Lose the Phones: Evernote CEO Talks about his Company’s Culture

The Corner Office column by Adam Bryant that appears weekly in the Sunday New York Times, recently featured an interview with Phil Libin, chief executive of Evernote, a provider of note-taking and archiving technology, based in Mountain View, Calif.

Mr. Libin provided many nondurables. For example:

One of the things I’ve tried to do is uproot any sort of e-mail culture at Evernote. We strongly discourage lengthy e-mail threads with everyone weighing in. It’s just not good for that. Plus, it’s dangerous, because it’s way too easy to misread the tone of something. If you want to talk to somebody and you’re a couple floors apart, I kind of want you to get up and go talk to them.

Yes, you read that right… he said get up and talk to the person. What a concept!

And yet, if I hit the way back machine, you will find that Mr. Tom “In Search of Excellence” Peters had popularized MBWA (Managing By Wandering Around), which he discovered while talking to an executive at HP.

MBWA … Managing By Wandering Around … quickly became our favorite “excellence” idea! Technically, it meant staying in direct touch (damn the bureaucracy!) with the folks who do the work.

You can read more about it here. And here’s a link to a video where Mr. Peters explains the concept.

But back to Mr. Libin… Hand-in-hand with his email comment was one where he talked about getting rid of the phones.

We got rid of phones in the office. Just on a whim, I thought that at every company we start, and this is the third one, we’re going to eliminate one piece of unnecessary technology. So this time it was phones. We thought, why do you really need a phone? If you have a phone at your desk, it’s just sitting there and you’re kind of encouraging people to talk on it. Everyone’s got a cellphone, and the company pays for the plans. There are phones in the conference room. We’re not a sales organization, so we’re not making a lot of calls, either.

If you’re at your desk, you should be working. And that’s actually worked really well. I don’t think anyone misses phones. Even though it’s one big room, it’s actually fairly quiet because no one is sitting there talking at their desk.

The culture very much is that if you want to talk, you go 10 or 20 feet in some direction to a quiet area.

Awesome, right?

The cherry on top is that Evernote is an amazing app. I use it on my Android phone and notes, pictures, etc. magically appear on my Mac.

Special thanks to Adam Bryant and his editor, for featuring Mr. Libin. Please read the entire interview. There are many, many nondurables.


And for your viewing pleasure, a look at the wayback machine…

Also, a nice one from Dilbert on MBWA…

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