Ideo creative chief Paul Bennett says his life changed after he bought a fish that had been turned into a lamp (The New York Times, 2/16/14). Paul found the lamp — a large cod "that had been gutted and deboned, meticulously cleaned and beautifully lacquered, with a small incandescent bulb placed inside its belly." (image) He was on vacation in Reykjavick, Iceland, at the time and so he had the cod piece shipped back to his office at Ideo, the design firm, in San Francisco. With help from "the guys in IT" he had the fish "hung from the ceiling" over his spot at the office.
It’s a ‘spot’ because at Ideo, there are no offices. In fact, there are no regular desks, as people sign up for their workspace each day. The idea is to "keep everyone flexible and fluid," but Paul felt he needed "to be an anchor in all of that fluidity." Keeping a regular spot — in Paul’s case at the ‘help desk’ at the center of the office — enabled people to approach him spontaneously, and have conversations and interactions "naturally over the course of the day." Turning the fish lamp on was the signal that he was present, and ready to talk.
The effect was a marked contrast from his previous workdays, which were "hyper-scheduled …one meeting after another, with very little time in between." Paul says he now avoids most of those meetings, and now feels he is "part of a living, breathing organism, and responding to its needs rather than simply running from place to place." "It makes me feel that I belong to a community," he says, "and that our interactions are more organic," creating "a new way to engage genuinely" and "fish for ideas together."