Holding a Public Discourse in a Distributed Organization

If all members of your organization work in the same physical premises, the architecture of the office plays a large role in what kind of communication and interaction is either encouraged or discouraged. One of the more important modes of interactions that should take place in any organization is cross-departmental non-planned encounters between people of various ranks and professions. Such interactions are one of the best ways how to achieve cross-pollination of ideas and cohesion within an organization. Cafeterias, lobbies, and sport grounds are examples of places where a public discourse can take place between various members of an organization. A famous example where one of the main goals of the architecture was to encourage random interactions is MIT's Stata center by Frenk Gehry.

In an organization whose members are geographically dispersed, the tools and techniques of architecture are not available, so the organization must rely on other communication tools to enable the desired modes of interaction. At Zemanta, we have recently start relying heavily on Slack for internal communication. Having 40 people agree on how to use it for the common benefit, is not a small feat, so we are still learning how to utilize Slack in such a way that it would be useful for everybody and to serve to the same purpose as physical places of interactions. The one thing we've already learned is that engineers have very different expectations of Slack than business people. So currently we're architecturing channels in Slack in such a way, that different people can interact with each other in a positive spirit without colliding into each other.