Distributed by Default: Matt Mullenweg on The Knowledge Project

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“Aren’t people lonely because they don’t have their friendships at work?”

On a recent appearance of The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish of Farnam Street, Matt Mullenweg revealed that he hears this question often, and that the answer is one of many benefits of a company built to be distributed from the start.

“If your only social network is at work, you might be lonely if you weren’t working with people physcally,” answered Matt. “But then what does that open up? It opens up the opportunity for you to choose people around you geographically to spend time with.”

The conversation evolved to the Five Levels of Autonomy (spoiler: many companies made it to Level Two during the pandemic) and how it allows teams to focus on the work. “Part of our model of distributed work also provides a fair amount of autonomy in how people get their work done,” Matt said. “I like that it creates a lot more objectivity and focus around what the actual work is.”

The episode was first published in January, but it is a great listen today as many companies that became distributed by necessity in 2020 make decisions about returning to work places.

Shane and Matt also talk about blending the cultures of different business units within a company like Automattic, the future of proprietary software, and how Open Source is like kids banding together on a playground, for the greater good of the open web.

This was the 100th episode of The Knowledge Project, whose recent guests have also included Angela Duckworth, Jim Collins and Josh Kaufman.

You can listen to the full episode on your favorite podcast platform, watch it on YouTube, and read Shane’s highlights from the conversation over at The Knowledge Project.

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