The Modern Office Doesn't Really Foster Collaboration

If you really want to get creative and work on something, you need uninterrupted stretches of quiet time. Jason Fried says you need to keep the distractions out.
  • Transcript


Question: What are innovations in your actual office space? 

Jason Fried: So a big part of it is the materials that we choose.  So we choose very acoustically friendly materials.  Lots of foam... or I should say felt, some foam, cork, stacked materials of different sizes in different, I don’t know how to put it, but they’re stacked at different levels, so the sound reflects instead of bouncing around and echoes and stuff like that. We get rid of the echoes.  We have sound insulated rooms that we do use when we do need to talk to other people.  So we have this idea of... we do have an open workspace, everyone has an open desk, but we also have these things called "team rooms."  And when two or more people are talking, we say, "go get a room.”  You know.  “Go get a room." They go get a room and they room is sound-isolated.  So they can have a conversation, loud if they want, but not bother everyone else who is working.  And that’s the big thing that’s really important about out space.  That we do have places for people to get together and talk, but they are sound-isolated and insulated.  So they don’t interrupt everybody else in the.  
Question: What’s next for the workplace? 

Jason Fried: I think the modern sort of cool workplace is the open, loft, wood floors, everyone out in the open collaborating all the time, or talking all the time.  And the thing that’s important to keep in mind that interruption and collaboration are different things. In the modern workplace with the open work space and lots of hard materials everywhere, and people cramped in, you know, really close to one another, it just encourages interruption, it doesn’t encourage collaboration. And so if you really want to get creative and really want to work on something, you need uninterrupted structures of time to get those things done.  And if someone’s calling your name or your sitting really close to somebody else, it’s very hard to actually find that time.  And I think that the trade.. while there’s some good stuff about being able to see some people all the time and walk past people and there’s some nice stuff that happens in those environments, I think that it should be more the exception than the rule 
Question: When did you decide to record your office ideas into a book? 

Jason Fried: So, the way we’ve kind of done it, for the past 10 years we’ve been writing on our blog.  We have a blog called "Signal Vs. Noise."  And we’ve been writing all of our ideas down and sharing them with everybody else.  Because I figure, if they’re valuable for us, I’m sure someone else can benefit from them.  It doesn’t cost as much to write these things down.  We talk about them or write them down internally, so why not share them externally too.  And so over 10 years, we’ve been writing down these things about design and programming and business and marketing and sales and all the stuff that we have to do every day.  And then we looked back on it and said, maybe we can turn all these blog posts into a book.  Maybe we can take the stuff we’ve already written and turn it into a book and polish it up and give it a single voice, but let’s do that instead.  So, "Rework" and "Getting Real" before it, which is our other book, are not things we sat down and decided to write, they’re actually things we sat down and looked back and found the things we’ve already written and then compiled them together.  So these aren’t new ideas, these are old ideas.  These are ideas we’ve tried and we tested and we put out there and that’s why I think the books are valuable because they’re not theoretical, they’re not academic.  They’re not... in a perfect world this is how it should work. Actually, this is how it has worked for us and they’re time tested and that’s why we share them.

Recorded on July 22, 2010
Interviewed by Peter Hopkins