Abrams is cofounder and CEO of South Mountain Company, an employee- owned design and building company on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. In this volume, he offers the 30-person company as a model for how a company can become as much of a community as a business.
John Abrams is the founder of South Mountain Company, a design & build worker-owned cooperative in Martha’s Vineyard. His books describes the history of the company, their choice to move to a worker-owned cooperative model, and their overall philosophy of work.
Those principles are:
- Sharing ownership - Cultivating workplace democracy - Challenging the gospel of growth - Balancing multiple bottom lines - Celebrating the spirit of craft - Practicing community entrepreneurism - Thinking like cathedral builders - Committing to the business of place
All of these principles resonate strongly with me, and I have a lot of thinking to do about how they might be relevant in my less tangible design practice. Some of the principles (craft, challenging growth) are similar to the philosophy of the folks at 37 Signals. The workplace democracy angle can be found, at least to a limited extent, at Valve. Thinking like cathedral builders is, of course, a cornerstone of the open source movement. But I can’t think of a technology organization that embodies all of the principles in any meaningful way. I’d like to see one.
If you're trying to build anything real and honest and hopeful -- really, anything -- this is a wonderful, straightforward compilation of one cooperative's paradigm of a life doing so, and everything they found useful along the way. The guide book on how to literally construct a beautiful world.
One of John Abrams' many gems:
"The only power is the power of conviction and expertise: to create change we have only to convince each other."
A great Balinese saying quoted within:
"We don't have any art. We do everything as well as we can."