Book recommendation: Peopleware

peoplewareI find myself recommending this book so often in person that I thought I would mention here on my blog too.

Peopleware is an amazing book: every time I have lent out my copy, the person I lent it to has gone out and bought 3 copies: one for themselves, one for who they report to, and one for who reports to them.

It is the only book I have ever read that addresses why knowledge workers – people whose job is literally to think – work best in quiet environments and therefore why open plan offices are fatal for such work and workers.

It has the only empirical experiment I have ever seen to test how badly interuptions break the flow of work for knowledge workers, and thus actually quantifies why it is such a bad idea to allow these kind of staff to be knocked out of flow so easily.

It looks at the whole concept of “flow” – or being in the zone – in detail, and one of the main lessons I still know by heart to this day is this: if it takes you 10 minutes to get into flow, which is the state where you are working and ignoring everything around you and actually creating something of value… – and you get knocked out of flow every 9 minutes by an interruption, then you will get nothing useful done that day at all.

That is to say – you will be body-present, but not mind-present…

One of the best books I’ve ever read on the fundamental differences between knowledge workers and physical workers, and how almost all managers totally fail to understand them.