Can you make work joyful?

December 5, 2013: 11:01 AM ET

By Polly LaBarre

(TheMIX) -- For too long, the ruling ideology of too many organizations has been control -- controlling people, controlling information, controlling deviations from the norm. Of course, that kind of high fear, low trust culture is exactly the wrong design for unleashing and mobilizing the full potential -- the full imagination, initiative, passion—of every single person, every single day.

But what is the right design? What would it take to build an organization that inspires, engages, even elevates people (and produces extraordinary performance in the process)?

For Richard Sheridan and his colleagues at Menlo Innovations, a fast-growing software company based in Ann Arbor, MI, the answer to all of the above is one little word: joy. Yes, joy. As Sheridan puts it, "it's a concept that has no place in the corporate world. It certainly doesn't sound profitable." Yet, "joy is the core belief of our workplace.... It defines what we do and how we do it. It's the single shared belief of our entire team."

There is no chain of command at Menlo. There are no bosses, no managers, no secrets, no rules, no walls, and no fear. What they have instead are a series of clever mechanisms and radically practical approaches to cultivating collaboration, collective decision-making, focus, and performance -- from working in pairs (and rotating partners on a weekly basis), to a strict (and strictly humane) 40-hour work week, to a peer-led approach to hiring called "Extreme Interviewing," to a wholly original (and refreshingly analog) paper-based approach to planning and setting priorities, to daily 13-minute all-hands meetings and weekly "show and tell" sessions with customers.

There is so much to unpack when it comes to Menlo's relentlessly clever and deeply human approach to work. Which is why we're delighted to be hosting a Maverick Hangout with Menlo Innovations co-founder and CEO Richard Sheridan on Thursday, December 5 at 11am ET. We'll dive into the principles behind building a joy-based culture, talk about what it means to unleash so much freedom, experimentation, openness and amp up productivity, ingenuity, and alignment at the same time. And we'll get into the details of Menlo's redesign of so many core management practices. Hangout participants will get a sneak peek into the themes and insights in Rich's soon-to-be-published book, Joy, Inc.

Rich will be answering your questions, so please tee them up in the comments section here (and via Twitter during the Hangout #joyinc). In the meantime, be sure to check out Rich's winning Leaders Everywhere Challenge entry.

And if you're inspired by the ideas behind Menlo Innovations' original design for work, share your own story or bold idea in the Digital Freedom Challenge. Learn more here.

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The Management Innovation eXchange is a site dedicated to sparking conversation and progress around the most critical challenges that managers face today: How to create organizations that are fit for the future -- and fit for human beings. The MIX seeks to enlist as many in-the-trenches innovators, progressive leaders, and adventuresome thinkers as possible in pursuit of that goal. Users can submit, rate, and build on each others' ideas -- creating an open platform for management innovation. The MIX is supported by several leading institutions, including McKinsey & Co., Dell, HCL, Red Hat, London Business School, HSM, and the Human Capital Institute.

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