"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 December 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

That's Motivation



Creating a stylishly casual work

environment may make employees

less eager to dash out the door,

Flintstones-style, when the

clock strikes five, but a

laid-back atmosphere also makes

it seem that building teamwork

skills through coordinating Nerf

missile strikes with the

clown in next door is

part of their job description.

Keystroke-counting remains

impractical as a means

of ensuring nobody takes the

office's dormitory vibe too

seriously, and modern managers

usually recoil from cracking the

proverbial whip, lest they be

seen as Freudian father figures

in a carefully crafted vision of

the way new office-home.


[Playing Nerf]

Actually doing something would go

against the principles of

ambient management that first

convinced today's robber barons

that homelike environments are

where the hard work is, but an

easy, inexpensive solution lies

in the industrialized past. A

few well-placed motivational

messages amid the sleek cubicles

and employee toys might well put

a stop to the tiresome sweatshop

comparisons making the rounds

among so many knowledge workers

these days. A gem like "If we

don't take care of the customer,

someone else will" shouldn't be

wasted solely on the inhabitants

of Wal-Mart break rooms and

Wendy's prep counters. (And they

said mentoring was dead!)


[Get Funny Book]

Don't groan at the thought of

industrial-age iconography

invading the postindustrial

workplace - whoever invented

these posters was just ahead of

his time. Urging responsibility

and a take-charge attitude,

these unknown epigrammers

espoused employee empowerment at

a time when casual Fridays were

just a gleam in Levi's eye. They

made middle management redundant

long before "rightsizing" had

seen its first press release.

Best of all, office managers

could pick from a wide variety

of posters - including many with

proprietary characters - to find

one that fit the mood and

lifestyle demographic of a

particular workplace. Our

favorites featured Ziggy.


[Screen Shot]

Some fantasize that such posters

will become as meaningless as

mimeographs in the electronic

office, but we believe their mix

of pomp and positivity will

prove as adaptable to the new

economy as snake-oil salesmen

and pyramid schemes. Already, a

company called Successories has

put motivational messages on

mousepads (just imagine rolling

over the rules for success!) and

started to sell success-oriented

screensavers (site discounts are

available, of course). The only

thing better than a sunset on

one's start-up screen is a

message from a bald eagle about

soaring to the top (presumably

without foreshadowing extinction

in the process).



In fact, the paperless office is

likely to express its

motivational messages in the

medium with which its youngest

and lowest-paid employees are

most familiar: the screen.

PointCast's recent announcement

that it intends to push content

via the intra- as well as the

Internet strikes us as a hint

that those cute characters

flying across idle screens might

soon begin sporting slogans

about how hard it is to soar

with a negative attitude. Ziggy

may not pack the cultural punch

he once did, but we hear Sonic

is available - and we're pretty

sure Dilbert can be convinced to

deliver a less cynical message

if the price is right.



Those who point out that

push-media messages will simply

fade into the background miss

the point: Subliminal

suggestions are often the most

effective ones. Intellectual

white noise inevitably succeeds -

just look at Friends. And

numbing repetition has a way of

breaking through the most

irony-clad minds - haven't you

noticed people you used to

respect now drinking Orbitz? If

nothing else, motivational

screensavers will provide a

snappy answer to the Wall Street

Journal's stupid questions about

whether the Internet lessens

employee productivity. Frankly,

free T-1 access is the only way

to keep people in the office

after five.

courtesy of Dr. Dreidel