Paul Miller has been at the heart of the work and technology revolution for 20 years. He is CEO and Founder of the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) and author of The Digital Renaissance of Work – Delivering Digital Workplaces Fit for the Future, The Digital Workplace: How Technology is Liberating Work, and Mobilising the Power of What You Know. He has given inspirational keynote talks on the digital future of work to senior executives at Microsoft, Google, Adobe and Oxford University. In 2002 he founded the Intranet Benchmarking Forum (IBF) and for five years hosted the internet radio show Digital Workplace Live and more recently the 24-hour biannual event, Digital Workplace 24 (DW24). After an early career as a City editor and speechwriter, he published the influential WAVE magazine. Paul is a keen tennis player and devoted yoga practitioner. He has two daughters and lives in London and the Cotswolds.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
The industrial age turned us into efficient machines; the digital age has the potential to turn us back into human beings. Work has reduced and stifled us, typically in a horrible environment, overseen by a dreary manager, as we suffered through relentless, energy-sapping working days. The name of the restaurant chain ‘T.G.I. Friday’s’ was chosen because it’s a safe bet that everyone would look forward to not working at the end of another week that felt poorly used.
But work is and can be liberating and fulfilling, and there is a new Digital Renaissance of Work happening around us as the work ethic shifts from one of obligation and duty to one imbued with passion and fulfillment. Work defines us, affecting the quality of our lives deeply, and will continue to do so. Liberate work and we enhance our relationships and lives profoundly. I left behind “work as suffering” in 1985 and feel like I have never really worked since. It isn’t that I haven’t worked hard (I have), but my work has been akin to that of an artist – work that I enjoy and that matters to me.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
I am CEO of an 80-person consulting company servicing the digital workplaces of around 80 major clients globally. We have no offices. We have no interest in when our employees work or where they work, but we do have a passionate interest in what they produce and how they work with colleagues and clients. We pay all our freelancers on 30 day terms every month without fail and have done so for 12 years – the finance team say we pay more promptly than any other organization large or small they have worked with. Treating people well consistently matters. When our managers meet up in person once a year, whether in the US or Europe, they share a house for a week – they live, sleep, work and cook together. We call it the ‘Big Brother house’. Despite having no offices we are better connected than most companies that occupy a physical space each day. In our way of working, choice is vital and you can take time off any time and design your time as you choose.
Why do you do what you do?
I love the entrepreneurial experience of building a business and generating ever higher revenues by energizing our marketplace with new ideas. I enjoy shaping our industry. I love the freedom I have to meet superb people shaping the digital world of work. I believe we are making work better for millions of employees. I love walking in my garden or in parks while working, and I enjoy weaving my fiction-writing, tennis and yoga into my days. It is a fascinating puzzle in how to grow the world’s leading niche consulting firm in the digital workplace industry while having fun. It is creative and energizing, and I am very grateful for the experience.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I love Henry Moore’s sculptures and also Barbara Hepworth’s – do visit her home in St Ives in Cornwall which is full of her work – it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. I love my wife Ali’s art on our walls and her sculptures here and there. She’s not as good as Mark Rothko (Who is?) but because her art is her art I love every painting. Yes, I love Mark Rothko and also (and Ali and I disagree about this) I like Jackson Pollock a lot. I love to visit MOMA in New York – it’s a work of art in itself.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
I would say having no offices at all… but then our work culture was unique even when we did have an office. So, instead I will mention allowing people to work as they wish, based around how their own particular non-work life functions.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Artists of any type. They work very hard but adore their work. This has taught me that work at its best, even if no doddle, can be deeply fulfilling as long as you are doing what you are meant to while on this earth. At its best, DWG is like an artist’s studio where everyone is creating together.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Judge people based on what they deliver and forget about what they do in order to achieve those results – how hard they work, where and when is irrelevant.
What does your preferred work environment look like?
My summerhouse with the doors open and bird song around me in spring; or walking through our kitchen garden, chatting on Skype with my headset on whatever the current call is.
How do you stay productive throughout your day?
By listening to how I feel and changing space or activity based on this. I have a very precise diary with meetings and calls so I like order, but thrive on fluidity as well. I do not work at evenings or weekends or during holidays unless an emergency demands.
What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick?
Where in the world are you?
UK – The Cotswolds and London