Work with the garage door open

I have an affection for work done in the open. I love how OSS projects morph and take shape in front of everyone who’s interested. I love how an open-minded conversation can totally re-frame a project. I love the tension and inspiration that comes with putting your work on display. Not the output of the work but the actual, messy work.

Down the street from my house lives an elderly gentleman who’s a true jack of all trades. He fixes cars, repaints old furniture, does woodworking, and gardens. He does it all in front of his huge garage, with both doors wide open. And he’s quick to strike up a conversation with anyone who seems interested. His work makes the neighborhood a friendlier and happier place. And I think that the neighborhood makes him a friendlier and happier person.

I have befriended many of my neighbors in similar ways. Fixing things around the house, doing a work-out on the driveway, or playing with the kids on the street. Exposing myself and the work I do has led to conversations, that in turn has led to both dinners and friendships.

When we open up our workspace to the public it becomes approachable. It turns into something that other people can take part in, ask questions about, and have opinions on. It’s the creative opposite of opening up your garage to show off the old Camaro that you finished renovating.

It’s obvious that we should bring the same practices to the workplace. We should put the work we do on display for everyone to see. Especially when the work is still taking shape. That’s when we can allow people to ask questions, have opinions, and influence our path. The closer we get the mark the work as done, the more rigid it becomes. When you roll that Camaro through the doors it’s too late for me to mention that article I read about repairing vinyl. And it’s too late for me to even try to understand how you have managed to turn a banged-up old car into the piece of art that sits on your driveway. By then, we’ve lost that opportunity to connect.

So whatever you’re working on right now, I encourage you to share it. Open up your garage door. Someone might walk by and glance at what you’re doing. They won’t care if it’s messy in there. The truth is that they’ll appreciate it. They might appreciate it enough to ask you a question. Or to tell you a story. To connect and learn.