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The Hackable Office Furniture Of The Future Lets You Create Any Office You Want

Open office? Cubicle? Why not both? Herman Miller’s Metaform furniture makes the question of workspace layout obsolete. Now you can morph your desk from a conference room to a cubicle, any time you want.

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Now that I am standing ~100% images like these make me realize how sitting-oriented office furniture is. Not a single standing desk set up in these photos, although the lower left one might be usable that way, if you rolled the chairs out of the way.

There are, of course, lots of ways to resist progress. People take up knitting or quilting or calligraphy. They bake their own bread or brew their own beer or sew their own clothes using felt they have fashioned out of wet wool and dish soap. But, both in the scale of its ambition and in the scope of its anachronism, paleo eating takes things to a whole new level. Our Stone Age ancestors left behind no menus or cookbooks. To figure out what they ate, we have to dig up their bones and study the wear patterns on their teeth. Or comb through their refuse and analyze their prehistoric poop. And paleo eating is just the tip of the spear, so to speak. There are passionate advocates for paleo fitness, which starts with tossing out your sneakers. There’s a paleo sleep contingent, which recommends blackout curtains, amber-tinted glasses, and getting rid of your mattress; and there are champions of primal parenting, which may or may not include eating your baby’s placenta. There are even signs of a paleo hygiene movement: coat yourself with bacteria and say goodbye to soap and shampoo.
Nothing can compete with the shimmering immediacy of now, and not just when seismic events take place, but in our everyday lives. We are sponges and we live in a world where the fire hose is always on.

Like A Peloton, Not A Machine

Organizational metaphors can be helpful to think about what’s going on in work culture. Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organizationis a great compendium of metaphors: organization as a machine, organism, brain, culture, political systems, etc. I also find Joanne Martin’s analysis of contending perspectives in management thinking a compelling technique (see Metaphors matter: Talking about how we talk about organizations).

Dan Pontefract has an interesting metaphor to share

Maybe if we were to act like a peloton in our organizations, we might see higher levels of employee engagement.

peloton2

What’s a peloton?

In cycling speak, it’s what a pack of cyclists are called when they ride together. Check out the photo to the right for an example.

A peloton is a massive group of riders who ultimately work together — as a team — to move from one distance to another. Take away competitive cycling competitions for a moment (eg. Giro d’Italia or Tour de France) and think about amateur cyclists going out for weekend rides or events like the GranFondo between Vancouver and Whistler.

These women and men ride together as a team but what happens along the journey?

  • Sharing The Lead
    • Cyclists take turns at the front of the pack (ie. the peloton) to both set the pace and to protect others behind them from the wind. (A process known as drafting)
    • Those in front exert extra effort so others in the back can save some of their energy for their turn at the front at another interval in the ride
  • Proactive Communication
    • Often in a peloton, cyclists are proactively communicating with each other
    • If there is debris on the road, hand signals from whomever is in front alerts cyclists in the back to be careful
    • “On your right” or “stopping” are simple examples that cyclists shout out in the peloton to inform others of their intentions
    • “My turn to share the front” or “anyone need food or water” are other proactive examples of communication happening inside the peloton
  • Encouragement and Recognition
    • Whenever there are difficult impediments like tough gradients, sideways wind, pellets of rain, or even the successful maneuvering around unforeseen wildlife, cyclists from within the peloton are quick to recognize the effort or encourage the effort to continue
    • It really is a culture of encouragement inside the peloton

I like the peloton metaphor for the way that riders take turns as leader, and then fall back after making that contribution. This aligns with the notion of leanership very well.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Terrible book, but a great quote.


Forebruary is a wall calendar that you do not need to replace every year. The movable frame above the surface contains the month needed.
- Ilya Birman

Forebruary is a wall calendar that you do not need to replace every year. The movable frame above the surface contains the month needed.

- Ilya Birman

Corrupt personalization is the process by which your attention is drawn to interests that are not your own.

Christian Sandvig, Corrupt Personalization

Today’s technologies – instrumented things, sensor networks, data – have the opportunity to deepen social relationships, to brings us new important kinds of social relationships that we don’t already have and to participate directly in those relations. When we start to think about our technologies as not simply providing incremental value – good recommendations or metrics for this or that problem – we give them room to grow.

Maria Bezaitis, cited in Baking behavioral nudges into the products we own by PSFK Labs

(Source: shoutsandmumbles)

Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t ‘mean anything’ because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life. Say thank you.

Cheryl Strayed,  Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar 

The useless days will add up to something. […] These things are your becoming.