From the first taste of ice cream on a Saturday afternoon to surprise office visits from the tiniest visitor imaginable, I'm having the time of my life being a grandfather to my 1 year old Naomi.
It's incredible what you forget after a few decades have passed from raising your own children. The moments that would normally seem so mundane blossom into something magical; it's exhilarating to witness a new human experience the world around them. And perhaps even more unique as a grandparent.
I admire successful people that manage to keep some of that sense of childlike wonder and creativity well beyond their elementary school years. I'm not talking about those unfortunate adults that pitch tantrums and can't play nicely with others in the sandbox of life (you know the ones), rather I'm describing those enlightened individuals that have been able to maintain the creativity and energy of youth that makes them a force to be reckoned with in the workplace.
The power of FUN in the office: 'Enjoy the Ride'
When you visit the Blinds.com headquarters in Houston, TX, I describe the office as my 'personal magic shop' to many visitors. When I was growing up, my friends and I would take the bus to a local magic shop on the weekends to dive deep within a world of magicians' props, books and secrets. It was, at the time, the most incredible place to me and I'll never forget the feeling I would get when I walked in knowing I could lose myself there for hours. Perhaps you have a similar place in your memory - a grandmother's attic, a shady spot under a backyard tree, a baseball stadium, a horse stable.
The point is that I have worked hard to deliberately re-create that 'magic shop' feeling in my office today. We spent hundreds of hours designing a bright, colorful and super functional office design with hidden workspaces, collaborative areas and fund design surprises for employees to lose themselves in.
There are giant video walls that feature gorgeous motion graphics with important business info, huge cartoon office maps drawn by an amusement park graphic artist that more closely resemble a Where's Waldo book than anything else, the ever-important ping pong, foosball and shuffleboard tables--and even whiteboard walls with different creative prompts for employees to think a bit differently about their day and encourage one another.
We play together, we eat together, we dance together, we work together, we create happy customers together. Our daily work lives are enriched and, I strongly feel, are much more productive and profitable because we refuse to turn into boring adults that hate Mondays. It's not easy staying creative and light - there are days when I'd certainly prefer to revert to a grouchy adult sitting sour faced behind my desk staring at frustrating spreadsheets. But where's the growth, levity and fun in that? Resist the urge and return to the light. Embrace our company value: 'Enjoy the Ride.
Encouraging play to build a profitable and open company culture
A crucial attribute we lose as we leave childhood is the freedom to be yourself and speak your mind, blissfully unaware of society's expectations. Certainly there are some social norms worth keeping to, but I just cannot abide the repression of genuine creativity and spontanaity that our modern business world drains from employees.
One of our Blinds.com Core Values is to 'Speak Up and Be Yourself' - and it's not just lip service. Employees and managers are given multiple channels to share feedback (both privately and publicly) and we are building programs (like our Customer Experience Council) that ensure that ideas and suggestions are put into action with a real budget behind them. I love empowering my team to be open minded and creative in how we can grow the business together.
Recently, we held a 'Shark Tank' event where employees submitted (incredibly detailed and well researched) proposals on ways we can better serve our customers and each other - the more inventive the better. We made a big deal about this event with high quality video production, prizes and lots of internal dialogue to generate excitement. When we selected our final 5 and then announced our top winner, employees felt heard and ready to kick off the next think tank event.
We've seen similar success by giving employees time and instruction to step out of their regular roles and put on a new creative hat. Our IT department 2-day hackathon resulted in completed projects spanning web browser plug ins for the sales department to save time on customer orders to an incredible Google Earth app that marks customer sales as they happen to a Blinds.com version of 'Mario Kart' video game. It all comes down to keeping things light (when appropriate) and seeking out employees that are willing to step away from their comfort zone and have a little playtime.
Because we encourage employees to seek out creative solutions and workspaces, I witness my team organizing board game lunches, hula hooping in the parking lot on breaks, companywide craft projects for special occasions and ping pong tournaments. I support them 100% as it gives the camaraderie and stimulation they need to get back to work with a freshness and energy that you just can't find anywhere else.
So as you look at your work week ahead, I encourage you to view it with fresh childlike eyes. Remember that place that spoke to you as a kid - what was your magic shop? How can you re-create that emotion and inspiration in your work life to benefit you, your employees and customers? I wish you many of your own 'abracadabra' moments - happy playing!