Brian, you've certainly covered all bases here. I was enthralled with the robotic beer pong table, though disappointed that no one was drinking the beer. Give it to the robots - reward for their hard work. Some robots can't operate without alcohol (Bender). I hope Chris can take this article to mgmt with an impassioned plea for the installation of some dispensing machine - a fully architected system with distributed CO2 (nitrogen for Guinness), tap tables, or just a fridge.
Two of my favorite things: engineering and beer. For years I worked at a small company where beer was a part of the culture. On Fridays after 4:00pm we would convene in someone's office with a six pack, discuss the events of the week, what everyone was doing on the weekend and so on. It was somewhat ceremonious, and I usually had to buy the beer, but it was always something to look forward to.
Beer also has another excellent property which I might add - removing the creativity block. After a couple of beers, my ideas come much more freely. Engineers are typically introverts and beer can correct that. However, everyone has a "slippery slope." Three beers in and you might not be so productive for idea-generation any longer. You might also suffer from post-beer carb-coma syndrome (PBCCS). The only known cure is to watch cat videos on YouTube. This clearly has a terrible effect on productivity levels.
As for coffee, well we consume that throughout the day as well. For the adventurous, and those who prefer efficiency, Troegs makes a beer called Java-Head Stout, which is a malty, chocolate-y stout made with coffee. This would probably be more acceptable than making an Irish coffee at your desk.
It's nice to be the owner and manager of a company, as company culture is an important piston in the engine of business. If your employees enjoy beer, well, let them have beer. Just look for the ones with the tell-tale imprints from their static mats on their cheeks, and implore them to cut back.
Another thing I forgot to mention to you that adds a bit of historical perspective to the whole thing. On page 130 of the book, "Bill and Dave", they talk about the importance of Beer Busts at the HP headquarters on Friday afternoons. It'd be a time to unwind and talk about the week and build relationships outside ones own department.
Another important part of the culture? A coffee break, every day at 10 am. See? Coffee and beer!
Scott, it is my undying regret that we had to jet off from our meeting with you and Adam in Maryland. I don't recall seeing a kegerator anywhere, otherwise we would have stayed for a while.
When I see you next at a trade show or elsewhere, we will simulate the event at a local tavern!
Well said Brian. This is an idea whose time has come. I believe we have evolved significantly enough as a civilization to recognize the innumerable benefits that beer provides for engineering and many other professions as well. I predict that this blog will one day be recognized as a seminal work in influencing the course of human events.
Dylan, thank you for your kind words. But it really takes a village to build a beer-delivery and productivity-improvement culture inside companies. It takes visionaries and risk-takers, people unafraid to take a few arrows in the back.
Yet, turning the lens on ourselves, we have no beer-delivery & productivity-improvement system at work. What's up with that? We aren't walking the talk yet.
To quote the immortal speech-maker John Belushi, "Who's with me?? Let's goooooooooooooo."
I worked at MBB in Munich as a contract engineer 1978-82, and the software crew in each 3-man office regularly polished off half a crate of Spatenbrau before lunchtime. For the hardware boys it was a full crate. And of course, beer was available at lunchtime!
Years ago I too used to travel to Munich for regular work trips. The company cafeteria sold beer, the office areas had mini-refrigerators that were usually stocked with beer, and there was even a refrigerated Lowenbrau vending machine next to the Coke machine.
Work hard and play hard seemed to function well for our inter-continental team. No beers before 5 pm, and we usually worked until the security guards told us to get out just before 9 pm.
That's another great thing about German culture -- you're not allowed to stay at work past 9 pm, and you can't go in on the weekends :)
When I worked at Delphi, they had complex rules about any drinking on company property. My summary was accepted. though "If you buy it I will drink it, if you don't, I won't". But that company really could have used a lot of beer.
ON the other side, one of my employers concluded that if they gave me enough coffee they got as much good work from me as from two normal folks, and where can you get a good engineer for the cost of 15 cups a day? Wired, not tired!
One of my good friends argued that beer needs to have caffeine added to it. That way after a couple, you don't get sleepy. If you add the keg next to the coffee pot in the cube, you will not reduce the wear of the carpet on the way to the expulsion room.
Beer is just good food and needed for proper elevated thinking on hard to solve issues. That said most HRs frown on this sort of thing. I can say the companies that allowed beer were the most creative and productive places I worked. My beverage of choice was coffee in the morning and beer (just one) at lunch. Everything in moderation. That said, limiting the beer to a Friday or two a month might be more palatable to upper management (and HR), perhaps off site..
what i have found (prsnl exprnce) is that if you induce a little alcohol (balance is the trick) in the system..it cools down the thought process just enough that the focus on the immediate task become so coherent that it gives laser a run for its money.. i ve coded for hours straight, non stop on the most mundane tasks with a little whiskey in the blood and rock playing in my headphones .. while whiskey and others can be a little hard to calibrate, beer on the other hand gives you just the required amount needed to turn the system into a streamlined arrow. . . so for core developers and the geek brigade i say let the beer cans come in on the company expense. . . for discussions (technical), a little ethanol in the system dfntly removes the inhibitions and you can exchange many more ideas without your mind first thinking abt 'wht my senior will think' . . .so apart from the belly .. i see it has only gud to offers .. cheerz :-)
In the late 80s, I gave a talk on A/D converters to the electronics group at a German nuclear lab. After the talk, the Director of the group took me back to his office and asked if I would like a schnapps. I asked, "You're allowed to drink schnapps on the job?" The Director replied, "Only management. The workers, they have to drink beer." The cafeteria served beer to all, but the higher-ups had their own supply of the higher octane stuff.
A standards committee I work with has an annual face to face meeting where we plan on an evening with one's favorite alcoholic beverages. A lot of tension is dissipated this way, and typically some important concessions and compromises are made.
People are also a lot more open about their fears and concerns when they've had a couple drinks with dinner. Instead of tightly following the party line, many will relax and explain why they say these things.
We all leave the event with fonder memories and a clearer understanding of some of the various motives and skills each of the members have to offer.
It's worth every penny.
When I started my career in 1974 it was with a engineering consulting organization, Structural Dynamics Research Corporation. The companmy was living in several buildings, oneof which had been a retaurant with a bar. This building was used to support a near continuous seminar program, ans the bar was a very useful component of that support.
It followed that the company's extraordinarily hard -working engineers could help themselves to the elixer on tap anytime after hours while they were putting in their 50-80 hour workweeks.
When the company built a grand new headquarters, the seminar facility had a bar, and the tradition continued. People would meet in the bar for meetings, for brainstorming and to socialize when they were finished for the day.
This atmosphere was terrific for recruiting, for customer relations and morale.
Eventually, after the original management team had retired and passed the torch (I was long gone by then) this traditon fell victim to the lawyers.
It was a great and treasured tradition while it lasted.
According to the buffalo theory, drinking beer makes you smarter. A herd of buffalo can only move as quickly as its slowest, weakest members, the thinking goes. When those members die off, the net speed of the herd increases. Similarly, the performance of your brain is limited by the slowest, weakest cells. Beer kills off those brain cells, so...drinking beer actually makes you smarter.
Maybe I should save this for april 1st. but lets not forget vodka, after all if beer is good vodka should be better plus it is more efficient at delivering what you want. Oh and don't don't forget crack the super caffeine, all of this in moderation of course.