OR from ME to WE (see also: Justin Rosenstein of Asana: Be happy in a project-oriented teamwork environment made free of e-mail based communication hassle [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, May 8, 2014])
The best advice I have for leaders and teams [asana blog, Jan 14, 2014] Recently I spoke at Chicago Ideas Week, where I distilled some of the best advice I have after ten years of studying and leading teams. We’re excited to share the video.The first half of the talk is about the purpose of work, and how I’ve found a deep sense of personal satisfaction from doing work in service of helping humanity thrive. The second half (starting at 7:10) provides three concrete strategies, which I’ve found make teams wildly more effective in accomplishing their goals – all by achieving clarity. I hope you enjoy it.
Justin Rosenstein has worked at some of the most successful start ups the world has every seen (Facebook, anyone?), and now he is putting his experiences to work with his new company Asana. He analyzes the “why” and “how” of work to offer tips on productivity, clarity in the workplace and success.
Shifting from ME to WE. Voice your commitment to dedicate your work to global thriving. [One Project – Help Humanity Thrive, March 1, 2013 –> May 4, 2014] http://twitter.com/oneproject
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Justin Rosenstein’s keynote at the Wisdom 2.0 conference on shifting from Me to We, the philosophy behind One Project.
Do Great Things – Your Role in the Human Project: Justin Rosenstein [Wisdom2conf YouTube channel, March 30, 2013]
- Moving from me –> we. This was the main theme of a presentation by Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, but it came out in lots of different ways throughout the conference. It’s the simple idea that mindfulness combined with compassion may be much more powerful than mindfulness alone. It’s about looking inward for grounding and energy…and then directing that power outward to help our neighbors, our society, and our world. The most powerful way I heard this message was in a lunchtime conversation I had with a young designer who shared her (extraordinarily evolved) point-of-view that “if you live a life of service, everything just falls into place.”
Justin Rosenstein, Asana, in conversation with Enrique Allen, Designer Fund [Bloomberg Businessweek Design Conference 2014, March 10, 2014]
In 2011 Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein launched Asana, a collaborative task management application that they said would improve “the way teams communicate and collaborate.” They generated a lot of buzz at the time because of their rock-star engineer status and track records at Facebook, and it turns out the buzz was justified. Asana is now the first tool I hear mentioned when someone asks, “What application should we use to manage all this work?” Now, together with the team he and Dustin have built at Asana, Justin has once again captured my attention.
Last week, I stumbled upon a live feed from the Wisdom 2.0 Conference. Justin was on stage giving a talk called, “Do Great Things: Understanding and Compassion.” While watching Justin’s talk, it became crystal clear to me that Asana’s mission, vision, and culture were driven by a much greater calling than just making our work easier. I realized that in all likelihood, I was watching someone who could be one of the greatest leaders and messengers of my generation. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
“I believe world problems stem from a confusion of who we are. What is required is a radical shift in consciousness: the shift from Me to We, a recognition at least by the world’s influencers, technologist, and leaders that we are one team. Today we will look at two big ideas that motivate this shift:
Interconnectedness and Universal Love.
These are often relegated to the realm of spirituality or seen as abstract platitudes, but today we will look at how they can be applied to a pragmatic understanding and repurposing of business, technology, and other global human systems. This shift is not only essential for our species to survive and thrive, but also rather conveniently for individual human happiness. And, we can achieve it. Each of us in isolation is powerless, but together we are powerful.”
Skeptics and pessimists might dismiss this as yet another lofty, woo-woo talk from a well-intentioned but naïve “guru.” But let me assure you — it’s much deeper than that. The technological leverage that we now have changes everything. It’s real. It’s moving at an exponential rate. And Justin is anything but naïve. (Though he may in fact be a guru!)
Take the time to watch his entire talk. It’s worth it.
The shift from the “Me to We” is a real shift that is starting to take place all around us. It is the core ethos that drives great organizations, from large companies to scrappy start-ups, from religious and educational institutions to individuals. When the focus is on the “We,” humanity as a whole, our fellow citizens, our family, our customers, our students, etc., magic happens. Few have articulated this shift better than Justin. He explains the issues, our interconnectedness, the tools at our disposal or how we can create new ones, and provides examples of how to apply the “Me to We” shift to ecology, nations, business and technology in a thoughtful and purposeful way. It’s what drives us at Zaya.org to help bring world-class education to every neighborhood on the planet. When we focus on the greater good, we all move ahead together.
As inspired as I was by Justin’s talk, it wasn’t until later this week that I really understood the power of his message. I forwarded a link to the talk to our team at Zaya.org and to a variety of friends who run different types of companies. I was in Los Angeles meeting with one of those friends on Wednesday. He is the CEO of a $100M consumer products company that has been in business for over 15 years. He asked me to join a meeting he was having with his President and Chief Marketing Officer. I wasn’t sure why he wanted me to sit in, but when we started the meeting, it became very clear. My CEO friend had not only watched Justin’s talk several times, he had forwarded the email I sent him to his core team and asked them to think deeply about the culture and ethos of the company.
We spent the next several hours discussing how he wanted to redefine the ethos of his company. There wasn’t one mention of the “Me” (i.e. “How can we make more money? How can we market better? What do we have to do for an exit?”). The entire conversation focused on the “We” — how the company could leverage its assets to do more good in the world and how to ensure that everything they did and sold represented the interest of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, distributors, vendors, and the planet. It was an incredibly inspiring meeting; I can’t wait to see the results.
Shouldn’t we all be engaged with designing a world where we lift each other up rather than tearing each other down? Justin provides some great examples of companies that are engaged in the “We” economy: Nation Builder, Lyft, KickStarter, Quora, Tesla, Coursera, Method, Sungevity, Solar City, Google, and Facebook. There are a slew of other social enterprises I would add to this list: Kiva.org, Uber, Change.org, Rally.org, GetAround.com, Matter.net, Patagonia, and thousands of other B-Corporations and Benefit Corporations. There are even several new academic institutions like Singularity University that have been establish to specifically address the grand challenges – and interest in these programs is exploding.
I am not currently a customer of Asana, but when I listen to the founder of a company talk so passionately about the greater good, it certainly makes it more likely to become a customer of that company in the future.
At the end of his talk, Justin closes with a call to action: asking people who are interested in participating in this shift to “conscious evolution” to join him and others at OneProject.org — “The Human Project for Global Thriving.” There aren’t a lot of details on the site yet, but I’m sure it will be powerful and I have a hunch that it will help us all communicate and collaborate, perhaps even solving our grand challenges.
Asana Guide · What is the work graph? [Asana, Feb 21, 2014]
- Asana embraces the notion that companies should be organized around the work graph, not the social graph–around the work that needs to be done, not the people. The nodes in a companies network should be important tasks, not employees.
- Marcus Wohlsen, Wired, The Next Big Thing You Missed: Email’s About to Die [Argues Facebook Co-Founder Dustin Moskovitz [Jan 21, 2014]]
You’ve likely heard of the social graph from Facebook, and potentially the interest graph from Twitter. Together, the social and interest graphs map your personal life: your relationships, tastes, likes, and favorite topics. Social networks harness these graphs, making it easier to keep up with your friends, family, and topics of interest.
But Asana isn’t a social network. The social and interest graphs don’t orient teams around their goals and work that needs to get done. To work together effectively, teams need to get organized around a work graph, not a social graph — around the work that needs to be done, not the people.
In a work graph, the unit of organization is a task, not a teammate. The work graph maps everything you are working on with your team: tasks, goals, conversations, documents and files, status updates, and then the teammates involved.
- It seems crazy that 99% of companies lack a single place to track [their work], a definitive source of “truth” about everything they’re working on. Crazier still given that $304 billion will be spent on enterprise software this year, much of it — like enterprise social networks — purporting to solve these problems. The problem with many of these approaches is that they’re just ports of earlier technologies designed for connecting people, not for coordinating work.
- Justin, Asana co-founder, Wired, The Way We Work is Soul-Sucking, But Social Networks are Not the Fix [by Justin Rosenstein, Oct 13, 2013]]
Why do we need the work graph?
WE SPEND A MAJORITY OF OUR TIME AT WORK NOT DOING OUR ACTUAL JOBS
We spend nearly half of our waking hours at work. Unfortunately, we spend a majority of that time not doing our actual jobs. Instead, we’re sitting in meetings, reading email, getting status updates, tracking down information, and doing other “work about work.” Technology that is centered on the work graph (like Asana) makes these coordination tasks simple, giving every person on your team more time to do real work and what they are passionate about, like writing, designing, building, creating, or selling.
The evolution of the work graph
For the last 20 years, we’ve used email to keep track of our work and coordinate with our teammates. But with email, the information you need to get work done is dispersed across different threads, in different inboxes. Given the speed and complexity of modern work, we need new technology that can keep up!
Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) have tried to resolve the pains of email, but ESNs are centered on people, not on work. We shouldn’t assume that social networks, like those we use to keep up with our personal lives, will help us stay on top of our professional lives. While human connection is certainly valuable within an organization, work should be in the center of the graph when it comes to getting things done.
How can the work graph help your team?
Technology designed with the work graph in mind, like Asana, puts the work that needs to get done at the heart of the product. The work graph includes the units of work (tasks, ideas, clients, goals, agenda items), information about that work (relevant conversations, files, status, metadata), and the people involved with the work. All of this information is easily discoverable when you need it.
The work graph gives you answers to these questions, so you can focus on the work that needs to get done:
- What are all the steps left between now and the next milestone?
- Who’s responsible for this step?
- Which tasks are high priority and which can wait?
- Where are all the files and conversations needed to do this task?
- Why did we decide that six months ago?
- What should I be working on right now?