A toast to the future of work

Justin Rosenstein

Asana held a small private party on April 19th for some friends and colleagues to celebrate the great things that Asana customers are accomplishing and the future to come. This is a transcript of Justin’s toast.

We are privileged that our jobs are fundamentally creative. That is, they consist in creating — in taking some bold idea or vision that begins life just in our minds, just in our collective imaginations, and manifesting it in the physical world. In so doing, we change the world around us. We can change the lives of others for the better, make something beautiful where before there was nothing.

From skyscrapers to software, from vaccines to space travel, greatness is the fruit of human collaboration, of groups of people with a shared vision working together, step by step, task by task.

Some see work as a way to become wealthy. We see “work” as an act of service, an act of love, for the greater good of humanity. Some people think of “corporations” and think of amassing capital, of accumulating resources for its own sake. While we do intend for Asana to thrive in the fiscal marketplace, we see that only as a means toward an end. We see companies as groups of people contributing something to the world. By working together, they can accomplish so much more than the sum of their parts.

Indeed, when teams are very small, each new member can exponentially increase a team’s capacity, adding a whole new perspective and set of skills. But as anyone who’s worked in a company knows, as teams grow, each member’s value-add quickly becomes sublinear, eventually even negative, as the friction and overhead of coordination outweighs their contribution.

In a brain, effective functioning requires not only healthy neurons, but also healthy connections between them. When things aren’t well-connected, we use words like “disorder” or “schizophrenia” or “amnesia.” The person’s behavior becomes erratic and jerky. This, unfortunately, is the state of companies today.

“Work About Work”

Even in successful enterprises, people waste enormous amounts of time, not doing work, but doing “work about work.” Meetings. Email. People repeating themselves. Entire layers of management and bureaucracy, just trying to keep everyone in sync. And still things fall through the cracks, schedules slip, dreams remain unrealized.

Information technology has made enormous strides already in helping us collaborate. For example, email hasn’t just allowed us to do what we were able to do before faster; email changed the nature and the scope of the projects that we dare to take on, it enabled us to dream bigger dreams. But email was only the very beginning.

Our dream, at Asana, is to build beautiful software that vastly increases the speed and scope of every organization on Earth.

Progress

Asana launched in November, and it’s exciting to see how much progress we’ve made toward that goal in just 5 months. It’s gratifying to see Asana providing critical infrastructure that helps a company like AirBnB revolutionize travel. Help Twitter revolutionize communication. Help NationBuilder revolutionize politics. Help Rdio revolutionize music. Help Foursquare and LinkedIn delight millions.

And the impact is deep. Every day, users send love letters about how Asana has changed their lives. Some say “I’ve tried every system out they, and this is the only one that actually stuck.” Some say Asana has transformed the way they do business, empowered them to take on bigger projects, and reduced their stress. Two sent us marriage proposals.

Asana is becoming the center of people’s work. That’s why over 25% of weekly active users use the product every single day, Monday through Friday. Users say it’s the one tab they keep open all day other than email. And once people try Asana, they say they can’t imagine going back — 75% of those who adopt Asana are retained.

There’s a biotech company in Menlo Park called Emerald Therapeutics started by two of the world’s top scientists. Emerald’s mission is “To end disease.” After growing the team, the founders found they had stopped doing science altogether, resigning 100% of their time to management. Last year they adopted Asana, and recovered 75% of their time to doing science, and report that the rest of the lab got vastly more efficient as well.

That’s the power and the privilege of building infrastructure. If Asana could increase every organization’s capacity to achieve its potential by 1%, let alone double or 10x it, that’s a really leveraged opportunity to help the world.

The Future

We see a future in which every organization on Earth can coordinate their collective action perfectly, without effort, like a healthy brain. We see a future in which every knowledge worker has exactly the information they need in front of them at every moment, doing only the intrinsically-creative, flow-inducing work that cannot be automated. And ultimately, we see a future in which not just isolated companies, but all of humanity operates seamlessly as a single harmonious Team, setting goals and accomplishing dreams beyond what we can imagine today.

The Asana Project is about touching the heart of how people create together. The heart of how people self-actualize, help their fellow man, and manifest their potential. Asana is about enabling new heights of human thriving.

I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to our shared capacity, all of us, to imagine a better world, and to build it, together.

Thank you.

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