Zen and the art of sitting at your desk

We are creatures of habit. I was recently on a gig where we were helping a client innovate, creating a vision for a new product. When I wasn’t out talking to or observing users I was in our “war room”. Four weeks sitting in same seat; every day the four of us in the project team sat at the same place in the room. When our sponsors came into the room they sat in the same seats. Habit. Retuning to the comfort of our “spots”.

In organisations that promote hotdesking, people will still naturally move towards the same seat. People have their “spots” that others soon recognise. Same seat, same view. Can’t sit there, that’s Jacks desk.

In our room anything we produced went on the walls. I faced the processes. My colleague opposite me faced the personas and their descriptions. This view undoubtedly influenced our thinking. Reflecting on the four weeks, I was more process orientated, my colleague moew persona orientated. Because process was what I was looking at and personas what he looked at.

A long time ago I spent a while in the foothills of the Himalayas in India at a Buddhist retreat. When entering the meditation hall the natural thing to do was to go to the same place. The teacher said don’t do this. Returning to the same position every time was to become attached to that place. And of course in the Buddhist world all attachment is suffering. You get attached to where you sit; if you’re prevented from sitting “in your seat” you’ll be miserable. But what are you missing by never changing your view?

So why not try something different tomorrow. Sit somewhere else. It will feel uncomfortable (attachment is suffering; you were attached to that desk by the window, now it is gone you suffer). But maybe it will offer you new insights, to see things differently, to talk to different people. You never know, giving up that attachment may be the first step on the road to your professional nirvana.

Categorized: Work


1 Comment

  1. Chris Brown · Wednesday, 28 February, 2007

    Great post and blog! I’m a long time reader of blogs.thoughtworks.com and this is the 2nd recent post that pulled me into your site (the last was “What does red mean to you?”).

    We don’t move our seats very often at my office but I’ve found a few things that have a similar impact on feelings of attachment:

    1. Take down all the decorations in your cube and start over. Or even re-arrange the furniture. And do it once a quarter.

    2. Hang something new on the outside of your cube and see who comes by to check it out.

    3. Go find some wifi and work somewhere different everyday for a week or so.

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