The Constructive Use of Solitude
Holiday Home | Rollo May | Free Child Care | Factoids | Elsewhere | The Logic of Overconfidence
It’s an “OFFEND NO-ONE” domestic interior, with banks of desks as hidden as possible because you’re not supposed to see this and think “OFFICE!” You’re supposed to think Home, and this one is appropriately called f*cking NEUEHOUSE. And, you know what? Fine. Do it.
It looks like this ‘Office Lobby’ aesthetic is displacing — or is just a new take on — the apotheosis of the open office: Airspace, as I wrote about in 2016:
The new aesthetic of work, work tech, and workplace is what can be thought of as anywhereism.
The official story is that today’s workplace is designed to increase the likelihood of serendipity, creativity, innovation, and human happiness, but the hard reality is that most companies are decreasing the square footage of offices to save money, even when evidence suggests that many people are less happy, and less productive in open spaces, especially introverts [see The Privacy Crisis — Steelcase].
Does this remind you of what goes on in your open office?
A set of 21st century design conventions make up what Kyle Chayka has termed Airspace: open plans, glass walls, communal table-desks, high ceilings. Shiny and monochrome devices. Artisan touches, like finished plywood and Edison lightbulbs. And all places are taking on the same contours and affordances, from our bedrooms to our offices to cafes, hotels, and co-working sites.
Leave no trace behind. Remember: You have never been here. — Tokumitsu and Mol
The aesthetics and cultural underpinnings of Anywhereism — the inherent rootlessness and interchangeability of places, parts, and people — is now deeply engrained in work culture. We live in occupied territory. The mandate is we can (and must) work anywhere, that there can be no boundaries between work and non-work, and everywhere we work (which is anywhere) should look and feel like everywhere else.
This is not a good thing, and we can hope that it is only an intermediate state, and not a final one.
As Tokumitsu and Mol said in Life at the Nowhere Office, these aesthetics center on openness and impersonality: ‘The new office presents itself as the interior design equivalent of everyone’s friend. It is comfortable and always available, a temporary platform onto which workers alight for meetings and some deskwork before fluttering off to another meeting, the home office, another job. But importantly, leave no trace behind. Remember: You have never been here.’
Can we make places to work and live where we leave actually traces behind, even after we have left? Can we reject the premises and realities of Anywhereism?
So, an office that looks like a hotel lobby, based on mid-century minimalist home designs. They are changing the decor, but almost nothing else in the business. And just like a hotel lobby, when you leave, you were never there.
Quote of the Moment
In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.
| Rollo May
Free Child Care
Before you get too excited by the section title, I’m not talking about U.S. government policy or some new trend in corporate largess.
In Canada’s Child Care Program Eases Day Care Fees for Parents, Vjosa Isai details a move in Canada to drop child care fees:
A national program is reducing day care fees to as low as 10 Canadian dollars, about $7.60, per day, a relief for families even as a surge in demand has created obstacles.
Among the world’s wealthiest countries, European nations tend to dominate rankings of child care policies.
A Unicef report two years ago that measured maternity leave and day care costs, among other factors, showed that nine of the top 10 nations were in Europe, led by Luxembourg. (Canada ranked 22nd, while the United States, which spends far less on child care than most other wealthy nations, was 40th.)
Yes, you heard right. Crest-thumping, ‘we’re the greatest economy in the world’, hegemon superpower U.S.A is 40th in the world for its child care policies. Shameful.
#1 in prisons, though.
Can you imagine the benefits to the economy and society if child care was really affordable, like under $10 per day? And, while you’re at it, reconsider public schools, so that childcare is in the same building or next door, so parents don’t have to shuttle kids from one to another.
But 40th-place contender U.S.A. doesn’t even have a national discussion going about childcare, which is unsurprising since we can’t get a nationalized healthcare system going, which most of the advanced economies undertook following WWII.
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Landscape equipment emits nearly 27 million tons of pollutants a year, according to estimates. One gas-powered leaf blower used for an hour generates the same amount of emissions as a car driving 1,100 miles. | Jane Margolies
The average American household possesses over 300,000 items. | Kyle Chayka, The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism
My operating principle is to remove one thing every time I bring one more thing into the house. But I fail that in many areas, like books, and kitchen gear.
A tipping point is coming: In the US alone, about $1.4 trillion of commercial real estate loans are due this year and next, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. (Other estimates are a bit lower.) When the deadline arrives, owners facing large principal payments may prefer to default instead of borrowing again to pay the bill.
A hard rain is gonna’ fall. Maybe we could convert empty office space into childcare centers?
How to Say No | Judd Antin
The truth is that saying no is both healthy and necessary. The trick to doing it well is recognizing that yes/no is a spectrum, and the best no leaves the asker feeling like they got a yes.
In a Dutch financial services company, certain employees were asked to change their email notifications. Instead of replying continuously, they blocked out two or three periods a day to respond in batches. For some participants, this batching reduced burnout in the short term, especially if their inboxes were overflowing. The researchers concluded, however, “that email batching should not be regarded as panacea for enhancing well-being.'
| Adam Grant, Your Email Does Not Constitute My Emergency
Layers of Time: Pace Layers of Work | Stowe Boyd
Explore the relationship between time and work through the lens of Stewart Brand's Pace Layers model.
This newsletter continues below with additional insights exclusive to premium subscribers. All premium subscribers will receive a copy of my (in process) ebook, The Paradoxes of Engagement, when released later this summer.
The Logic of Overconfidence
Everywhere we turn, we encounter the trappings and outcomes of overconfidence. In politics, the market, and business there is an overabundance of optimism. Politicians, investors, and business leaders — each in their own way — downplay the barriers to success involved in their plans.
Partly this has been explained by the Lake Woebegone phenomenon:
Where all the women are strong, the men are all handsome, and the children are all above average.
People routinely overestimate their capabilities. This is called illusory superiority. People in the hospital for car crashes that they caused rate themselves as closer to ‘expert’ than ‘poor’ drivers. Less than 1% of high schoolers rate themselves poor at social communication. 90% of college professors rated themselves above average relative to their peers.
A related bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, is also well-researched. Basically, people who have low ability, expertise, or experience in some domain will tend to overestimate their knowledge or skill in that area.
We seem to be unaware of our cognitive blinders regarding overconfidence. But shouldn’t these behaviors lead to negative outcomes? Why don’t individuals learn from their poor judgments if, in fact, they are poor? Wouldn’t these biases lead to evolutionary pressures and kill off people who display these behaviors? Shouldn’t there be negative consequences to taking risks — based on our overconfidence — that could lead to disaster or death?
But there is a fundamental counter to these questions. If people generally display some behavior or trait, there is likely an evolutionary reason, although we may not understand it.
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