“One, two, three…” we jump from the trampoline into the pool. One of our co-players jumps in a way to raise as much water as possible and splash as much people as possible, and… he manages! The water reaches our Coach and in a second he is wet through.
“You bastards!” Coach is laughing, “You did it on purpose!”
Now everyone around the pool giggles. Then Coach waves at me and asks me to have a chat. Thirty minutes later we are walking in our winter garden, caressing the plants. We’ve found out this increases their productivity by 23 %.
“I was thinking, I never told you how we managed to restart the Workplace as a Playground, our WAP”, Coach says thoughtfully. “And it wasn’t the smoothest restart. You remember that when we tried to build the first WAP in the city, it didn’t last long and all my employees abandoned me.
I nod and he continues.
“It took me eight months of traveling, getting drunk, doing extreme sports and generally trying to avoid thinking why it happened like it happened.
Then when I was climbing a peak in Pakistan it occurred to me that I had given too much freedom to people and no framework, no direction. I thought it was the reason for them leaving me. So the second time I decided to start things differently. Five members of the first team decided to give it a try one more time and each one of them invited a friend – people who were thrilled by the idea.
This time we decided to focus on one thing at a time and have a company offering certain products. Our team consisted of engineers, IT specialists, designers and a marketing specialist. That’s why we decided to design and produce FUNiture (innovative and fun office furniture). We started with couches and climbing walls. Our plan was ambitious. We bought materials and machines. And then I realized that I had almost run out of money. I was such a fool. We should’ve started small and grow our business slowly. I was terrified. I couldn’t disappoint my people again. While I was self-pitying, an Angel knocked on our door.”
I raise my eyebrows and Coach, seeing my perplexity, explains:
“I mean email. He sent us an email. An Angle Investor sent us an email. He told us that WAP was what he had been looking for his whole life and he found our website by pure chance. He was happy and excited and offered to invest and help us. We used to call him Angel, but he didn’t like it. You know him. Initially he was our Money Manager, then he became a designer. Now he is an artist. He finally discovered his talent and passion. It took him several years.”
“You mean Smaithy? You must be kidding. He is an artist. How could he possibly have been a venture capitalist?”
“He was but quite unhappy one. Now he is perfectly happy.”
“I’ve always wondered why his nick name is Smaithy. Where does it come from?
“You should ask him. He will tell you the whole story better than I.”
“Please, Coach, continue.”
“Everyone was excited and we started creating and manufacturing climbing walls, cozy and comfortable couches with art elements and different functionalities and some other items. I’ve learnt my lesson and to keep our expenses low, we initially made mockups of our products, showed them to potential clients, and verified that we have a potential market. After that we manufactured them.
Our products were very successful, to put it mildly. We wanted to have fun and be relaxed but work was engulfing us more and more. We had sworn we would use the hammocks and our own FUNiture, but in time we found ourselves still sitting on desks as work was intensifying.
One day I woke up at 7 a.m. and saw I had seven missed calls and slightly hysterical messages that we were late with production. I looked at the company from another perspective, as if I were an outsider. My shit froze! The company had become like every other company. We were stressed, overworked and did repetitive, sometimes boring jobs.
That was not what I have dreamt of! That was an ordinary company! That was not our WAP! It was time for bald decisions. I thought that we’d better changed this or I would leave the company. I preferred to epically fail with everyone hating me and leaving again than doing this till the rest of my life.”
Coach pauses and his thoughts seem to drift away. After a couple of silent minutes, I clear my throat. Coach startles slightly and smiles mischievously.
“I think you played enough jokes on me today” he says solemnly and laughs as I mumble in confusion till I understand he is joking. Then he continues.
“I set up a meeting with the whole team and told them what I was thinking. It turned out that many of them felt the same way and one was even thinking of looking for a new job. We decided to build a framework of the real WAP. We gave names to all the positions known now as Playmanager, Health Manager, Mood Improver, etc. Back then we didn’t have people for all of them, but we set the framework.
We used a part of our profit to build the today’s WAP structure and further elaborate our model of working, which is now worldwide known as Fluid. This time we did it the right way – a correct dose of freedom with a framework and no boring, repetitive jobs anymore. We focused on people, urged them to discover their real passions and provoked them to try different things and expand their expertise. Then we developed a system enabling people to learn from each other and to acquire new skills. It all started with…
“Well, coach, you might have forgotten, but I was here and participated in this.”
Coach starts to laugh.
“I remember very well, I was just checking if you are still listening and haven’t fallen asleep!”
It is slowly getting dark. We continue to walk in the winter garden, immersed in our thoughts. Then Coach bursts into incontrollable laughter. He sees my puzzlement and says.
“Oh, nothing, I’ve just remembered your expression when you first came here”.
He winks and adds: “You are not the only one that can play jokes on people. Now let’s go and have a glass of wine, let’s celebrate…. urm… well, whatever you want to celebrate. After I remembered the Restart so vividly I would personally drink to WAP and more”.
“What do you mean by more? WAP is perfect?!”
But then I remember what Rina keeps saying all the time: “Fluid doesn’t mean utopia, people, it just means that this is the best way to do things NOW. Tomorrow might bring better ways and new surprises”.
Cheers! To WAP and more to come!