Home Work

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I’m not surprised by the controversy bomb CEO Marissa Meyer launched with the news that Yahoo would stop welcoming folks to work-from-home. I’m certainly not the first to call “irony” on this tech giant that makes much of its living from connecting people online. I wonder if Ms. Meyer could take a note from the playbook of her esteemed predecessor -- that trail-blazing career-woman of ‘em all, Gloria Steinem.

Ms. Steinem, too, said many controversial things. But here’s one that’s always stuck with me, especially in the age of social media. She said that for real change to take place, our work paradigm must shift from pyramid to circle. We must rethink the old systems of top-down decision-making if we’re to become more collaborative, integrated and symbiotic.

Ms. Steinem’s point of view is most often associated with fairness -- the drive to achieve greater equality. But here, her keenly practical eye is also at work. The beauty of the circle paradigm is that it’s more effective -- by a lot.

Flexible, accommodating, self-organized collaboration simply yields more value. Hidden talents are discovered, greater passion is fueled, and more creative efforts are put forth when we’re free to work as we choose.

Today’s top brands have even taken the circle paradigm one step further with crowdsourcing -- inviting customers into business operations to solve problems and innovate on products. As they shift their work structures from pyramid to circle, these businesses reap millions of dollars in benefits. And they sure could never have gotten there without unleashing self-organized collaboration -- without lifting the boundaries of place with social technology.


I get Ms. Meyer’s logic -- give us more opportunities to connect casually, and good things come. But it’s confounding that Yahoo thinks forcing us to spend time in the same room will result in more collaboration. To my mind, it will only result in less.

Whoops, gotta go. My colleague from Sydney is Skyping me. I know, the hour is ungodly, but I’m passionate about this project we’re working on together. I can’t wait to speak to her. And by the way -- you better believe I wouldn’t feel that way if my employer didn’t allow me the flexibility to sometimes work from home.

With a Perspective, I’m Bonnie Thomas.

Bonnie Thomas is a content strategist for an East Bay social software company.