I’m sorry they took a blanket approach at Yahoo. It seems clear that something is lost when people don’t run into one another in the halls, and in the cafeteria, but also that there are times when one needs to be heads-down on a project and avoiding the distraction other people provide. Creating an office environment which supports both modes is a challenge which often goes unmet.
I think that’s true for learning situations, as well. I’m a big believer in social learning – that we humans learn best within a context of other humans comparing notes on how things work. But sometimes, we need to be heads down, concentrating on written material. Sometimes, we need to be alone in our own heads, reflecting on what we’ve learned, making the connections to the other things we know. That’s what writing papers was about in school. And it’s often what writing analyses and recommendations is about at work.
When I’m training somebody, I’m usually doing it via computer. And I often recommend that they see whether they might work from home for the training. Because I have a MUCH better chance of full learner focus when there won’t be co-workers stopping by to drop something on my learner’s desk.
I find it interesting that some of the discussion centers around whether a given individual is equipped with the skills which enable productive work when unsupervised. Self-management skills are indeed critical to success in this environment. Are they something the organization might be able to nourish?