May 20, 2021

Community As Legacy

Welcome to issue No. 28 of Work Different — a weekly summary of the top articles focused on workplace culture and career development.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Silicon Valley legend Tony Hsieh passed away at the young age of 46 (more below). I remember learning about Tony in 2010. I was working on some of my very first ideas when his book, Delivering Happiness, was released. Reading his stories and later watching him speak inspired me to think differently about building companies. In a world that seemed to praise elbowing yourself to the top, Tony represented a different form of success — one that entailed bringing everyone along.

Similarly, Sunday was the fourth anniversary of my dad’s passing. He wasn’t an entrepreneur, but he was also someone who loved bringing people together. At his funeral, his pallbearers were a group of men who he convened every week for Bible study.

As I contemplate the passing of two very different figures in my life, I can’t help but wonder about how to infuse more connection and purpose into our workplaces, classrooms, and communities. It may not always be directly tied to a bottom line, but its effects may be much more far-reaching. How far? I’m not sure. But I’m willing to explore it. I hope you are too.

On Building Community As Legacy

Tony Hsieh was a best-selling author and former CEO of e-commerce titan Zappos. In this personal letter to Tony, Alfred Lin writes about Tony’s “profound contributions to entrepreneurship,” and the legacy of community that Tony left behind. Alfred goes on to describe him as a “pioneer of company culture, customer service, the online shoe industry, Downtown Las Vegas, and web advertising.” But most importantly, “I will remember you for delivering happiness to the world and to me.” Another notable voice, Kyle Westaway, writes of the community that Tony leaves behind, “What a powerful legacy – creating the context where deep relationships are formed.” In all the work that I do at Ei, I strive to create a meaningful, lasting community for my team, clients, and students. To me, that is the most important task for a leader. How are you creating space for community-building in your workspaces? Forbes.

On Building Company Community and Outsourcing Tasks

If you lead a team, it’s likely that you have people who support you along the way — managing tasks both small and large. Lately, there has been a trend where tedious to-do tasks are being outsourced through tech. Invisible Technologies, launched in 2015, “emerged in part from the idea that great savings can be harvested from the developing world” and now has staff in thirty-five countries, from Malaysia to Ghana, Serbia to Pakistan. It is considered an “employee-owned business — fifty percent of Invisible is owned by its staff.” And staff agents performing at high caliber can take equity, too. Hayley Darden, Marketing Director at Invisible (and a colleague of mine at Experience Lab) suggests that we think of an Invisible virtual assistant “less as a personal assistant than as a process assistant: not good for random errands—such as haggling with Verizon customer service—but excellent with repetitive, mind-numbing chores.” The way Invisible is building their company and helping companies build their systems is a reminder that core concepts of good community can reach to every corner of our lives and work. New Yorker.

On Communities That Turn Concepts Into Tools

Over the past seven years, I’ve met and worked with dozens of designers, educators, and creators to create Ei’s suite of physical products. Most of them have become more than just collaborators, they’ve become friends. In this blog piece, I share short stories of how we created some of those tools — from the Leap Year Project Book (my journey designing my own Master’s through 12 projects in 12 months), the Leap Kit (a physical tool to help individuals design their own educational experiences), The Shapeless Shape (a children’s storybook), and What’s Worth Doing (a deck of cards to inspire those who are reimagining their next steps). I have loved the process of creating these products with amazing people, and I hope they can also be of help and inspiration to you and those in your communities.

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