What if we designed our work communities to support deliberative disagreements?

Photo by Shelagh Murphy on Unsplash

The topic of “distracting political discourse” at work has made big news. From Coinbase and Brian Armstrong’s Medium blog last year to Basecamp CEO Jason Freid’s blog that supposedly spurred almost a third of employees to resign, there is clearly an anxiety among some tech founders about the character of conversation in their organizations.

There are many challenges one might advance against the “no politics at work” position and most of those have already been made. I want to focus on a very specific aspect of the general argument that disturbs me the most. …


My father likes to tell the story of when he went to the financial aid office at Carleton College, a liberal-arts school outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Mr. Frein, we are here to help you apply for what your son will need. Half of our students are on financial assistance of some kind,” the financial assistance officer noted. My dad replied, “Does that mean half of the parents just write a check each year?” Our reality was so far away from the financial situations for families that could afford to do that.

I was on full tuition assistance for most of…


Sunset off my back porch in Austin, TX

Today, schools shut down in Austin, TX and my 5 year-old and 8 year-old woke to the happy news (for them!) that they wouldn’t be going to school. Then we went to the grocery store to stock up a bit and stood in a 30-minute check out line.

The anxiety hangs in the air like its own kind of airborne virus.

Earlier this week, my workplace (Lambda School, an online school for technical skill training) closed our San Francisco and Salt Lake City offices. …


I’m turning the big 5–0 in 2020 and fortunately haven’t been hit with any of the standard crises of “midlife” (optimistically thinking 49 is possibly a life midpoint!). No desire to buy a sports car, although I would love to pick up a blue Gibson SG custom shop electric guitar … But generally, life is wonderful, and I do not need to remind myself of youth. I just want to be the best 50-year-old husband, father, friend, leader, and colleague I can be. …


I have wanted to do a short piece series on remote tools for a while. We are still in the infancy, in my view, of the remote work revolution (RWR) and the technology platforms that enable it are evolving rapidly. As well, competition is becoming fierce and the stakes considerable as we are seeing with Slack and Microsoft Teams. Remote work is distinctive as a movement in that it is being led by companies in the business of collaborative tools at scale (e.g. InVision, Automattic, Gitlab) and also powered by a suite of SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications for collaboration.

These are…


Photo by John Doyle on Unsplash

Company culture has become big business. Last week, Culture Amp, perhaps the leading “culture tech” company world-wide secured $82m in funding pushing it into “unicorn” territory (at least from an Australian dollar perspective). As someone that has been both a customer and fan of Culture Amp for almost a decade, I would both congratulate them and also celebrate the work they’ve done to make culture analysis a major topic in executive meetings, board rooms, and company all-hands. …


How to Make the Best of On-sites When Off-site/Remote is the Norm

At InVision, one of the largest fully-distributed companies in the world, we have an ongoing challenge of how to get the biggest impact from the rare occasions when groups of us gather in person.

There is a natural inclination to gather people together for “rhythm of the business” moments: quarterly business reviews, planning sessions, etc. Clark Valberg, InVision’s CEO, noted to me some time ago that if we could not figure out how to do these things while remote, then remote would simply not realize its potential. …


By Alvaro Marques Hijazo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75835795

The notion of ennobling character traits or virtues has a long history. Greek philosopher Aristotle described a system of ethics based on virtues of character. Chinese philosophers including Confucius articulated similar ways of understanding “doing right” as “being good” — i.e., being an upstanding person by habit and self-discipline.

Prominent virtues include honesty, courage, charity, prudence, and love. At InVision, the company where I work, we hold humility in high esteem given it not only informs our behaviors with each other but is critical for the empathy needed to listen deeply to customers. …


I’m Mark, and I work at InVision, one of the largest all-remote/distributed workplaces in the world. In the last few years, remote organizations have sprung up across the startup technology landscape. When I joined InVision just over 2 years ago, “all remote” or “officeless” workplaces still raised eyebrows. Some of my peers were skeptical about the ability to grow a healthy organization at scale without a physical plant of some kind. Now, companies such as InVision, Automattic, Gitlab, HashiCorp, Zapier and others are growing and thriving all or largely remote. …


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I’ve worked with quite a few top teams at this point in my career running the gamut from executive teams at start-ups, non-profits, mid-sized professional services companies, or multi-billion-dollar public corporations. My experience has led me to a working thesis about top team dynamics:

The interpersonal dynamics of an executive team are simultaneously a reflection of the relative state of the business and a contributing cause to the state of the business.

It is as if the top team is locked in resonance with the business overall. The operational health of the organization causes stressors and frictions and fosters specific…

Mark Frein

Failed Philosopher, Musician, HR/Startup Executive, Game Enthusiast, Imaginarian

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