Commentaries

Being There

By Penelope Hillemann on February 5, 2015

The Neuger team has been getting together with the team at Carlson Capital Management, a well-regarded wealth management firm, for occasional “Tandem TED Talk” lunches. Food is provided and we watch one or two TED talks and discuss them.

Recently, we watched Jason Fried’s talk, “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work.” His focus is the routine interruptions (he calls them the “M&Ms” – managers and meetings) that can make it difficult to get work done at what we call the workplace. He contends that instead of a “workday,” many of us have only “work minutes” between interruptions. So when we really need focused, uninterrupted time, we often seek it outside the office or outside normal office hours. Fried thinks this is worth rethinking, and suggests productivity will soar if we carve out chunks of the week where no one talks to anyone.

Fried’s argument clearly strikes a chord with many; the video has had nearly 3.5 million views as I write this. But he does make assumptions about what “real” work is. Sure, sometimes it’s the head-down, write-this-report, code-this-website, come-up-with-a-brilliant-concept, prepare-for-my-presentation kind of work. And yes, sometimes we definitely need to carve out a quiet space or time to focus on that.

But there are other kinds of important work that exist in what Fried thinks of as the interruptions. Examples at our strategic communications agency are all around: Bouncing ideas around in real time, giving feedback on the first cut of a video, weighing in on a font choice or a color palette, helping out with a two-person proofreading job, calling a vendor, meeting with a client, or showing a potential client how we work. Because sometimes being there amid the “interruptions” is our most important work.

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