What’s the value of team unity? How do you quantify that? Does it show up as productivity or better communication? Creating a unified team in a remote work environment is quickly becoming a problem for Industrial Resolution and companies like us. Our team has spread across many states and soon to be countries. Even our local developers take advantage of working from various locations. At least we are currently all in the same time zone. All this presents challenges to company culture and team unity.
Industrial Resolution’s historically small tight knit team spent it’s time crammed into a small room in the Griest building. We were so used to spending all our time together that as the team spread out people started to feel isolated and disconnected. This became a culture question. How do we foster a team that grows together?
You’re probably thinking… how does any of this relate to Steve Wozniak? This will all come into focus soon. I promise.
A few months ago an opportunity to meet Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc., came through one of Joel’s connections in California. This was really exciting for us because our team and our industry really respects Steve Wozniak, or Woz. He is a developer and inventor. He doesn’t think too highly of himself because it’s all about making something people will love. So in a lot of ways he thinks like us. He thinks about technology's impact on people and the greater world. He was also part of creating the Electronic Frontier foundation that champions free speech and privacy. If you’ve ever spoken with Tyler you know they are kindred spirits. Overall it seems like Woz sees technology as a force for good that needs to benefit humanity, especially when that work is done behind the scenes.
I didn’t want to be corrupted, ever, in my life. I thought this out when I was 20 years old. A lot of basic ethics is truth and honesty, and I’m going to be an honest person. I’m not going to be corrupted to where I do things for the sake of money. I don’t want to be in that group (chasing power and wealth), I just want to have a nice life, a good life, maybe better than a typical engineer. But I gave away a lot of my money. I’m very comfortable with who I am, I’m not one of those private jet people. - Source
At the time of this writing it was about a week ago that our entire team landed in Phoenix, Arizona. It was finally time to meet Woz. This is where these stories converge. It seems a bit crazy to travel across the country to get this opportunity, but it was also a time for our team (the whole team) to get together for the first time. Since Dave and Cole joined the team in the spring of this year someone has always been absent. This would be quite an opportunity.
So here we are… in Phoenix getting ready to meet Woz. The secondary problem comes up. What do you say to a person that was integral in creating the revolution in computers. One of the heroes in the industry and a huge pioneer in Open source. He’s someone that everyone in our office looks up to. These are the thoughts that seem to be preoccupied by everyone. What are we going to say when we meet Woz? Would we have something clever to say, ask that one unique question that make us stand out? Really what do you say to this guy.
When he arrived it was less fan fair than one would expect. This wasn’t someone that really enjoyed being in the spotlight. He was more like us than I expected after he spent most of his life creating some of the most iconic pieces of technology. Really, he’s an engineer and that’s where he feels most comfortable. He never wanted to be in the center of all that.
It was always about doing what is right for the people that work with him even when it means sacrificing money to do it. So we have Woz to thank for bringing our team together. He’ll never know the impact he had for us but this experience showed us that creating space to come together no matter where we are is crucially important.
None of us came up with anything good to say. I think we were all still a little star struck… even Joel, who always has something to say, didn’t come up with anything clever this time. The power of Woz wasn’t about being clever it was about doing what was right.