Rich knew at 13 years old what he was going to do the rest of his career when he typed a two-line program into a teletype and the computer returned, “HI RICH." He was hooked. A year later, after having typed the entire Baseball Register into the computer, he won an international gaming contest for what would now be termed Fantasy Baseball. In 1973, Rich landed his first job as a programmer. He was stunned people would pay him to do something he loved to do as a hobby. He went on to obtain a Master’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan.
After graduating, Rich worked his way up through a number of Ann Arbor technology companies. At the midpoint of his career rise, he wanted out. He was no longer experiencing the joy that had first drawn him to programming and this inspired him to pursue lasting change at his workplace. His investigation led him to different books, videos, and methodologies that opened his eyes to a new approach for building and running teams. The experiments began.
Once the internet bubble burst, Rich found himself out of a job, but he knew that he had been on to something. On June 12, 2001 Menlo Innovations LLC was born.
Since then, Rich’s passion for creating and sharing a joyful work environment led to his bestselling and widely celebrated book, Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love. His second book, Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear, continues on that theme with a focus on leadership style.
Richard delivered an awesome keynote; one of the best I heard so far. Richard inspired me to close Agile Amsterdam 2018 with the message that we should scale up 'Joy' in the context of Menlo Innovations.”
- Nils Oud
Back in high school, James was one of those kids who wrote code in his head rather than listen in class. When he graduated, he found a job writing software for the banking industry. As he worked at various companies across several decades, he came to a depressing conclusion: A lot of people hate their jobs. “Forty years is a long time to be miserable,” James felt. “But, when I look at some of the environments people work in, it’s appropriate to be miserable.” This prompted James to start his own company and together, with Rich, set an ambitious goal: In addition to creating a place that empowered people to successfully pursue meaningful work, they wanted to make 10 other companies into places they would want to join.
“Executives come to Menlo,” James explains, “and they ask, ‘How can we engage our workforce? How can we energize them? They were energized when we hired them; what happened since then?’" The answer, according to James, is that "you accidentally but systematically beat it out of them. If you give them an opportunity, most people want to work hard on something that matters to them, something they care about. Joy is about meaningfulness and finding fulfillment in what we do, even when the work itself is not pleasant.”
Today, creating joyful workplaces is still the main reason James goes into work every day.
James captured our imagination, and encouraged us to reconsider joy as a concept.”
- Meggen Petersen