After our first week of American Bucket List visits we find ourselves crossing the border to Canada. We are heading up to Toronto to meet up with our friends from the Unleash Network. We are here, on their invitation, to provide a workshop about our journey in their start-up like environment: the UnleashTO Space. We are grateful for this invitation. It’s this kind of gigs that keep us on the road, and in this particular case on an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean.
How did we connect with Unleash? The power of blogs!
Roughly five months ago we visited Frederic Laloux and wrote this blog post about our personal visit to him. This post was picked up by Brent Lowe, who after reading it went on to write this blog post. Brent sent us an email in which he sent the link of his post in case we were interested. Of course we were, and after reading the post we wanted to get to know the person behind it. While getting to know each other, we started to think about ways to share our story in Canada. This is when Brent mentioned the work of the Unleash Network and what they’re all about. A few days later we were Skyping with founder Dirk Propfe to explore the opportunities.
Within days we had organized the event and with the further help of the Unleash Network we ended up giving a workshop in Toronto for people interested to discuss Happiness at Work. For those of you living close to Toronto, there’s another opportunity coming up to meet like-minded people at the Unleash Summer networking party.
We kick-off the day with coffee and a rather long introduction round. We find it of high importance to know which people are attracted by our workshops. We want to make it personal, we want to understand their story and want to know why they have decided to attend this particular meeting. Once the introduction round is unfolding, we find out we’re dealing with a wide variety of attendees; ranging from seasoned consultants and journalists, to start-up founders and graduate students.
Typically in Europe the introduction round goes rather fast, but this time in Toronto it took a bit longer than expected. Later that week we saw how Richard Sheridan at Menlo Innovations found a solution to this phenomena. He showed us that you can better do the introduction while standing up, which he calls ‘stand-ups’. These ‘stand-ups’ force people to be more efficient and keep the introduction round shorter. We’ll definitely be experimenting with ‘stand-ups’ in our future workshops.
The ideal situation: define your happiest workplace
We start by explaining why we made the bold move to quit our jobs and start our search as Corporate Rebels. We might be among the few who make such a bold move, but we’re definitely not the only ones who were disconnected with their work. We show figures, data and percentages that prove what lots of people already sense: the majority of people is unhappy at work.
During the workshop we encourage the attendees to find their own ideals. In small groups we let them explore what they find important in their working life and what they value most. We ask them to describe what makes them happy at work. Once they start, the imagination goes wild and great ideas start to pop up naturally and frequently. It is interesting to experience that we do not see much difference between the needs of Europeans and North Americans in terms of employee happiness. The same keywords pop up on the various whiteboards.
What we saw during this exercise is similar to what we’ve seen in Europe. The ideal situation apparently doesn’t vary widely between persons, organizations, or countries. The aspects that come up while defining the ideal workplace is comparable with how we came up with our Bucket List. After reading lots of books, we imagined what aspects we personally wanted to change in our work environment. Then we connected these aspects to pioneers that have found cool and innovative ways of implementing the things that we long for in a workplace. They range from a healthy work-life balance, to a different (or no) role for managers, more fun, flexibility, freedom, purpose, et cetera.
Bucket List hero essentials
We have carefully designed this exercise in order to simulate what all our Bucket List heroes excel in. Most of our heroes actively practice this exercise on a daily basis. They constantly ask their employees what they need to perform better. These leaders listen carefully to the demands of the employees and then go on to facilitate what is needed. We want to give our workshop attendees a feel of how this practice works because we believe this is the first step to real change.
The painful gap with reality
As the same aspects appear every time we do this exercise, an obvious question comes up: why don’t we just implement the changes everyone is waiting for? Well, that’s where the painful reality kicks in. Even though we all seem to be very much aligned on what we’d like to change in the workplace, the gap with daily reality is still immense. The pioneering examples we witness all over the world prove that it can be done differently and that both organizations and employees benefit from it.
The gap between the ideal situation and the daily reality is the next subject we discussed in detail during our workshop. Once again, there was a clear need for tools and practices that can help employees to close this gap. The participants seemed eager to learn more about how they could start actively making changes in their own workplace and learn from the examples we’ve seen out there. For us, this strengthened the realization that there’s a clear need that we need to serve.
Increased focus on tools and practices
To cater to the needs of our followers, readers, and workshop and presentation attendees, and to further accelerate the closing of the gap, we’ll increase our focus on sharing with you the tools and practices of the organizations we visit. To give you an idea, we’ll:
- Explore the idea of setting up a blog series on “Rebellious Practices” in which we’ll discuss some of the unique practices and their different real-life applications in more detail;
- Increase our focus on unique practices in our talks and workshops. Luckily, thanks to the wide media attention, we’ll be giving lots of those over the next few months;
- Further develop two awesome ideas that could immensely accelerate the closing of the gap. You’ll hear more on this in not too long!
We finalize the workshop with a Q&A and a discussion in which we share more of our adventures and lessons learned. We love the energy in the room and the enthusiasm of people that are ready to make changes in their very own workplace.
One of the things that comes up is the question of how we can keep the inspiration and flow of this group going. Briefly some options are discussed as it is clear there’s a need for this. We get excited by this enthusiasm and feel we have to find a way to address such needs. We’re currently working together with some attendees on creating ways to continue the energy and excitement we all experienced during the workshop. The first steps to realize this are already on the way. Later more on that too!
For now, we look back on a very successful first workshop overseas. The energy, excitement, enthusiasm and willingness to make changes were awesome and is something that further strengthens us on our mission to make work more fun. Once again we feel, to quote Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’…