When Yahoo recently terminated its telecommuting policy, forcing employees to return to the office rather than work from home, the company likely stymied the creative capacities of its work force, says Jennifer Glass, professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. “Two outdated ideas seem to underlie the Yahoo decision,” said Glass. “First, that tech companies can still operate like the small groups of 20-something engineers that founded them; and second, the most old-fashioned of all, that companies get the most out of their employees by limiting their autonomy.”
What’s the Big Idea?
The lesson, according to Glass, is that creativity is better fostered outside the workplace., or at least the water cooler workplaces that are as likely to inspire discussions about celebrity gossip as they are The Next Big Thing. “The logic that insists that the best new ideas come from staying within one’s company walls as long as possible sounds like a return to the corporate groupthink of an earlier era.” As a model for creativity, Glass holds up the university, where professors are not required to spend time with their immediate colleagues but are encouraged to attend conferences, travelling to new places to get new ideas.