Hello from the construction site… I just have to wipe off the dirt from my hands in order to continue writing. So… we are very excited here at our workplace playground! We are building a technical center with a hi-tech laboratory and all extras. The whole team voted in favor of this project because many tech people had recently joined our team and they needed a place where they could test their ideas. Jon said that he even had a breakthrough in zero gravity vehicles…
More freedom, more opportunities find their place in our world. It is difficult to believe that such fast evolution is possible. In the beginning, it was different. I remember a conversation with our coach a couple of months ago. We were talking in the Jacuzzi, sipping champagne celebrating… well nothing in particular. Let’s say we were celebrating life 🙂
Being in a relaxed mood with no particular projects to be excited of, I decided to ask the coach how it all started – the Workplace As a Playground (WæP) concept – how it was born and how it came to life. The coach smiled absentmindedly:
“Oh, I remember it as if it was yesterday. We were the pioneers back then. People were already waking up and looking for new ways of doing things. They were ready for the solution and we had it,” – here he grinned from ear to ear.
“Most people thought we were some enthusiasts who had ridiculous ideas and views. They thought that human nature would never change and giving people such freedom at work was doomed to failure. Our team consisted of several members – friends and family mostly – who were dead tired and sick of the outworn systems. We thought that we could not modify or improve the existing systems because they were beyond repair; we had to reinvent them.
So, after we developed and tested our theory, we bought this place and started to build the playground. We were ten people – four engineers (Karen, John, Jochan and Maya), two IT guys (George and William), two coaches and two humanizers (everyone uses this word now, but actually we invented it; it describes a person who gives human touch to technologies). As you know, freedom is the underlying principle of our organization, but it is often the greatest responsibility and burden if not channeled properly.
The major challenge we faced in the beginning was how to change people’s thinking and make them embrace the new freedom. In addition, it turned out that people found it difficult to kick out old working habits. We knew that they would be frightened and confused by the total freedom they were offered and decided to make the transition slowly, one step at a time.
The first day I gathered the team in the office playground, we had only a building and some furniture (not even fu(r)nature – it appeared later). I told them that I and the other coach had some ideas we wanted to discuss with them. Our condition was to choose only one project, test it and implement it.”
“Wait a minute, coach, only one idea? I am confused! Why did you set such a limit?” – I exclaimed.
“Hahaha, right! At that time, the concept of WæP was so innovative and revolutionary that we had to lay a solid foundation first and then build on. The team was fascinated by the idea of making climbing walls from natural materials, which could be installed at home, in offices, schools, shopping malls, etc. The engineers were excited and used their imagination and creativity. The IT guys made a great website. My job was only to observe the process and take care of the team. My task was to make sure that they were happy, didn’t fall back into the old working habits and didn’t feel pressured or stressed. The walls became an absolute hit.
“And what about the initial funding?” – I asked.
“Well, that’s a long story. I will tell it some other time. Alan is here and he wants to talk to me. See you later.”
He left me alone in the Jacuzzi. I looked through the window and saw the sun slowly disappearing behind the hill. What a breathtaking view! My thoughts were bouncing back and forth. What is it like to be a pioneer and try to change the world? It should’ve been exciting, challenging and sometimes extremely difficult and disappointing… Should I regret that I wasn’t here from the beginning? Or is it better that I joined the team later?
I have to go now. I and my wife will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and I want to surprise her. Wish me luck!
See you next time.