exploring possibilities for an engaging and productive workplace

I am a lifetime entrepreneur. Even when working for large organizations I find my approach to be entrepreneurial (what my mentor Gifford Pinchot would call Intrapreneurial).

It took me a while to accept that being an entrepreneur is part of my fundamental nature. It wasn't until my father retold me some stories about my childhood that the appellation truly clicked for me as being true. He would point out the treehouse in the woods that I organized, the sci-fi fanzine that I published, the software I wrote for a psychologist at age 16, and many other stories.

My father he would tell me that he sometimes feared that I would be beat up by my peers in childhood because of this tendency. I was always the one who would discover the game that we should play together, the one that would suggest new ideas—but I didn't have the typical talents that children expect of their leaders. I was average looking, not charismatic, not strong nor quick and I not part of the "in crowd". However, I muddled through my form of childhood leadership with the minimum of peer trouble.

I have discovered that I am different then many other lifetime entrepreneurs.Unlike them, I never sold lemonade on the curbside—I am not a natural salesman. I never led a sports team. I never bought candy cheaply at the market and sold it for a higher price at school. Instead, for me entrepreneuring was about discovering and sharing a passion with friends and doing something with it — a less self-serving variant of Tom Sawyer's inspirational "Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” pitch.

Yahoo Employee VolunteersThis means that what I do best is bring people together with a common passion to create things. All of the successes of my career have had that as a fundamental element of what I do.


This gives me a somewhat different view of the nature of work — I have to have a relationship with those that work with me, I have to hold a space for the passions of everyone involved, and I have to marshal the creative best of everyone. This has made me an unusual leader and manager.

In recent years I have been teaching part-time in the sustainable MBA program at Bainbridge Graduate Institute. Even there I take an entrepreneurial approach, and teach my students in my own unique entrepreneurial style.

In last year's class one of my students, Bria Schlottman, sent me a Twitter DM: "Could you do me a quick favor: in a brainstorm type of dump, what words come to mind when you think about 'work'? Please list as many single words as possible."

I replied: "flow, shared energy, companionship, natural light, fresh air, a bit noisy, good connectivity, shared lunches"

With this and many other responses from her social network she created a video, and her first post for this blog asking the question What is Work?



Even though the blog and video were assignments for my class, when the course was complete Bria and I continued to have a dialogue about the nature of work.

We each come from different perspective, but we both agree that our society's relationship to work can and should improve. We both have some insights as to what that would require, but neither of us have the answers. Now that Bria has graduated and found gainful employment with her newly-minted MBA, she has the time and energy to take this topic forward, as do I. We believe that by collaborating together in this blog that we can inspire each other to dive deeper into this interesting topic.

Thus Bria and I invite you to show your insights with us and participate in whitewashing this fence, aka "Refreshing Work".

-- Christopher Allen

(photo credit: AlexPears in "Yahoo Employee Volunteers" using CC-SA)

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