Working at 1904labs: Evolving our Innovation First Approach

June 28, 2023
Jun 27, 2023
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Working at 1904labs: Evolving our Innovation First Approach

We’ve all seen the sharp rise in large companies requiring employees to go back to the office. Most of the FAANG companies are now rolling out in-office mandates, and this is a clear indication that the market is pulling back from remote-only work. 

While I agree that it’s important to be in an office so you can work in person with others, we don’t think mandating “n” number of days of the week in the office is the right approach. Instead of a blunt-force mandate like that, we have developed our Innovation First approach, work where and when it makes sense for you, your team, and 1904labs. As Adam Grant mentions in his posting, and I agree with, “Don’t mistake presence for performance.

1904labs’ culture is grounded in healthy and productive relationships: among ourselves and between us and our clients. This focus on relationships is at the core of our success. It allows us to Seek First To Understand, to figure out The Right Thing to build, and to continuously improve The Right Way to build it. When we work together, we are more than the sum of our parts.

What we mean by "work where it makes sense" is to find equilibrium. Work where you can innovate, collaborate effectively, and be part of the 1904labs team, but also where you feel safe, comfortable, and productive. Balance is up to each individual, but for our “secret sauce” to be most effective, some in person collaboration is necessary to ensure that collaboration and innovation, our greatest strengths, are happening at every level. 

This balance is a critical thing to get right post pandemic. And there’s no pre-existing handbook any company can consult for it. Every organization is wrestling with this. We’re iterating on our approach.

Prior to the pandemic, we were two days in the office, three from wherever you’d like to work each week. When we first rolled out Innovation First, the amount of in-person collaboration was up to each individual. Now, because some in-person work is vital to our success, we’ve evolved our Innovation First approach to include consistent core hours and in-person core meetings.

We’ve found that by creating these natural gathering points for our teams to innovate and collaborate in person, our teams can get to a performing level more quickly and stay there. Whether our teams are grabbing lunch or conducting a client workshop, these in-person moments strengthen the team bonds that are our greatest strength. It’s not about having “butts in seats” for the sake of it or because we have the power to demand it, but for us all to do our best work for our clients. 

Every company is wrestling with this - and clearly some companies aren’t handling it well given the pushback we’re seeing in many large organizations. If you’re grappling with this as an executive, we’d be happy to share our full policy with you.