Work Is Life, Getting Past the Short View, and Microsoft’s Clever Encryption Move


Work = Life. Discuss
 Why do we work so hard? Is it because we like it? Or is it because we’re trapped? Ryan Avent says it’s both. In a lengthy, steady essay, Avent, an economics columnist for The Economist, digs deep on the topic, with both personal and historical examples (yes, Keynes and Marx appear). When he shares the complications of explaining his work to his parents, Avent shows how when we talk about our jobs we’re talking about how our work and the rest of our life integrate into a messy, complicated whole: “They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose — the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.” For more and more people, a job isn’t what we do to fund our lives; it’s an essential part of who we are and what we want to be in life.

The Capitalistic Kibbutz
 In keeping with the idea of not knowing where work ends and the rest of your life begins, unicorn office-space provider WeWork is hoping its WeLive residential service will house millennials during the few hours a day they’re not WeWorking. This Fast Company piece on cofounder Adam Neumann reads like a celebrity profile; it’s unquestioning and breathless, and it misses key ingredients in WeWorks’ business plan (we’d love to know more about WeWork’s efforts to focus on long-term rentals to established companies, for example). But it does zero in on Neumann’s big idea about the future of work. “A capitalistic kibbutz is not a bad idea,” he tells his interviewer. “You need both.” That’s an angle we’d like to learn more about.

The Long Road to Getting Past the Short View
 It’s hard to take the long view in a business environment where there’s so much more incentive for thinking short. That’s especially true on the money side, which makes this piece on how CFOs can take the long-term view in a short-term economy particularly welcome. It’s a typical HBR blog post: plenty of talk about redefining roles and “embracing a bold new vision,” leading to a list of broad prescriptions. Most important are not the particular directives (which are not breakthrough), but the fact that the piece exists. Too much focus on short term hurts organizations and the economy they operate in over the long term. Even if the remedies here are milquetoast, it’s crucial that a conversation is emerging.

Microsoft Hides the Keys
 New shot in the encryption wars: Microsoft is trying an experiment to serve companies concerned about U.S. data and encryption policies: It’s setting up an Azure cloud in Germany (Technet), where Redmond has “no rights at all to access customer data.” Microsoft’s support technicians can grant access to customers, but not to itself “without approval by the German Data Trustee or the customer.” We’ll see such workarounds more and more as companies grow more concerned with U.S. data laws and their enforcement.

It’s Not a Policy Explainer. It’s HBO
 Speaking of which, you can argue with an individual point here and there, but it turns out that John Oliver is just as trenchant and funny when it comes to encryption as he is with politics and policy.

Photo: GotCredit

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