Tag Archives: office as interruption factory

The Office – Interruption Factory, Or Idea Factory? (Is Jason Fried Right, Or Wrong?)

So, what do we do when the wisdom sounds so right, so obvious – but may be wrong?

I am a big fan of Jason Fried.  I have presented a synopsis of his book (co-authored with David Heinemeier Hansson), Rework.  I have blogged about his ideas, quoting him, reflecting on his ideas a number of times.  And I like his writing style, and think he is right.

Except…  what if he is wrong?

Here are excerpts from his latest (special for CNN – read it here):

The modern office has become an interruption factory. You can’t get work done at work anymore.

When people walk into the office, they trade their work day in for a series of work moments. It’s like the front door is a “time Cuisinart” — shredding it all into little bits.

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?

People — especially creative people — need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get things done. Fifteen minutes isn’t enough. Thirty minutes isn’t enough. Even an hour isn’t enough.

If I had read this a month ago, I would have said something like:  “Amen! ~ Preach it, brother!,” or words to that effect.  But, now, I’m not so sure.  Because I have just read Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson.  And that book is filled with story after story about the creative/innovative energy that is created by folks interacting constantly.  It praises the conference table, and the design of buildings that are intended to enable/encourage constant, “accidental” and “on-purpose” interaction.  “Interruption,” if you will..  Consider this quote from Johnson’s book:

The ground zero of innovation was not the microscope.  It was the conference table…  The most productive tool for generating good ideas remains a circle of humans at a table, talking shop.

So – who is right?  Jason Fried or Steven Johnson?

Maybe both…  but, maybe, if we follow Fried too closely, we might lose out.  Having just finished Johnson’s book, I suspect that Fried’s counsel would have some anti-innovation unintended consequences.  At least, that’s what I think this week.

So – what about all of those interruptions.  Some of them are good, and feed the idea factory.  Others?  Well, maybe we just need to put up a sign that says “I’m in the alone zone – check with me later” an hour or two a day at work.  (“Alone zone” is one of Fried’s phrases, by the way).