Scientists with Door Open

From Weekly I/O#72

Great scientists work with their door open. Though keeping the door closed enhances short-term productivity, an open door invites interruptions that can bring insights into what's truly important in the long run.

Book: The Art of Doing Science and Engineering

Why do some scientists make groundbreaking contributions while others fade into obscurity? Richard Hamming noticed distinct patterns among scientists who choose to work with their door open or closed.

Scientists who work behind closed doors are generally more productive in the short term. They get more work done today and tomorrow. However, they often find themselves disconnected from the bigger picture as years pass. A decade later, they may realize their hard work hasn't necessarily focused on the most impactful problems.

On the other hand, scientists who work with open doors get interrupted more often, which might hinder their productivity in the short run. However, these interruptions occasionally provide clues about the world's needs and what might be important in their field.

Though we cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship, Hamming believes there's a strong correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately make important contributions, despite people who work with doors closed often working harder.

This reminds me of write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open, and Beer Mode and Coffee Mode.

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