Issue 39

Code for a space full of joy

Alexandra Banu
Marketing & PR Responsible @ COS


At age 13, prodigy Richard Sheridan first came into contact with a computer. It was the moment he knew that he was going to spend his entire life programming.

However, his experience in the software business taught him that for many employees, working in this industry meant endless hours of poorly coordinated projects, with unsatisfactory results. After almost thirty years, he decided it was time to find a better way.

Thus, in 2001, he founded Menlo, a design and software development company, with a clear intention: to create an organizational culture based on a business value called "Enthusiasm". Six years later, Menlo reached Top 500 of Inc.com as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US.

In 2013, the company headquarters, located in a former parking lot in Ann Harbor, Michigan, was visited by over two thousand people from all over the world, eager to discover more about the company. Their interest was not in the technology used by Menlo, but in how they were addressing organizational culture and workspace design. Menlo had so many requests for guided tours, that the CEO realized that it was time to share their story in a different way.

This is how the book "Joy, Inc : How We Built the Workplace People Love," was born. Joy captures Sheridan's desire to change an industry that he didn't want to be part of anymore and the methods organizations everywhere can use to keep their team motivated and passionate at work.

Best practices say that, in order to be efficient and to contribute to the company where they work, it requires for each individual to be physically separated from his teammates through a well-defined personal space. Walking around Menlo headquarters, one thing visitors notice is the very absence of closed offices or cubicle walls.

Moreover, most workers do not have their own desks, chairs and computers. Visitors are often surprised by this unconventional design, which doesn't allow employees to display family photos or personal objects. What does Menlo management say about this?

If they want to see their loved ones, employees are free to bring them at the office. The company has created special spaces for rest and care, and so far, five children have already been raised at Menlo. Pets are also welcomed. Menlo uses the same techniques that Edison has invented 130 years ago: working collaboratively in an open space, developing software iteratively and gradually, aiming to have a small product launch every 10 days and a significant release every 6 months.

Of course, as in the case of Edison, the main motivator is to create useful and marketable products that bring real business value. By working permanently in an open space, the team is performing better, faster and at reduced costs, all in the spirit of Edison's original concept – The Invention Factory.

Why do we recommend JOY? It's a book about the courage to build a unique working space in the name of enthusiasm. By reading JOY, you will get familiarized with the system of values and beliefs of a highly performant company and understand how an office space that seeks to eliminate stereotypes can be a strong basis for a sustainable business model.




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