Nice Bumping Into You

http://www.inc.com/uploaded_files/image/Tony-Hsieh-by-Glenn-McElhose_Pan_14010.jpgI'm just now getting to this TechCrunch article about Amazon vs. Zappos as workplaces.  I'd hoped the story would cover the angle I want to explore, which is this notion of wanting to pamper employees within self-contained communities vs. letting them roam free in the real world.  The perks available at places like Google are now legendary - five-star chefs, sleep pods, shuttle buses - and are designed to maximize the amount of time and energy people can spend on doing awesome work by minimizing time they need to worry about eating and errands and commuting. 

But they have the effect of cloistering employees with other employees.  Apple and Amazon are both planning new headquarters locations that encourage this. Tony Hsieh of Zappos wants the opposite to happen, investing heavily in his part of Las Vegas to encourage mingling with strangers and serendipitous encounters out on the street. 

Growing up in Silicon Valley, I still know lots of people who work there, and the suburban nature of the area lends itself to sticking with your co-workers: you eat in the corporate cafeteria or carpool with your office mates to the nearby noodle place, you get in your car at the end of the day and drive home without (hopefully) running into anyone on your drive home.  Living and working in Philly, chance encounters are literally around every corner: I can't tell you how many times I've bumped into friends and colleagues while riding the bus, walking down the street, or running a quick errand. 

Different strokes for different folks, I understand.  But while mind-blowing perks may get all the press, there's something to be said for being able to randomly bump into people while you're out and about.  Even as an introvert, I like it.  And, as someone who's trying to network his way to more business for my business, and as someone who's trying to be as positive an influence on as many people as possible, it's a good way to live and work and play.
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