Archive for January, 2011

How To Instantly Raise Your I.Q.

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The last post collected some interesting reactions re: working independently at home versus working in an office.  Most commenters leaned distinctly in favor of “Just leave me alone and let me do my job.  Please.”

So David Brooks’s latest editorial, “Amy Chua is a Wimp,” struck a chord.  (Amy Chua is the author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” the controversial new book about how strict “Chinese” mothering produces smarter and more accomplished kids–but that’s a whole other issue!)

Brooks believes that interpersonal skills are just as important as (and are perhaps more difficult to learn than) acing math problems or playing the violin.  He cites studies showing that groups are better at problem-solving than individuals, and that a group I.Q. can be higher than the I.Q.’s of even the smartest members.  This makes intuitive sense.  Don’t you “feel smarter” when in the company of smart engaged people?  It’s the same boost your tennis game gets when you play with someone better than you.

We curmudgeonly types enjoy working solo and feel we are more efficient and effective when we do so.  Working Girl counts herself among this number.  But look around you: Most new inventions (e.g., the device you are reading these words on) are turned into realities by groups of people, not lone geniuses.

At the very least, the lone geniuses need collaborators to make up for their deficiencies (“The Social Network,” anyone?). 

However, Brooks does not discuss the trickiest part of all: How/where to find a smart group of people? 

That’s the real problem.

Is The Office Anti-Work?

Friday, January 7th, 2011

The good people over at Career Overview recently tossed this over the transom:  “Why Work Doesn’t Work: 10 Fatal Flaws of the Modern Day Office.”

Some interesting ideas here.  It’s true that interruptions (which you get a lot of in most offices) make sustained meaningful mental effort almost impossible.  Meetings, of course, are the ultimate anti-work.  In WG’s experience, most people who spend eight-hour days in offices only get around four hours of actual work done. 

And–something many companies just don’t want to believe–information workers can’t be productive for eight-hour stretches.  The brain boggles after around three hours.  Yeah, you may keep on “working,” but it is a mere shadow of its former self.

It makes intuitive sense.  When WG switched from workplace editing to at-home editing, her productivity tripled.  Today, her clients get meaty beefy hours of high-quality work.  And WG spends fewer hours working.

Still, is it really true that “face to face collaboration isn’t needed anymore”?  Yes, WG has a client she’s worked with for years and has met only once in real life.  And, yes, this system is humming along just fine.  But she isn’t working with him.  She’s providing an independent product.

For teams of people who are designing/repairing/evaluating an object or service, taking advantage of the energy and creativity that happens when human brains function in close proximity can be key.  Not to mention, toiling together toward a common goal is one of life’s more pleasurable experiences. 

Plus, it can be good for you.  Don’t you find that when you are in the company of smart, innovative people you become smarter and more innovative yourself?  (You may also find the opposite to be true.)

Prediction: The most successful companies of the future will be the ones that find a way to combine the bliss and benefits of uninterrupted productivity with the amazing dynamism (and bliss!) of in-person collaboration.

Happy New Year's Resolutions

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Working Girl’s resolution for 2011: Blog less.  Not stopping completely.  Just spooling down to, as they say, pursue other interests. 

But first, about those resolutions.  Have you made any?  Still pondering? 

Either way, take a look at WG’s last U.S. News & World Report post: “10 New Year’s Resolutions for your Career.”

The most important one?  Probably “Stop procrastinating.”  Could be WG’s resolution every year…….