The Year Without Pants: Wordpress.com and the Future of Work

Interesting book about the future of work.

Berkun’s premise is that we need to flatten the organizational structure of many companies in order to allow creative mores a of free reign to innovate. This is often done through remote working. He backs this up with a detailed account of his year at WordPress.com where he lead a project team completely made up of location independent workers.

Throughout the course of the book he comes up with some solid truisms:

1. Results trump tradition. This is born out by the fact that WordPress goes against just about every organizational tradition there is and build a successful company anyway. The reason is two-fold- people who work their trust each other and they have the same goals. This overcomes any lack of structure.

2.If you hire great people, one of the most important things a leader can do is stay out of the way. The author leads a team for a year and only checks in weekly with many of them, yet the accomplish a great deal.

3. Working remotely has drawbacks. He regularly writes about the lack of social cues when all of your communication is via text and Skype. While he thinks it can work for some companies (like WordPress) he admits that it has limitations. Some things need presence to work best.

Overall an interesting book that has some implications beyond the business world. If more and more firms start using this model, the academic world will need to change to better support it.