2012 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
First up is The 20% Doctrine by Ryan Tate. If you’ve read much about Google in the last few years, you’ve probably heard about their “20% Time” policy, which allows all employees to spend 20% of their working hours on projects for their personal enjoyment, the assumption being that workers are happier, healthier, more innovative, and more productive in the long-term when they’re allowed to experiment, explore, and flex their creative muscles. In The 20% Doctrine, Tate investigates how other companies–both within the tech industry and well beyond it–have implemented and benefited from encouraging employees to goof off while on the clock.
And it’s really interesting! At least, it was to me, particularly in the context of my work at a start-up that exists primarily in a creative industry but is also tech-based. I have a lot of control over my days and flexibility in how they’re structured, and I’ve been playing with applying something like the 20% doctrine to my work life. (Honestly, it’s more like tacking an extra hour or two of creative time onto my workday than it is using existing work time for creative projects, but it is making me happier and more productive, regardless.) The book also fed my current obsession with workflow (ask me sometime how not checking my email first thing in the morning has changed my life!) and reminded me how valuable learning about other businesses’ best practices can be. Because I’m now the kind of person who uses phrases like “best practices.” Oy! Moving on.
In Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love, Fran Hawthorne looks at six BIG companies that are perceived by the public as being highly ethical to find out, well, if they really are. Hawthorne hits Tom’s of Maine, Apple, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Timberland (Who knew they had this reputation? Not I.), and American Apparel, discussing her research about how they source materials, treat their workers, and interact with their communities. She does a nice job of pointing out the way that consumers equate “cool” with ethical–maybe it’s wishful thinking?–and the feedback loop that’s created when a company decides to make their practices more ethical in hopes of becoming hipper. There are no earth-shattering revelations here, and the writing is dry at times, but there are some fascinating bits, I appreciate that Hawthorne set out to question assumptions and look at evidence instead of accepting spin.
And now I have a question for you–because it’s a question/quibble I had during the reading–do you consider how a company prices its products to be a factor in determining how ethical it is? Maybe my capitalist spirit is showing, but I’ve never thought that high price, in and of itself, is unethical or immoral. Hawthorne, though, seems to disagree me, docking proverbial points for things like five-dollar lattes, which not everyone can afford. It’s not something I’d thought of before, and I was surprised to see it included as a criterion. What do you think?
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