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Innovation

Is the modern office dead?

37Signals founder Jason Fried says the modern office -- full of managers, meetings and interruptions -- is dead. Here's why.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

You can't get work done at work anymore.

That's according to Jason Fried, founder of web-based collaboration company 37Signals. Writing at CNN.com, Fried says the modern office -- with interruptions, meetings and all means of real-time communication -- is no longer a good place to accomplish tasks.

He writes:

When you're in the office you're lucky to have 30 minutes to yourself. Usually you get in, there's a meeting, then there's a call, then someone calls you over to their desk, or your manager comes over to see what you're doing. These interruptions chunk your day into smaller and smaller bits. Fifteen minutes here, 30 minutes there, another 15 minutes before lunch, then an afternoon meeting, etc. When are you supposed to get work done if you don't have any time to work?

Expanding on his talk at TEDxMidwest, Fried suggests there's a smarter way to work, such as "No-Talk Thursdays" once a month, and doing away with face-to-face collaboration, which he says can't be turned off like an e-mail or instant message client.

He also says to play hooky at your next meeting, and bask in the productivity spoils that result.

It's not just the actual space, either. It's also the way companies are organized.

Here's an excerpt from his actual TEDx talk:

The real problems are what I like to call the M&M's, the managers and the meetings. Those are the real problems in the modern office today. And this is why things don't get done at work, it's because of the M&M's.

Now what's interesting is, if you listen to all the places that people talk about doing work -- like at home, or in a car, or on a plane, or late at night, or early in the morning -- you don't find managers and meetings; you find a lot of other distractions, but you don't find managers and meetings. So these are the things that you don't find elsewhere, but you do find at the office.

And managers are basically people whose job it is to interrupt people. That's pretty much what managers are for, they're for interrupting people. They don't really do the work, so they have to make sure everyone else is doing the work, which is an interruption.

And we have a lot of managers in the world now. And there's a lot of people in the world now. And there's a lot of interruptions in the world now because of these managers. They have to check in: "Hey, how's it going? Show me what's up," and this sort of thing.

And they keep interrupting you at the wrong time, while you're actually trying to do something they're paying you to do, they tend to interrupt you.

Is Fried on to something? With so many meetings and e-mails to respond to that I can barely get a day's work done, I can certainly see his point.

But at the same time, I often feel that showing up to someone's cubicle or gathering a group for just five minutes' time can expedite a stalled project and cut through the inbox noise.

What do you think: do we need taller silos at work, if only once in awhile?

Is the modern office dead?

Fried's complete presentation:


This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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