Who let the dogs in? A brief comment on animal spirits.

Dog on Floor

Some of my best friends are animals. (No snickering.) So I’m happy to report on a growing office trend: bringing your dog to work. One example of this, as detailed in the Boston Globe, is at WeWork, a Coworking Space at Fort Point in Boston, that houses 900 people, 250 companies, and 30 four-legged guests.

Why not? In the words of WeWork’s Fort Point community manager Capri Coury, dogs “boost morale, productivity, and overall happiness.” Dogs also spark conversations that can improve worker socialization and idea-sharing. And, at the Thursday Meet-ups—or “Dog Happy Hour” or “Yappy Hour”—where dogs and workers from the various companies hang out together over potato chips and dog biscuits, we can assume that some valuable networking takes place. (I’m guessing, though, that the networking rituals appropriate for canines might present legal problems if practiced by owners.)

I already know what you’re thinking: “Our workforce productivity is down and morale is low. Time to bring in the dogs!” Well, this would undoubtedly fare better than a lot of organizational fixes we hear about these days. And it has special attraction for younger hi-tech workers who spend 15 hours at work and can barely get home to spend quality time with their pooches. The truth is I’m all for anything that can bring some humanity and spontaneity to work.

Of course you could make the case that it’s discriminatory against cats and their owners. But with proper mediation techniques (not to be confused with medication techniques) dogs and cats could learn to work side by side with each other. Given the obvious interest in such a topic, this could be my next book.

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"Little Boxes" revisited

After seeing my favorite band, Walk Off The Earth, in concert last week, I'm inspired to reprise an earlier post I wrote about them. (I think this is my 15th article on the band, if you're keeping count at home.) This video is a must-see...

Every now and then a song comes along that savages the sterility and banality of modernity and its cookie cutter institutions.

Malvina Reynolds' classic “Little Boxes” did it in 1962, with its allusions to the “ticky tacky” conformity of residential tract housing and the sanitized roles that our social order tries to stuff us into. A half-century later the tune holds up all too well, as Walk Off The Earth brilliantly reminds us.

This song identifies SO many easy targets: our barren, highway-glutted, carbon-wasting, soul-choking suburban sprawl (which may be the biggest contributor to climate destabilization); our assembly-line industrial-era educational factories that produce obedient citizen-workers who (too often) “come out all the same”; and our personality-crushing, spontaneity-killing, Dilbert-imitating corporations that strangle the creativity out of its boxed-in cubicle captives.

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Difficult relationships

file8841263244527 “Managing difficult relationships” is finally recognized as a leadership skill these days. This can refer to a difficult relationship between you and a colleague or between two other colleagues, but as a leader—with or without portfolio—you need to know how to deal with this if it shows up on your team.

In the 21st century, when collaborative teams run the show more than dictatorial leaders, relationship is everything. (Ok, that's not breaking news, but it’s easily forgotten.) Leadership has become less about giving orders and more about community organizing—and specifically about getting results from a team of independent-minded individuals who often have to work closely with each other under stressful conditions. (Rock & roll has taught me some lessons in this, which we'll talk about shortly.)

Managing difficult relationships can sound soft, squishy, and inconsequential compared to sexy stuff like boosting sales or elevating performance, but the latter is directly affected by the former. When work gets bogged down because of fractious conflict between team members, productivity takes a hike. Unfortunately, those leaders who devalue the “soft” skills of facilitating, coaching, conflict resolution, etc. would rather have someone else deal with this touchy-feely stuff, while they deal with "more important" matters.

Well, I could devote a book to this. (Oh, wait, I already did.) But in this short post I’ll point out a couple things that may be useful to consider.

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The eve of destruction—one more time

SkyThis week I heard a street singer in Somerville, Massachusetts performing “Eve of Destruction”—a Golden Oldie protest song by Barry McGuire. (Did we just invent a new category of music here?) It occurred to me that the message of this song is so timeless, the record should be re-released for every generation! After all, there's two kinds of tunes that people always find uplifting: tender love ballads and songs of impending cataclysmic disasters. Anyway, I thought I’d reprise a post I wrote about this important song a few years ago.

I recently caught an interview with historian James Patterson on the topic of his book, The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America.

A very interesting fellow and book, which chronicles how quickly America's social harmony evaporated in 1965. But even more interesting to me was his reference to the Barry McGuire song, “Eve of Destruction” (written by P.F. Sloan), that inspired his title. For those of you who have never heard this iconic record, you’re missing a vital artifact of the 60s—the most controversial record of its time, which generated acrimonious debate among critics and social scientists.

When I first heard the tune I was concerned that Mr. McGuire might be a few fries short of a Happy Meal. (See this clip from NBC’s Hullabaloo to make your own assessment.) But I kept my opinions to myself while wiser heads unpacked the lyrics for macroeconomic insights and psycho-historical predictions. Was it a diatribe against Schumpeter’s theory of “creative destruction” (in which old business is destroyed to make way for new business)? Was it a mystical prophecy of the End Times? The Hullabaloo dancers wanted answers.

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