Want Joy at Work? New Book Shares the Inside Story

Menlo Innovations’ team members pictured inside the open Menlo Software Factory workspace show their Viking helmets, used by work pairs during daily standup meetings. Menlo’s unique culture has attracted thousands of visitors. Photo credit: Menlo Innovations

Want Joy at Work? New Book Shares the Inside Story

Richard Sheridan intends to bring hope and inspiration to readers

When Richard Sheridan thinks of one of his favourite examples of joy at work, he tells the story of the first “Menlo baby.”

Richard, who is the CEO, cofounder and chief storyteller at Menlo Innovations, recalls when staff member Tracy came to him after taking three months of maternity leave. She was ready to come back to work, but her baby Maggie was too young for daycare and there wasn’t family nearby to help.

Richard’s response was to bring Maggie into the office (yes, all day and every day) and run the experiment. Tracy’s questions such as where to put her and what would happen if the baby fussed were answered and Richard told her, “I trust you, you’re the mom.”

  Menlo Innovations CEO and cofounder Richard Sheridan started the “personally intense” experience of writing Joy, Inc., 18 months ago. Photo credit: Menlo Innovations

“That was eight Menlo babies ago,” Richard tells Axiom News, noting it was a “pivotal moment” for him and the organization.

“It’s one of the most delightful aspects of embracing our humanity inside of a business and it paid off dividends in so many different directions that I can’t even begin to count them,” says Richard, noting one is how clients change their behaviour when a baby is in the room.

The story of Tracy and Maggie is one of many in Richard’s new book called Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love. Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Menlo Innovations is a software design and development organization that attracts tourists from the world because of its unique culture. In 2013, the company hosted 340 tours with more than 2,500 people visiting to see inside Menlo’s walls.

With this kind of attention, Richard says they knew there was an important story to share. Released Dec. 26, 2013, Richard says there are two things that come out of a book like Joy, Inc.: hope and inspiration.

“Especially at this time of year, I think people are looking for that rejuvenation,” he says. “Maybe this book will convince them now is the time – but maybe unlike some other books they’ve read, this is also a book that expresses itself in a tangible, working, living, breathing example.”

The Menlo team has always taken an abundance mentality to what they do, says Richard, noting they take their mission of ending human suffering in the world as it relates to technology very seriously and know they can’t do it alone. Sharing their learnings in the book is a way to pay it forward and acknowledge what the company has learned from others, he notes.

In order to create software that creates joy for its intended end-users, Menlo uses a unique set of practices including employing people who are High-Tech Anthropologists, having programmers work in pairs (two people per computer) and working in an open and collaborative environment.

How has it worked for Menlo? In addition to drawing global attention for its culture, the organization has won a variety of awards, including multiple mentions on Inc.'s 5,000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America, Corp! Magazine’s Michigan Economic Bright Spots, the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Workplace Flexibility and the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces.

When Richard greets Menlo visitors he says, “Welcome to Menlo — you’ve come to a place that has intentionally focused its culture on the business value of joy.” Many business people tilt their head and look at him quizzically. He then asks if half the people in the room have joy and the other half doesn’t, which half would they want working on their project. The answer is the joyful half, and the reasons why start trickling out (being more engaged, productive and higher quality work among them).

“It dawns on them how simple it is, and then I go past that and say our cultural focus is not internal — it is external — we want people to create joy in the world, we want people to love the software we design and build for our clients, we want people to stop us on the sidewalk and thank us for the work we did, and they do — and that’s where our joy comes from,” says Richard.

There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is important, and though there is happiness at Menlo it is not every minute or every day, notes Richard.

“People are just generally wired to work on something bigger than themselves, if we pick that external goal, even when we are unhappy we are willing to do the hard work,” he says.

To learn more about Menlo Innovations and Joy, Inc. visit www.menloinnovations.com.

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Writer Bio

Jennifer Neutel's picture
Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer: jennifer@axiomnews.ca, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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