From the ubiquitous Post-it® Super Sticky Notes to Post-it® Dry Erase Surface, Post-it® Brand offers a number of tools to bring out the very best collaborative experiences amongst your colleagues. However, we know that collaboration isn’t simply limited to tools — nor is it confined to a handful of techniques. To offer new perspectives on collaboration and its benefits, we partnered with The Motley Fool — a renowned leader in innovative collaborative experiences — to help understand their unique approach to make working together better.
According to a recent Gallup poll, only 31% of American workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014 — meaning they were not enthusiastic and involved in their daily duties*. Ultimately, this translates to a major deficit in worker productivity, top employee retention and other financial shortcomings — both short- and long-term.
What does the company credit for this surprising number? An emphasis on “play” and its ability to foster collaboration and excitement across the entire 350 person organisation.
“We’ve made it a point to avoid the typical work week dread cycle where everyone hates Mondays and praises Fridays,” says Todd Etter, Chief Collaboration Officer at The Motley Fool. “That type of mentality affects energy, engagement and ultimately both productivity and innovation. Instead, we’d rather introduce play and games that keep minds fresh and challenged versus falling into familiar cycles.”
One of Etter’s hallmark creations is the Foolympics — an annual event in which the company is divided into small teams that represent “countries.” Over the course of two weeks, the teams will compete against one another in short 5-10 challenges that range from physical activities to trivia and beyond. Although, according to Etter, the benefits are lasting.
“I’ve heard from countless staff that they’ve met more people in the two weeks of the Foolympics than they have in the entire previous year,” says Etter. “And as a result, they’re getting exposed to the talents of those people. This exposure to new skills and ideas is critical to our organisation — especially given the amount of project-based work we do.”
“Now, if someone has a question outside of their particular area of expertise, they can possibly think of someone they met during the Foolympics and tap into that person’s knowledge. It helps keep everyone engaged and excited versus getting frustrated because they don’t know where to turn if they have a question outside their areas of expertise.”
“Plus, the rise in energy across the entire company following one of our events is almost tangible.”
This approach has translated to activities outside of the Foolympics as well. As Chief Intelligence Officer at The Motley Fool, Mark Brooks has a vested interest in learning how teams are performing and what they’re doing to reach their goals.
“Meeting with new teams can kind of be like cold calling,” says Brooks. “Nobody likes that and it tends to raise people’s natural defenses. So if a team wants to meet with another team, Todd [Etter] will create a game specifically for those teams to interact and get to know each other. Once they start laughing with each other and learn about a team’s or individual’s particular skill, the barriers to conversation are removed and they can easily start to understand how to work together, in ways both big and small.”
To further illustrate this point, one of the most successful games the company ever created was a name game in which every employee’s photo was put on a website. Then, via multiple choice, players had to guess that person’s first name. Prizes were awarded to those who completed the challenge in the shortest amount of time, but the company also had a celebration when everyone had completed the challenge.
“The name game had a definable business purpose,” says Etter. “Studies and common sense shows that when you are able to put a name to a face, you’re immediately more comfortable with people with whom you’ve had limited contact. You’re a little more trusting and willing to listen to each other versus crossing those very first, sometimes awkward hurdles of exchanging names and hoping your remember them 5 seconds later.”
Plus, The Motley Fool invites its customers to play with them — specifically to help improve products. During member events, in which their customer community is given center stage, collaborative games are often featured to invite members to feel like a “Fool” and develop better ideas for the company.
Play takes center stage outside of office hours, too. From trivia groups to sports teams, a variety of employees at The Motley Fool regularly pursue their passions together and come away with something bigger in the process. Amber Knutson, a developer at the company, runs the weekly board game sessions, has noticed the benefits firsthand.
“When you play together, you build trust and respect which ultimately translates to the work environment,” says Knutson. “You know how to talk, communicate or just hang out with that person. Plus, it brings more energy to the team, which can result in bigger and better ideas. It’s hard to build trust solely from the job alone but when you already have a connection established, it makes everyone’s jobs flow.”
The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company that provides financial solutions for investors through various stock, investing, and personal finance products. In addition, they’ve been heralded as one of the U.S.’s best places to work through a collaborative environment that brings all manners of expertise together.