Google thinks that the best forms of creativity are obtained in an office, the likes of which have been unchanged since the 18th century.
Never mind that most of the innovative ideas that shook he world mostly came when the innovator in question was at home, Google has ruled out home working as the way forward.
Chief financial officer Patrick Pichette said that brilliant ideas only come when you are conscripted to a nine-to-five pattern which follows a rigorous commute from the suburbs.
Apparently you will only come up with a clever idea if you spend your life in a cubical which is identical to everyone else's, have coffee at the same time as others, and eat your meals when everyone else does.
Needless to say Pichette's startling praise of conformity as a way of coming up with innovation has been treated with some surprise. Who would have thought that Leonardo da Vinci would have come up with more ideas if he had spend more time behind an 18 inch flat screen monitor? It is particularly odd because Pichette's announcement is the opposite of the message that Google has been trying to sell us for so long.
Didn't Google encourage businesses to adopt "Google Apps" so employees could work anytime, anywhere?
Pichette told throngs at a talk in Sydney that few people telecommute at Google and he admits that this sounds counterintuitive.
People think that because you work at Google you can work from anywhere. While this is true, many just commute to offices because the office is really important.
Pichette, who is in Australia to visit Google's office and the local start-up community, made the comments to workers at Fishburners, a Sydney "co-working" space shared by technology entrepreneurs.
Pichette said he believed that working from home could isolate employees from other staff.
He cited a Dilbert cartoon in which Dilbert ends up working from home half-naked because those in videoconferences with him can only see him on screens from the waist up.
Of course, Pichette assumes that Dilbert needed his pants to come up with creative coding, which we are not sure is true. If you are going to use Dilbert to prove your point, you have to admit that the most creative ideas come from his dog, who does not work.
Pichette claims that there is something magical about sharing meals, although we doubt he has done much magic with his staff lately.
He added that there's something magical about spending time together, noodling on ideas, and asking others what they think of your ideas.
In short, this is the idea of a puritan eating ritual where grace is formally said before embarking on a life of hardship. Few creative ideas come out of fundamentalist religious societies. When they do happen they are often strangled by conformity.
Giordano Bruno is a case in point. As a Dominican friar he was living in what Pichette considered an ideal "creative life" doing lots of magical things involving eating things with his colleagues. But he had most of his brilliant ideas, such as a solar centred universe and life on other planets, outside the cloister. Then the cloister arranged to have him burnt at the stake.
More at the Sydney Morning Herald.