Polls and articles noting that March Madness swallows a massive amount of productivity at American offices are a dime a dozen online. Positive takes on the annual college basketball frenzy are harder to come by, but entrepreneur Clay Hebert managed to find a unique positive perspective recently.

Writing on Young Entrepreneur Council the Spindows.com founder recounts his experience at Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA program in 2009 where he ran a radical rethink of the usual office pool. Forget offering ten bucks to buy a bracket, he suggests. Instead, substitute skills for cash as an ante.

Instead of throwing in $10, everyone donates a skill. Something they are good at.

There were 10 of us, so 10 skills were swapped.

The donated skills are listed publicly so people can browse the list during the tournament and learn more about their colleagues.

  1. Seth offered Canadian Style canoe paddling lessons (called Omering).
  2. Emily offered guitar lessons.
  3. Al offered a comprehensive fitness and nutrition audit and consultation.
  4. Susan offered to design an e-book.
  5. Jon offered kayaking lessons.
  6. Becca offered a “Day with Becca” personalized guided tour of Manhattan.
  7. Alex offered to teach exactly how to make his famous melted ginger scallion sauce.
  8. Ishita offered a personal coaching session on conquering fears in business.
  9. Allan offered to teach someone how to read and build a cap table.
  10. I offered to cook a four-course home-cooked meal.

After the tournament, instead of winning money, the winner of the office pool gets to choose first from the donated skills. Second place gets second choice, and so on.

Jon took first and chose Becca’s guided tour of Manhattan.

Susan took second and chose Jon’s kayak lessons.

Seth took third and chose Susan’s offer to design an e-book.

And so on…

Besides a remarkable uptick in paddling abilities among the team, Hebert claims the skill swap provided other more significant benefits. "People generally do office pools to increase connection and camaraderie. But it doesn’t work. Nobody really cares about the $10 (and many people don’t even care about the tournament.) The Skill Swap actually does increase connection and camaraderie," he writes, concluding: "Everyone teaches. Everyone learns. Everyone wins."

If you think something similar might have positive effects at your company, check out the complete post for useful templates and additional guidelines.

Would something similar work well for your company?



Published on: Mar 19, 2013