workplace rules and artificially knee-jerking them into place

Checked out “8 rules for creating a passionate work culture.” I like these rules, though there needs to be some emphasis added to a few key words here and there to drive home the key items in each point. For instance: “A culture where everyone understands that long hours are sometimes required will work if this sacrifice is recognized and rewarded.”

While these “rules” are good, I find that some people/organizations try to artificially implement them without really understanding themselves or the rules. It’s like dieters looking for the diet pill or easy magic recipe, rather than putting in the real effort and lifestyle changes that healthy living requires. Whacking your employees to be more innovative or passionate without truly understanding the psychology of it all is not a road to success.

I do take slight (slight!) exception to this rule:

7. Create the space. Years ago, scientists working in laboratories were often in underground bunkers and rarely saw their colleagues; secrecy was prized. In cutting-edge research and academic buildings, architects try to promote as much interaction as possible. They design spaces where people from different disciplines will come together, whether in workspace or in common leisure space. Their reasoning is simple: it is this interaction that helps breed revolutionary ideas. Creative and engineering chat over coffee. HR and marketing bump into one another in the fitness center.

I agree with bringing people together, but too many leaders read this and think they need to tear down physical office and cube walls and that will make everything innovative and ideas flow! But that’s not going to work with every department or every person. It’s a nice idea to give people spaces to collaborate and bump into others, but you’re not going to end up celebrating those people who are introverts or who may in fact be more productive in a space they feel comfortable in. Just like “team-building” exercises and get-together social events for an entire company, not everyone is going to be comfortable or have a good time at such things. You’ll tell those people who want some space to work rather than be distracted, because they’ll have headphones on in their “collaborative pods” and it takes several yells of their name to break them out of their trance (ie interrupt their work).

I do have a lot of sympathy to common shared areas that naturally will gather people, for instance break rooms, places to sit/lounge on a break or just a break from the desk to sit and think in maybe a space with some chairs overlooking the morning sunrise, etc. Give people places to broaden out, but keep the places where work can get done in an efficient manner without the distractions or the open space.

More importantly, I think the space should foster creativity and underline the idea of trust and being happy when you’re at work. People who are happy at work are going to do great things. Some people are happy surrounded by friends, some are happy sitting in an environment where their cube is as comfortable or decked out like their favorite room at home. One shoe doesn’t fit all, but you can’t certainly be open. Watching videos and photo montages of many of today’s prime tech companies, start-ups, and creative shops, I am constantly drawn to their non-traditional work spaces. They’re not all open, they’re not all wall-filled, but they do have character. If your office space does not have character reflecting the company (or attractive to an employee you’re asking to spend their days in), you need to fix that before diving into this rule.