of-consciousness-driven desire for two things for our Office Without Walls: (1) a Koi Pond so we can watch the coy swim and (2) an Incubator so we can watch baby chicks hatch.
Both reco's are pictured here for reference.

Now, being the good Co-Conspirator (not the "B" word) that he is, Mike takes all fellow Co-Conspirator recommendations very seriously,
applying utmost respect and attention in the Idea Offerer's direction... but especially with CC. Mike
pays extra attention as there is usually some hidden connection or deep meaning to her thoughts that bears understanding and appreciation. With CC, there are no random thoughts. So, applying this filter, Mike looked at what these two bio-organic elements had in common and what they represented in a larger sense with application to our Office Without Walls.

These are his conclusions:

1. Both are wondrous expressions of life. To have these exposures in your personal space is to have God sitting in your lap. The perfection of these creatures, their innocent demeanors, the fragility of their eco-systems and often dependence on man who has domesticated them. Office Without Walls Application: You should be inspired by something every day.

2. They are like children, so command extra care, guidance and responsibility. Office Without Walls Application: Like these living, breathing creatures, our ideas born of our Spaces of Inspiration are like children. And like children, we must help show our ideas the right path, often take them by the hand, nurture them and help them evolve and, eventually, when they are as big as they can be let them stand on their own, encourage them to play with others (nicely we hope), as often one good idea begets another and together they become more powerful (as in the expression "two heads are better than one").

3. Every good company (and this is not the old Company with an initial capital "C" as in "he's a Company man" but a new definition of company as in the company you keep) should have a few specific charges/responsibilities. That is, we individuals who have agreed to collaborate to chase our dreams (pausing occasionally to bake cookies and play Frisbee), should have to have responsibility over some aspect of life that has bearing on the collective good. So, in our Office Without Walls space our charges are koi and baby chicks. If something happens to our charges while in our care, you might as well damn the lot of us, for we have not done our part as a member of the collective whole.

Stay Tuned and come back to "Writer/Author Mike Lauterborn Live" Blog Site for more of Mike's Deep Thoughts with regard to reinventing how we think about work, where we do or do not conduct it and how we interract within these collaborative communities.