Is there a Way to be Happy at Work even when you're only a Worker Bee?
I think we all have this idea that the only people that are happy with their work are the artists or the entrepreneurs who create their own futures, but the reality of our working environment for the vast majority of people is that we are but small cogs in a giant machine; a friend recently told me he feels like he checks in and out of prison every day...
Does work have to be a prison?
TPG (Technically Philly Groups) says no.
Too Big to Fail? Or too Big is Failure?
Many of the large organizations I've been working with recently are worried about imminent social/economic change, disruptions that could end their business. These organizations respond with strict policies, budget cuts, bureaucracy. Everything is moving so fast--and these government, non-profit, and corporate interests don't know if they'll be relevant in 5 years. They organizations are so large that there's a huge disconnect between any person's action and the final outcome, hence we feel like our actions are useless. When we go to work every day and can't see what we're creating, it's demotivating and demoralizing. This is why work feels like a prison.
Meanwhile, these institutions create value for millions of customers. How can they continue to deliver value without sucking the souls from their employees? Why should these huge organizations even care?
The Futurists Say Organizational Learning is the Cure
Authors and bloggers such as Peter Senge, Venessa Miemis, Dan Mezick, Peter Logan, Tony Hsieh, Geoffrey Moore, even the entire Lean Startup movement--show us how optimizing an organization around a learning culture helps it respond to change in order to secure long-term profit, while helping their employees feel valued. Instead of top-down hierarchy, these authors advocate organizations that could be called chaordic--both chaotic and ordered--these are self-organizing on the macro level. Agile teams know all about the magic of self-organization on the micro scale, but as Kent Beck identified in his book Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change, often patterns at one scale can be repeated in a self-similar ways at a larger scale to produce the same effect for drastically improved results. Employees who aren't shackled down to fixed roles can adapt to change and move the company towards greater success.
Sounds Great--but there's Nothing I Can Do, here in my Cell
Maybe I've been too skeptical, or I gave up too easily. Or just being in prison too long makes us forget about the light of day. I've been going every day to a "stable job", struggling with projects that deliver marginal value, and feeling like I'm imprisoned. This kind of work eats away the daylight hours as well as the passion I once had for technology projects. Meanwhile, I've been missing out on life's simple pleasures. Then I kept meeting these amazing people at conferences--people who won't settle for good. I realized I wanted to be like these people--but how? I have a family to support and I need security. I realized I had lost hope. It was like a life sentence. More and more people are finding ways to make a living doing what they love, following their dreams and making a difference at the same time. Why not everyone? Because I have to pay the bills--this job takes more than I've got, leaving nothing for following dreams. Imagine how much better the economy would be if we found ways to engage everyone's passion, talents, and creativity, even while they're in prison! There are lots of tiny changes you can make in your daily work that you don't even have to ask permission for. Soon your cell will have a bright new color, or a window; hope can come in. TPG will help you learn, connect, and discover better ways of working on or with technology, in ways that empower you. Ultimately your prison door will open wide.
TPG Helps Us Learn
Working in technology requires fast-paced learning--but none of us can keep up with everything, especially since you can't surf the web from prison. Much of the great innovation of our time will come from applying standard practice in one domain to a novel context. TPG provides a forum for practitioners of various disciplines to come together so they can more readily find out about problems in other domains and swap ideas.
TPG Makes Work Fun
New ideas picked up at an evening event give us something to look forward to trying back at prison. The more we get in the habit of trying new things, then reflecting on these experiments, the less we hate going to work. Imagine looking forward to returning to your cell! Successful experiments get noticed, and are hopefully repeated, bringing job security.
Can we Experiment in a way that the Warden won't notice?
TPG says yes. It may seem counter-intuitive to risk your cushy and confining cell for the unknown, but we'll have lots of ex-cons to tell their escape stories at every TPG event.
TPG Builds our Future
When we make new relationships, we open the possibility of working together--be it through mentoring, business partnerships, or even planning events/conferences together. There's no better way to predict the future than to create it. Wouldn't you prefer freedom from your cell? The amazing thing is you don't even have to leave your job to do that.
TPG: a Bias Toward Action
While it's grand to have a vision statement and a committee for everything, we're not here to do that. We want to give you the tools to make your daily work life happier. TPG relies on the agile "inspect-and-adapt" philosophy. We minimize planning so that we can try something simple, then adjust based on what happens. We've already run half a dozen or so co-located events, and it's time to ramp up our service to the community. Our actions will always be grounded in our values: Service. Relationships. Learning.
TPG's Next Steps
Imagine setting foot inside the front door of a TPG event, to be greeted immediately with a friendly hello, a name badge, and an introduction to someone else the greeter thinks you'd like to meet, perhaps someone who's managed to escape prison. Imagine getting connected to an expert who is happy to talk for free about a problem you're struggling with at work right now--or in a follow up phone call next week. Imagine double features--back-to-back talks from two different user groups that you follow. Enjoy the free food and sessions and dessert while meeting people with similar interests. All of this is coming soon! If this dream isn't real at your next TPG event, reach out to a stranger and help create it! Together, we'll make something truly worth repeating. We could create a world where people aren't miserable when they head to work. Imagine that.