Third International Conference on Communities and Technologies
The Wahwah Model for Breakthrough Ideas

A Few Notes on Work, Play and Suffering

I've encountered a number of interesting and inspiring thoughts about work and play and suffering in the past 24 hours.  As much as I am tempted to explore some of these further, I want even more to get to work [on other things] right now.  I'm simply going to post the links here, with a few notes, so that I (or perhaps others) can come back to these at some future time.

BoingBoing posted a link to "Thought Virus #4: Follow the Fun", an excerpt from Douglas Rushkoff's forthcoming book, "Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out":

In a renaissance society driven by the need to forge connections, play is the ultimate system for social currency. It's a way to try on new roles without committing to them for life. It's a way to test strategies of engagement without being defined by them forever. It’s a way to rise above the seemingly high stakes of almost any situation and see it as the game it probably is. It’s a way to make one’s enterprise a form of social currency from the beginning, and to guarantee a collaborative, playful, and altogether more productive path toward continual innovation.

And this play begins at work.

... producers in a renaissance era must come to think of their companies as collaborative minisocieties, whose underlying work ethic will ultimately be expressed in the culture they create for the world at large.

Many have argued that it’s immature and idealistic to believe that everyone,or even a majority of people,should be allowed to enjoy their jobs. In the words of one dark New York TimesOpEd piece, "We're still just means of production....Work is often more bearable when we don’t, in addition to money, expect it always to deliver happiness." The same might be said for life itself, particularly when our duty to perform an economic function extends from what we can produce to what we can consume. Both work and life should be much more than "bearable."

Luckily, renaissances celebrate immaturity and idealism.

This inspiring notion of playful work contrasts with a provocative segment I recently listened to from an audiobook version of Viktor Frankl's classic "Man's Search for Meaning":

An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment affords him the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature.  But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of behavior: namely, in man’s attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces.  A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him.  But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful.  If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.  Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death … Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.

Kathy Sierra, as usual, has many gems in her recent post about "When bosses (or clients) go bad"; I'll include just one excerpt below, that focuses on work, play and suffering:

... the difference between being expected to put in the long hours and being worshipped for doing it cannot be overstated. If we want to make happy users, we have to be happy. Our employers/managers/clients need to accept that, and act accordingly. If you're making us work late all the time because of lousy management, that's inexcusable. If you're making us work late because you're greedy and just want as much business as you can (im)possibly handle, that's inexcusable. But if you need us to work late because things happened that nobody predicted, or because this demo means something drastically important to the company, for which we will also be rewarded... then sure, we'll be willing to pitch in. But spend the extra few bucks to treat us as well as your clients. You should be wining and dining us, not them, when you're asking so much from us.

Finally (for now), I followed Stowe Boyd's link to Evan Williams' Ten Rules for Web Startups (highly recommended in its own right, including some variations on the ten steps that Glenn Kelman recently shared at EU 2005 ... but I digress ...), which included a link to Merlin Mann's summary of David Allen's book "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" in his 43folders blog.  The part about honoring one's time and energy strikes a deep chord within me:

This is a really summarized version, but here it is, PowerPoint-style:

  1. identify all the stuff in your life that isn’t in the right place (close all open loops)
  2. get rid of the stuff that isn’t yours or you don’t need right now
  3. create a right place that you trust and that supports your working style and values
  4. put your stuff in the right place, consistently
  5. do your stuff in a way that honors your time, your energy, and the context of any given moment
  6. iterate and refactor mercilessly

[BoingBoing just posted a link to a recent study on the value of selectivity.]

OK, enough blogging for now; time to devote some energy to getting [other] things done...

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