Last week Marissa Mayer, the newly anointed president and CEO of Yahoo!, made big news when she terminated Yahoo!’s flexible work-from-home policy. In attempting to revitalize her company’s corporate culture and create an inspiring environment for new ideas, she believes that “communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.” (Here’s a full transcript
of the leaked memo).
Mayer is clearly facing big issues at Yahoo!. The company has been underperforming for years and in many respects has been eclipsed by rivals like Google. In assuming new leadership, Mayer wants to send the message that she expects more productivity out of her workforce, so she’s eliminated a flexible policy to make her point clear. The trouble is, the policy that she’s chosen to eliminate in all likelihood had nothing to do with Yahoo!’s productivity issues to begin with. As David Heinemeier Hansson, partner at 37 Signals, put it
, "What this reveals more than anything is that Yahoo management doesn’t have a clue as to who’s actually productive and who’s not."
“They fly for work and they fly for fun in their time off of work. That's one way to tell a true passion.”
— Natasha Deganello Giraudie, Micro-Documentaries CEO
A few years ago I went gliding with my brother. Gliding, for those of you who have never done it before, is flying in an airplane without a motor. Natural updrafts replace propellers, and the quiet of the sky stands in for the drone of an engine. My brother is a commercial pilot, and I found it so amusing that most of the people who were gliding with us that day were also professional pilots. They fly for work and they fly for fun in their time off of work. That's one way to tell a true passion.
I was reminded of this when I got Adam Warmington's film this morning. It's something he put together over the weekend on his time off from making micro-documentaries. It's a lovely, moody, poetic, personal piece that conveys the feeling of this stormy past weekend and celebrates it in a way that makes you wish you were there.
Often filmmakers and clients alike shy away from the rain. This is an example of how rain on a filming day can actually be a gift.
What are some of your favorite pieces filmed in the rain?
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People are always curious about how extreme autonomy works at Micro-Documentaries. Here's an exciting example - two colleagues working while on a fabulous road trip across North America. This is definitely what I had in mind when setting up the company free of the concepts of office space and office hours. Do you have other examples of extreme autonomy? Please share. We would love to learn about them.
“The cloud became our filing cabinet. The pdf became our printout. A shared Google document became our conference-room whiteboard.” Katie Hilliard and Kevin Mills, Production Managers at Micro-Documentaries
"Diwali is a time to reflect, a time to focus on the positivity and good in one’s life, a time to spread joy."
— Preeti Deb, Senior Director of Productions at Micro-Documentaries
Diwali, the festival of lights celebrated around the world from India and Nepal to Trinidad and Tobago, has particular relevance to our daily work at Micro-Documentaries. On a day where we observe darkness giving way to light, we bask in the opportunity you give us each day to capture light — both the sun’s light and the light of the work you do to dispel ignorance and suffering. Our Senior Director of Productions, Preeti Deb, shares her memories and perspective on this special day.
In my childhood home in Mumbai, where my extended family lived together, Diwali was the day that the kids would delight in being woken up at dawn. In the wee hours of the morning, my sister and I would compete to do a better job of crushing beneath our toes the little bitter berries called kareets, symbols of ignorance and suffering. After a sandalwood bath, we would begin working on the elaborate rangoli pattern that my grandma had planned for us, a piece of art made from sand, rice, lentils and petals to welcome the deities into our home. And as the day progressed, we got increasingly intoxicated with mithai, a selection of delicious Indian sweets. In the evening our driveway would light up with tiny dancing flames. As we stood outside waving wands of light to make magic patterns in the air, I remember thinking how everyone was more beautiful in the light of the lamps.
“She doodled all kinds of notes and started creating this working mindmap of the music and film.” Ben Henretig, Creative Director & Founder, Micro-Documentaries
One of the things I'm proud of about our business model at Micro-Documentaries is the flexibility we provide our entire team so that we can pursue labors of love outside of work. I find that the energy generated by these experiences flows back fully through our company and to our clients. I'm even prouder to report that one of these extracurricular activities, the feature-length documentary by my business partner and Micro-Documentaries Creative Director, Ben Henretig, The Happiest Place: A Journey Across Bhutan has become the top-funded active film on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Ben and our head of post-production, Adam Warmington spent the last several weeks in London working with Imogen Heap on music for Ben's film. The resulting microdoc provides a rare, intimate, and poetic window into an artist's creative explorations. Here is Ben's account of the experience.
Posted by: Natasha Deganello Giraudie, CEOThis post is dedicated to all of our pioneer readers, to those of you breaking new ground and following your visions, from failure to failure to failure without losing enthusiasm on your way to success.
Photo Credit: Christophe Launay
“Boats have always floated. Soon they will fly.” — Alain Thebault, designer and pilot of l’Hydroptère
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on my way home Friday, I saw the famous French sailboat l'Hydroptère DCNS
below. I had to stop by the water and have a closer look. The Hydroptère is famous for being part boat, part plane. Its name comes from the Greek “hydros” for water and “pteron” for wing. And true to form, the boat below me seemed to glide on a draft of air a few feet above the surface of the water. A few minutes later, it elegantly made its way through the bouquets of kitesurfers to set the San Francisco Bay nautical mile speed sailing record. It was a moving moment, the culmination of decades of perseverance and resilience at the intersection of aeronautical and nautical design and innovation.This beautiful microdoc
captures the essence of the journey to this point.
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August 2, 1873: Andrew Hallidie tests the first cable car in San Francisco
I was reading Maybelle the Cable Car
to my daughter last night and was fascinated to learn the motivations that inspired our iconic San Francisco street cars. About 140 years ago, designer Andrew Hallidie was looking for a way to stop the cruelty inflicted on horses that were forced to pull carriages up the steep hills of San Francisco. Sure, cable cars would be more efficient, and faster, and might generate money for the city, but the core motivation was to mitigate pain.
We tend to think of purposeful business as a newer wave gaining ground in the Bay Area and around the world, but as the cable car goes to show, we are not the first to leverage the corporate vehicle to affect positive social and environmental change.
Like the pain that our predecessors regularly inflicted on horses for transportation up the steep hills of San Francisco, we too accept cruelty to animals for our culinary and fashion pleasures. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for design and purposeful business to triumph over this injustice, as elegantly and economically viably as Hallidie’s creation of the cable car? There’s something compelling about this approach as a complement to more forthcoming activism, which in its rawest, most enthusiastic expression has the danger of bordering on proselytizing, rendering it quite ineffective.
We all have our own waves to ride. For some of us, that means literally strapping ourselves to a board and hitching a ride on the ocean’s surf – something I would like to try someday in warm waters. Influenced by Yvon Chouinard’s Let my people go surfing, at Micro-Documentaries we actively try to create a work environment that lets people pursue their own waves, whatever or wherever they are. We operate on the belief that fulfilling yourself personally enables you to better fulfill yourself professionally, and renews your commitment to the work you produce. In this piece, you can live vicariously through the spectacular surf trip Adam Warmington, our director of Post-Production took to Indonesia. The experiential video that resulted is stunning and makes me more than a bit homesick for my native Caribbean!
Overworking is a problem. Not only is it unhealthy (increased stress, lack of sleep, fatigue, unhealthy coping behaviors), it can decrease your effectiveness and lead to burn out.
At Micro-Documentaries, we’re creating a work environment that affords us time off to explore other passions and hobbies – whether it’s a surf trip, meditation retreat, or time off to spend with family.
Tonight I went to order my daughter a new pair of Simple Shoes
, the sneakers made of more sustainable materials like bamboo, jute, recycled tires and old corks. When I arrived at their website, I was heartbroken to discover a message that the company is closing down. What especially saddened me was the reason they gave: They’re burned out.
Certainly there’s more behind the shut down, but it struck me that ‘exhaustion’ was singled out in their parting words. They needed to halt operations because they’re “ready for a vacation” and some “creative re-energizing.”
I have noticed that traditional work in our times and peculiar notions of ‘work ethics’ are wearing us out. They are draining our energy, taking us away from loved ones, breaking up families, ruining our health, and preventing us from pursuing our labors of love.
One of the founding principles when Ben and I started this little company was that we would offer work that energized people lives, rather than drained them. It’s a tall order. We are still figuring it out as we go, but it is clear that it involves taking regular vacations and recharging the batteries. At Micro-Documentaries, we’ve created a practice of “extreme autonomy.” Extreme autonomy means that everyone owns their own time, organizes their day in the way that best suits their personal needs and focuses on the accountability of their deliverables. They can surf in the morning, pick up children in the afternoon, take a road trip across the country, walk their cats and dogs in the avocado grove in the afternoon, and keep themselves energized. Every employee starts out with five paid weeks of time off and flexible opportunities for sabbaticals. This is one of our core strategies for company sustainability.
Simple shoes worked so hard to make their shoes more sustainable that they neglected their own sustainability. It’s so sad to see Simple Shoes go. I just bought our team a pair of the shoes that are left as a reminder to keep our enthusiastic, over-working tendencies in check and to work in a way that will energize our lives, thus safeguarding the sustainability of our mission in the long run.
Micro-Documentaries is being built with a number of excellent mamas.In fact, we are looking for a few good moms right now. How about you? FORBESWOMAN
| Could Your Bootstrapped Startup Use A Few Good Moms?Angie Chang
, ContributorBy Kerry Bowbliss & Sherry Lombardi (Co-Founders, Hulafrog)
Last year, we launched Hulafrog
, a network of hyperlocal websites for moms. Each one is the “go-to” guide to life with kids around town. Hulafrog was born, like many startups, out of necessity. As new moms, we were on the never-ending quest for enriching activities and fun events for our kids and yearned for a simple way to find them. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single website with everything from language lessons and soccer camps to parades and puppet shows to kid friendly restaurants and museums?
There wasn’t. So we built one. The prototype site reached 59% of the market in 12 months. Then we started hearing from other moms who wanted to have a Hulafrog in their town. And more interestingly, we started hearing from moms who wanted to run a Hulafrog in their town.