December 6th, 2010

For your Monday morning.

Jason Fried, of 37Signals, a web productivity tool company, giving a fifteen-minute TED talk on why work doesn't happen at work.
In short, he says it's because "meetings and managers are two major problems in businesses today, especially to offices." "what you find is that, especially with creative people -- designers, programmers, writers, engineers, thinkers -- that people really need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get something done." "managers are basically people whose job it is to interrupt people." "what's even worse is the thing that managers do most of all, which is call meetings." "The manager calls the meeting, so the employees can all come together, and it's an incredibly disruptive thing to do to people"..."Because meetings aren't work. Meetings are places to go to talk about things you're supposed to be doing later."

Now truthfully, he's talking his book, because later he talks about how one can use technologies which he asserts interrupt less to make the office less disruptive. But I do think there's a useful point here: that the modern office is an interruption factory, and that this is a problem for productivity.

I've worked in an office, and I've worked from home. Working from home makes me more productive, but this is only useful if I'm doing the right things, which is where working in an office is useful: it's where you talk to your co-workers to make sure you're doing the right things.

My ideal work place would include working from home interspersed with occasional visits to the team I was working with. How occasional those visits would be really depends on the nature of the work and the team.

But yes, he's totally right about the interrupting managers.

(via Farnham Street blog)

(no subject)

I like cool new architecture as much as anyone. However, stories like this make me think "commercial real estate bubble":
The 121-story Shanghai Tower is more than China's next record-setting building: It's an economic lifeline for the elite club of skyscraper builders.

Financial gloom has derailed plans for new towers in Chicago, Moscow, Dubai and other cities. But in China, work on the 2,074-foot (632-meter) Shanghai Tower, due to be completed in 2014, and dozens of other tall buildings is rushing ahead, powered by a buoyant economy and providing a steady stream of work to architects and engineers.

China's edifice complex is driven by a mix of demand for space in a crowded country with economic growth forecast at 10 percent this year and local leaders who want architectural eye candy to promote their cities as commercial centers.

Dozens of midsize Chinese cities are building new business districts to replace cramped downtowns. They look to the model of Shanghai's skyscraper-packed Pudong district — China's Wall Street — created in the 1990s on reclaimed industrial land.

"Governments are encouraging these iconic buildings in order to give a very clear message to the outside world: Please pay attention to our city," said Dennis Poon, managing principal of Thornton Tomasetti, the Shanghai Tower's structural engineers.
(emphasis mine)

Well, then! What could go wrong with that plan?

This will tell you why the European authorities are so desperate to rescue their banks.

I didn't see this when this went around the first time. John Talbott, writing in Salon in May:
It turns out that the size of the banking systems in many wealthier European countries far exceeds the total GDP of the country. Here is some summary data for the countries (most of them OECD members) in which the total of all bank assets exceed 100 percent of GDP.

Bank assets as a percentage of GDP

Luxembourg 2,461
Ireland 872
Switzerland 723
Denmark 477
Iceland 458
Netherlands 432
United Kingdom 389
Belgium 380
Sweden 340
France 338
Austria 299
Spain 251
Germany 246
Finland 205
Australia 205
Portugal 188
Canada 157
Italy 151
Greece 141

(For comparison, total banking assets in the U.S. are equal to approximately 82 percent of GDP.)
So it's no surprise that the Europeans are collectively willing to throw everyone else under the bus in order to save their bankers' asse(t)s. Why the Americans are so willing is left as an exercise to the reader.