Let’s take a look at something I wrote awhile back while we wait for Al to come back on! A recent post by Michael Bates, the Tulsa-based urban planning, on the work of Jane Jacobs had me searching for an old post of my own Malcolm Gladwell’s article discussing how companies are trying to look like Jacobs’s description of Greenwich Village. The discussion was interesting, and it’s worth looking at again.
In my quest for more data about Karen Stephenson’s work, I came across an old New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell, the happy camper behind The Tipping Point. The article, “Designs for Working: Why your bosses want to turn your new office into Greenwich Village“, originally appeared 2000 Dec 11. He starts off with a scene from the great Jane Jacobs book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which immediately earned the rest of my eyeballs.
I read Death and Life as an undergraduate after reading The Economy of Cities (1970) for a class that I scored a 95 in, but unfortunately was taking pass fail. Death and Life opened my eyes to what life could be like after spending the last ten years locked on a section with only six houses and having to tend a monstrous garden all summer. (Oh, woe!) For a guy who gets physically ill when he doesn’t talk to people all day, it was a severe treatment and Jacobs provided a stiff antidote. Not to mention a small preparation for moving to south Chicago a couple of years later.
The gist of his article — which he stays on, very unlike me — is that while Jacobs’s ideas for the city may have failed until recently (and people inexplicably still move out to the suburbs) they have been taken up by office planners. It turns out that you have not been talking enough with your co-workers, especially those with whom you do not work.
I have always been admonished to shut up and let them do some work, for Pete’s sake!, but apparently Gladwell has discovered other firms that are trying desperately to create a networking environment. The goal is to create an atmosphere conducive to weak ties.