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The Book Of Their Art
Believe the buildings: not the plans, nor the speech.
Ruskin said: 'Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.' On the whole I think this is true. Writers and politicians may come out with all sorts of edifying sentiments, but they are what is known as declarations of intent. If I had to say which was telling the truth about society, a speech by a Minister of Housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the buildings.
| Kenneth Clark, Civilisation
So, while we all wonder what Elon Musk means when he talks about changing Twitter in this way or that, we’ll have to wait to see the building he architects.
Likewise, business leaders talk a lot, but in the end, what is it they build?
John Cutler suggests that companies should think of ongoing operations as a ‘portfolio of bets’:
Here's a helpful way to think about your bet portfolio. Imagine these six categories of bets. This is quick take—don't take these categories too seriously. Now picture an earlier stage VC-backed startup compared to a later stage company.
You can see the "balance" shift. At a high level, we are accounting for:
Certainty around the opportunity
Certainty around the solution
Amenability to experimentation
With each level, we tweak these variables slightly. Why is this a helpful idea?
Lots of companies have no words for any of this. They throw around the word "innovation", but nothing ever fails (hint: not innovation). They talk about "zero to one" and "big swings" without any real context. They ignore opportunities in their existing product in the quest for shiny new things. They talk about value vs. effort, without any distinction between opportunity risk and solution risk. They run diverse motions as a company, and magically expect a mono-process to reign it all in.
I will be profiling a fundamentally different way to attack innovation, next week.
Brian Chesky posted a Twitter thread in which he announced Airbnb’s new work policy:
Today, we’re announcing that Airbnb employees can live and work anywhere. Our design for working at Airbnb has 5 key features:
1. You can work from home or the office—whatever works best for you
2. You can move anywhere in the country, like from San Francisco to Nashville, and your compensation won't change
3. You have the flexibility to live and work in 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location
4. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings. Most employees will connect in person every quarter for about a week at a time (some more frequently)
5. To pull this off, we'll operate off of a multi-year roadmap with two major product releases a year, which will keep us working in a highly coordinated way
Why did we come up with this design? The world has become more flexible. Our business wouldn’t have recovered as quickly from the pandemic if it hadn’t been for millions of people working from Airbnbs
We also had the most productive two-year period in our company’s history—all while working remotely
Two decades ago, Silicon Valley startups popularized open floor plans and on-site perks. Today’s startups have embraced flexibility and remote work. I think this will become the predominant way companies work 10 years from now
Companies will be at a significant disadvantage if they limit their talent pool to a commuting radius around their offices. The best people live everywhere
But there’s a tension. The most meaningful connections happen in person. Zoom is great for maintaining relationships, but it's not the best way to deepen them. And some creative work is best done in the same room
The right solution should combine the efficiency of Zoom with the meaningful human connection that happens when people come together. Our design attempts to combine the best of both worlds
Apropos of Airbnb — I’ve mentioned the growing discussion about remote workers returning periodically to visit the office and treating it more like a pre-pandemic business trip. In Hotels Roll Out the Welcome Mat to ‘Super Commuters’, Debra Kamin reports on that:
In Britain, The Accor Group, whose hotels include The Savoy, Mama Shelter and the Pullman London St. Pancras, crafted a Commute and Stay promotion, which includes two midweek nights in a discounted room (up to 15 percent off) in a city-center hotel with flexible cancellation and assistance in booking venues for after-work drinks or entertaining clients.
The citizenM hotel chain, which has properties in cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco and London, recently started a monthly subscription deal for regulars, offering one stay per month at 99 euros, or about $119. “We’re definitely seeing a new rhythm of one to two stays a month,” said Ernest Lee, the brand’s chief growth officer. “We saw it a little bit before the pandemic, but not to this level.”
The Hoxton Chicago has a Work Stay Play package, which the general manager, Amos Kelsey, created to allow guests access to the facility’s in-house co-working space after noticing an uptick in far-flung commuters booking midweek stays.
One thing corporations can do with four floors of nearly-empty office space is to convert a floor of it to a hospitality wing — with lodging, food, etc. — perhaps in collaboration with a hotel chain like Marriott, Hyatt, or Intercontinental.
Or maybe WeWork and other coworking spaces could build out hotel-like amenities?
The first two SaksWorks locations opened last month , one on the 10th floor of the company’s flagship store in Midtown (where, for a brief period, you could buy Gucci for children) and another in a Financial District outpost [that shut down early in 2019](https://wwd.com/business-news/retail/saks-to-close-brookfield-place-store-1202936681/), only two years after it opened.
The aesthetic is a daytime living room of a particular, eco-adjacent kind.
In a moment when desperation for more at-home work space drove a soaring residential real estate market outside of major cities, SaksWorks is invested in the idea that it is not just New Yorkers in tiny apartments, exhausted from propping laptops up on piles of laundry in their bedrooms, who want to shake things up. Other locations are soon to arrive on Long Island (in an old Lord & Taylor building in Manhasset), in Westchester and most lavishly in Greenwich, Conn., in an enormous building formerly taken up by a Polo store. Presumably, even if you live amid 12,000 square feet, you’ve had enough of this dance by now, working in your private library one day and shifting over to the pool house the next.
However, it appears that Saks will be winding down this experiment, and transitioning management of Saksworks (now operated by WeWork) to Convene, an operator with 23 locations in the US and the UK.
I looked through The ConnectionXPS& Key Findings Executive Summary, which shows that those that love their job are more connected and less likely to leave:
Employees who love what they do and are great at doing it are 8x more likely to be Strongly Connected compared to those who dislike what they are doing.
Those who dislike their jobs and have to work hard at doing it are 3x more likely to be Not Connected.
In addition, those who love their work are 4x more likely to stay with their organization.
Easy. Just get managees to love their jobs. (LOL).
The pressure to fill the calendar and the inbox seems to be unstoppable. In Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work, Microsoft researchers showed these terrible stats:
252% — Increase in weekly time spent in meetings for the average Teams user since February 2020
32% — Increase in chats sent per person since March 2020
So, the hypothetical person who had four hours of meetings per week in early 2020 now has an additional 10 hours of meetings? Yikes. And I thought asynch was catching on…
Rebecca Zucker makes the case that companies should destigmatize departing which leaves open the door for return:
There are organizations that regard an employee’s departure as a betrayal, which can lead those who remain to view them negatively. This attitude is neither supportive nor inviting to an individual who might otherwise consider returning one day and can breed ill will with a departing employee. Destigmatizing departures and viewing them as a normal part of employees’ career progressions is the first step in leaving the door open for them to return someday.
Normalizing leaving the organization starts at the beginning of the talent pipeline. Jen Andrasko, vice president and global head of alumni at Bain & Company (and a boomerang employee herself), shared:
The way that we think about our alumni at Bain is that they are an invaluable part of the Bain ecosystem in creating an engaged promoter base. We have this life cycle-based approach to alumni engagement, so it actually has to start at recruitment. You need to be talking about your alumni and their successes and the work that they’re doing out in the world when you are meeting with recruits. Because they are your talent brand in the marketplace.
Doing this not only destigmatizes departing the company, but also shows that it’s perfectly normal and even expected that many who join will leave at some point.