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September 28, 2006 » 3:42 pm

On The Clock Goofiness

At the workshop earlier this week, one woman raised concerns over whether blogging about one’s personal life at work could be considered wasting tax payer’s money. This question isn’t just limited to the government. Many companies ask similar questions about similar tools. For example, a lot of companies were reluctant to adopt IM, because they were afraid that employees would spend all their time gabbing online.    (L93)

There are three problems with this kind of thinking. First, if you’re going to waste time gabbing at work, you don’t need IM. You’ve got water coolers, cubicles, copiers, lobbies, and lunchrooms. Options for wasting time abound.    (L94)

Second, banning a tool prevents you from using it for good or for ill. You have to be rigorous in measuring tradeoffs. In the case of IM, which had legitimate business uses, people’s response to not having access to it was to download freely available software and route around the company firewall.    (L95)

Third, Taylorism is so 1911. We are people, not machines, and people sometimes need to do things like call home from work (which up until relatively recently, government employees were not allowed to do). In fact, encouraging people to feel human can even be productive! Imagine that!    (L96)

This issue came up in response to an observation I made about the importance of play. Play is critical for effective learning, and yet, it can be hard to justify play, especially to the outside world, when your job is to protect national security.    (L97)

Mark Oehlert had a wonderful response to this. There are apparently two words for “play” in German. (I know one is “Spiel.” Can someone tell me the other?) One meaning of “play” describes the looseness that allows a wheel to turn. If there isn’t enough play, the wheel won’t turn. This latter meaning of play can be easier to rationalize in the workplace.    (L98)

We panelists were slightly guilty of playing on the job. The Backchannel (strictly classified) had me cracking up more than once during the discussion. (Did you know that David Weinberger used to write for Woody Allen?) And while this was not a classified event, they asked us not to take pictures of people. This is how we chose to comply:    (L99)

http://static.flickr.com/96/254460622_c0281d6488_m.jpg http://static.flickr.com/86/254460656_2087b466d1_m.jpg    (L9A)

(Photos courtesy of Jay Cross. Clay, we’re missing you. Please correct this!)    (L9B)

By the way, I agree with everything Marcia says.    (L9C)

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