One of the (many!) reasons I love working at JConnelly is our ahead-of-the-curve focus on decentralizing the modern workspace. We are, after all, a national agency, and as such we have offices around the country: New York City, New Jersey, Washington, DC and, of course, Chicago, the bustling Midwest metropolis where I live and work.
Here in Chicago, our office is located within 1871, a startup incubator, shared workspace, and birthplace of many of the world’s most innovative young tech companies. As 1871 members, we get the opportunity to work alongside and collaborate with so many whip-smart entrepreneurs and attend all the exciting events that take place in the 1871 space every week.
Case in point? A conversation with Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey, where JConnelly was front and center! Dressed in his signature Gen X techie uniform (all black jeans and t-shirt, a slouchy beanie, and a long, unkempt beard), Dorsey spoke with 1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler, then opened the floor for questions from the audience.
Naturally, we live Tweeted the entire event, but as it’s hard to sum up the experience in 280 characters, I thought a more detailed roundup was in order.
Here are the eight most interesting topics Dorsey spoke on during his hour at the office:
1. Programming is about solving problems.
Dorsey first learned how to program after his father brought home a computer from work. While he never planned on being an engineer, a CEO or a programmer, he liked finding answers and developed a kind of “do whatever it takes” approach to problem solving.
“Being able to solve problems helped me learn to program,” said Dorsey. “Now when I’m faced with a problem, I try and solve it in a way that’s as creative, intuitive and accessible as possible.
2. Twitter was not built to solve a specific problem.
Upon being asked by Ziegler what problems Twitter was created to solve, Dorsey laughed.
“We didn’t start Twitter to solve a problem, we started it because we wanted to use it,” he said. “When we were pitching the idea to investors, they would tell us that absolutely no one needed what we were building.”
These potential investors didn’t find the idea of Twitter to be useful and thought that it was “a bit weird.” But once the folks at Twitter built a prototype, they fell in love with it, and Dorsey said it became useful to the people on the platform.
3. The future of the internet is tied with the future of cryptocurrency.
The thing that excites me most about financial technology right now is cryptocurrency,” said Dorsey. “I think the internet will have its own native currency and will start to look and act like its own nation-state.
Dorsey is most interested in the promise of Bitcoin and believes his fintech company Square can and will play a big part in making this native internet currency into a reality. To this end, he said Square is currently hiring five engineers and one designer to work fulltime on projects that are entirely free and opensource.
“Their only mandate will be to make the cryptocurrency ecosystem better,” he said.
4. Global conversations happen on Twitter.
Big conversations are happening right now, and they need to be heard on a global scale. Citing ideas from the book ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ by Yuval Noah Harari, Dorsey mused that there are a lot of very important conversations happening in the world right now that need to take place on a global scale if real change is going to be enacted. For example, no matter how well Japan comes together to fight climate change, if the rest of the world does nothing, Japan’s efforts won’t matter.
“Economic disparity is another issue like that,” said Dorsey. “These issues transcend the boundaries of the nation-state, and they need to be happening globally in a public forum. Ensuring that Twitter is seen as a place to have these big public conversations is critical to me.”
5. Twitter is developing technology to measure the toxicity of online conversations.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Twitter platform is the way it has enabled extremists and trolls to gain a following and viciously attack marginalized people. When questioned about his responsibility to solve the problems caused by Twitter, Dorsey said his team is working on something called conversational health, which uses machine and deep learning to help measure the toxicity of online conversations.
6. This is how Jack Dorsey keeps a clear and creative mind.
He walks five miles to and from his office every day. He listens to podcasts and audiobooks while he walks, and it takes him about an hour and a half each way. That’s three hours of walking every day! It’s an important lesson for all of us to take time for ourselves and do the things that keep our minds open and our creativity flowing.
7. Diversity in the workplace is a business necessity, not an option.
"If we are going to be a global services company, we need to employ people from all over the world and all walks of life, otherwise we are going to get a lot wrong,” said Dorsey. “[Diversity] is a business requirement and a business need."
8. A global workforce is the future of work.
One of the ways Dorsey is trying to increase the amount of diversity on both the Twitter and Square teams is by decentralizing the workplace experience. Because the internet makes it possible to do work from anywhere, having a daily 9-5 mandate in a specific office doesn’t really make sense anymore. Especially with a company like Twitter, which is based in the Bay Area where very few people can afford to live, hiring outside the constraints of a city or state can help build a workforce made up of people with very different life experiences.
Dive deeper into the subject of cryptocurrency and learn more about the future of it in Bob Keane’s blog post: