Jason Fried, founder of 37signals (known for its BaseCamp project management solution), has a reputation for provocatively challenging the norms of the knowledge workplace. In this post, I deconstruct the factors that make his talk so popular.
Tip 1: Share an idea worth spreading
Jason’s idea worth spreading is to encourage managers to stop interrupting knowledge workers so that creative employees have long stretches of time to do great work.
Tip 2: Use the problem-solution narrative structure
In How to Deliver a TED Talk, I explore three equally effective ways to organize a persuasive presentation:
- Tell a story
- Make an argument with premise-proof logic groups (inductive reasoning)
- Make an argument with premise-proof logic chains (deductive reasoning)
Jason’s problem-solution narrative, summarized in the table below, uses the logic chain approach. In a logic chain, each premise triggers a question that must be answered by the next premise in the chain. Jason began with a direct statement of the problem – people cannot seem to get work done at work. A skeptical listener might ask, “Is that problem really true?” Jason replied, yes, just notice how you and your colleagues shift creative work to different places or times of day. His reply triggers the question, “Why are people shifting when and where they work?” Jason’s responded that employees shift work in order to carve out long stretches of interruption-free time. The next logical question is, “Is there a way to make the workplace productive again?” Jason replied, yes, with three specific solutions.
|Introduction||(1) People cannot seem to get great work done in centralized offices filled with stuff||(2) (none)|
|Part 1||(3) People go somewhere or sometime else to get work done|| (4a) Places
(4c) Early morning/late night/weekends
|Part 2||(5a) People don’t have a work day, they have work moments
(5b) People (esp. creatives) need long stretches of time without involuntary interruptions
|(6a) Work, like sleep, is ineffective when interrupted
(6b) Voluntary distractions, like Facebook, are just modern ‘smoke-breaks’
(6c) Managers are the source of involuntary distractions via check-ins and meetings
|Part 3||(7) 3 remedies can make office work productive again||(8a) No talk Thursday PM
(8b) Switch from active to passive communication (ex: email)
(8c) Cancel your next meeting and notice that nothing bad happens
|Conclusion||(9) I hope these ideas inspire managers to leave employees alone to do great work||(10) (none)|
Tip 3: Be authentic
Jason is a person who cares about unleashing creativity at work. He started a company and wrote several books to express his passion for productivity. He was clearly in that zone as well when he delivered his TED Talk. When speakers present on topics they deeply care about, they do not need to think about the mechanics of verbal and non-verbal delivery. Jason’s passion appeared naturally in his facial expressions and his vocal variety. Though his movement on stage was at times a little distracting, it matched the power of his conviction and expressed raw authenticity.
Tip 4: Speak without slides
Jason was wise to avoid slides in his TED Talk. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that TED Talks are partly defined by great slide design, many of the most popular TED speakers used no slides during their talks. Slides always create an attention barrier between speaker and audience. Conceptual talks like Jason’s are far more persuasive without slides.
So, when should a speaker use slides? Slides are effective when they document an experience first-hand (see Bunker Roy’s TED Talk) or reveal data (see Hans Rosling’s TED Talk) in a way that would take too many words to explain. In those instances, the benefit outweighs the cost.
To discover more of Jason’s unconventional advice for succeeding at work, check out his best-selling book, ReWork.