The Struggle of Over-Collaboration.


I can’t even remember how many times I’ve cited the wisdom of Jason Fried. His book, Rework, was a Bible for me in the early-goings of starting Proof back in 2010, and his second book, Remote, our company was fortunate enough to be featured in. As the Founder of Basecamp, a tool we use daily here at Proof, his wisdom is something I cite often as a leader and business owner.

In an interview, Jason was asked about the “epidemic” of collaboration in the workplace, where he said the following:

“Yeah, I think there’s actually an epidemic of over-collaboration and over-communication. Collaboration is something managers seem to look at and think is particularly good. Because they see activity. They see people working. They see people moving. They hear buzz. Stuff’s happening. But real creative work, especially, is usually done quietly, solitary sort of work, where people are in a flow or in a focus mode where they’re able to just focus on the stuff and not be distracted and interrupted. It’s very hard to do really good work when you’re constantly being interrupted every 15 minutes, every 5 minutes, every 20 minutes, every 30 minutes.”

Guilty. Guilty as charged. I am a huge proponent of momentum. I get excited and I’m fulfilled when things are happening. When there’s a buzz around the office. When people are collaborating and communicating and interacting with each other.

But what I’ve come to accept is the beauty in the silence. Sacred head-down time to actually get shit done. I need it. I need it desperately. You’ll often find me stepping out of the office and sitting at a local coffee shop (or bar, if a drink helps) to write a proposal and/or focus on some creative work that needs my undivided attention.

And honestly, that’s when the best work happens. Constant interruptions and conversations and even awesome collaboration can and does lead to hiccups in being productive.

Fortunately, our work setup at Proof allows us to have strong collaboration days when we’re in the office (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and solid head-down, quiet, focus days (Tuesday/Thursday). This balance is critical to our team’s success and the days apart allow us to come together and be all the more productive and efficient in our work.

It feels natural, especially if you’re in a position of leadership, to want that constant collaboration and communication. But as I’ve learned, and as you look within at your own company or organization, those quiet, even silent, head-down days that allow you to focus are imperative to doing your best, most creative, most effective work.

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