Many years ago, before I was an agent, I directed all book and magazine publishing for a large newspaper syndicate. While those of us who didn’t work directly in editorial for the syndicate—publishing, licensing, sales and the executive suite—had our individual offices, some of them very spacious, the heart of the staff worked in an open bullpen. There, they communicated easily with each other as they edited the writers with whom they worked. In fact the editorial staff who worked in my division also worked in an open bullpen-like area, writing and editing material and sharing their ideas with each other.
Last Tuesday, many, many years later, Miriam and I attended a party held by HarperCollins to celebrate the relocation of their offices from Midtown to the Financial District downtown. The layout was open and airy with people sitting in bullpen-like settings. Some, who previously had window offices still had offices with glass walls so that they could see out and those passing by could see in. This layout, we were told, was meant to foster a spirit of collaboration. In addition, I would guess that there was an overall downsizing in terms of the number of square feet the company now occupies, which will enable the publisher to spend money on the titles they are publishing rather than on rent and maintenance of the many floors they took up at 10 East 53rd Street. Bottom line, my general impression was a very positive one.
Fostering a spirit of collaboration and cooperation in this publishing climate can produce nothing but solid results, in my opinion. Sure, there is some resistance to this layout—those who previously had privacy don’t have it any more, certainly not as much. But the benefits include a sense of team building and a collegial environment. I think growth will be the ultimate result here and I think this kind of organizational layout will become the norm in the years to come.
Of course, I am always curious as to what you, our readers, think of this idea and I look forward to your comments.