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Totems and Icons

Sometimes during our work with clients cultural ‘icons’ or ‘totems’ emerge. These give people something to refer to, to talk about. They help as markers of the conversations we have. Here are some examples.

Church of Fail

Fear of failure can kill innovation, personal responsibility, leadership and honesty. We helped this client develop the Church of Fail – a room set up like a church with a ‘priest’ who gives team members the chance to confess their failures with the ‘congregation’. The congregation responds suitably, applauding, whistling and cheering in response.

This is a huge amount of fun. But more importantly we think it helps remodel the often learned experience of shame and embarrassment attached to failure. The result is a far more tolerant and innovative culture and a company that ‘learns from mistrakes’.

Top Trumps

This fast growing team created a set of ‘top trumps’ cards for each employee, existing and new, that highlighted key roles, responsibilities and skills. These were left all around the organisation. The ‘fun aspect’ meant that people read them and absorbed the knowledge informally.

But the important, almost subliminal message that people are multi-faceted, and often surprising in their interests and abilities outside as well as within work. It brings the value of diversity to the fore.

Happy Buckets

Monitoring staff happiness may be a way to preempt problems that might affect performance, innovation, personal levels of responsibility and the much desired but rarely found employee engagement.

But much more importantly the process of measurement itself may also stimulate awareness and ‘noticing’.

With this client we created a simple prototype called ‘Happy buckets’. There’s a bucket full of tennis balls and as you leave one goes either in the happy or the unhappy bucket. Each day the results are recorded and published. This demonstrates the company cares about happiness and employee contentment. But it also provides a prompt for employees to understand what they feel and start to think about why.

The Voice

Getting people to speak up is one way for an organisation to become more aware – moment by moment as people speak and voice what they see and experience.

‘The Voice’ is a monthly meeting for the staff and MD. The MD has agreed to answer whatever question is placed before him honestly. This helps signal the value that the organisation places on honesty, which leads to more conversation, and more congruence.

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