Harris: Investment advice in the name of charity

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"I think every NGO in the world should think about being out of business in 40 years," he said. "Because it's going to change how you think about it. It's going to change who you hire, what your goals are, what your priorities are, what your focus is. If you look at the challenges we have, particularly in hunger, a lot of people have spent great financial resources on it, but we're not really winning. And there's a reason we're not. We've got to change the way we think about it."

Out of the office

"Remote: Office Not Required," the new book from business partners Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, of Chicago's 37signals, could be read as a Marissa Mayer smackdown.

The vitriol for Mayer's no-work-from-home policy appears to be all Hansson, though, as Fried struck a conciliatory tone on the topic in a discussion with me Tuesday at a Human Resources Management Association conference in Rosemont.

"You'll read in the book that we think that was a bad idea, but my personal feeling is that I don't think it's a good idea to second-guess new leadership," Fried said of Mayer. Still, Fried criticized companies that are "basically saying we can't be a family, we can't make great products, we can't do any of these things because 3 percent of our company works remotely. That's ridiculous."

Fried's company, 37signals, has 41 employees, 28 of whom work remotely in cities around the world. The book is a how-to on creating and managing a remote workforce. Among the key points is creating an online chat room, where remote workers can re-create water cooler-type conversations; using Web conferencing technology, such as WebEx; and gathering employees for a week twice a year.

One benefit of remote work is that it ensures fewer meetings, which Fried thinks increases productivity. There's not much Fried hates more than meetings.

"There's no such thing as a one-hour meeting unless there's only one person in that room for an hour," Fried said. "But that's not how meetings work. There's six or seven people in a room, or 10 people in a room. So a one-hour meeting is a 10-hour meeting. You have to multiply the time spent in the meeting by every person that's there. And then you start to go, was this really worth 10 hours?"

Melissa Harris can be reached at mmharris@tribune.com or 312-222-4582.

Twitter @chiconfidential

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