Cruising California: From Appster and Google to Patagonia and Zappos
Next up on our exciting adventure is a Bucket List trip to the west coast of the USA. Yesterday we arrived in San Francisco to start our 25-day trip along many of our sources of inspiration.
People and organizations that are challenging the status quo. Rebels that are creating more engaging, inspiring and happy workplaces. People that stand out and dare to change the way we think about work. We are honored to meet all of them and to get a sneak peek into these unique organizations. Let’s us introduce you to our itinerary and explore the most exciting organizations and people on our agenda.
Some of the companies on our Bucket List don’t need any introduction and Google is surely one of them. The global search engine pioneers in how the work is organized and in how they treat their employees. From the well-known employee perks such as nap-pods, free food, and sports facilities to the unique practices for hiring, evaluating and developing their employees. After reading former People Operations Director Laszlo Bock’s must-read book (Work Rules!), visiting the Amsterdam office, and hearing so much about the workplace, it’s time to visit the headquarters in Mountain View, Silicon Valley.
As the largest tomato processor in the world, Morning Star is one of the world’s most iconic examples of a self-managing workplace. All around the world people continue to be amazed with the way they run their organization entirely without managers. Each employee works with so-called CLOU (Colleague letter of understanding) in which he or she agrees with a handful of colleagues up and down-stream that people interact with most on what they are going to need to deliver. The results for Morning Star have been amazing and we are here to unravel their secrets.
This software and app developer company was founded in 2011 by Mark McDonald and Josiah Humphrey. We meet with Josiah to learn more about the unique workplace they’ve created in the first five years of operation. At Appster, each employee decides what project they work on. You can start any project you like without anyone’s permission. All you need to do is convince other people to join your project and make it into a success. So far, the unique way of working has been highly successful.
Founded by Tony Hsieh and bought in 2009 by Amazon, Zappos is one of the world’s most famous companies when it comes to creating a happy workplace. In his book ‘Delivering Happiness’ Tony writes about how a strong focus on culture and customer service helps them to create loads of happiness while beating the competition. Nowadays, Zappos practices the so-called Holacracy way of working (for more info on that, read our blog post: Assessing the bold claims of Holacracy. We are curious to learn more about how Tony built his company based on happiness and how they transformed towards Holacracy.
Outdoor apparel company Patagonia is worldwide renowned for its focus on creating a more sustainable planet. As a prime example of the purpose economy, they clearly put purpose before profit; from getting rid of highly successful but polluting products, to advertising not to buy their clothes. Another reason we will visit Patagonia is their unique way of working, which revolves around freedom, flexibility and responsibility. The title of founder Yvon Chouinard’s amazing’s book says it all: “Let my people go surfing: The education of a reluctant business man”.
In LA we will meet with Chuck Blakeman; another pioneer in the field. As author and speaker, Chuck promotes companies that are built for what he calls The Participation Age. Companies that focus on reducing management layers, busting bureaucracy, increasing engagement and therewith skyrocketing their success. As an influential writer, Chuck is an important rebel in changing the way we work. We are excited to meet up with him and learn from his experience.
This software company has a radically different approach to work. They promote self-management and the employees themselves determines who will do what and how it will get done. Nearsoft is named on the WorldBlu list; a list of democratic workplaces we encountered during our visit to WorldBlu founder Traci Fenton. We meet up with co-founder Matt Perez to learn how he built this unique workplace and to find out what separates Nearsoft from the vast majority of workplaces that are simply uninspiring.
In between meeting these inspiring Bucket List heroes we’ll be meeting with various people in the field that help us to better understand how the most progressive companies work. And of course we won’t be just meeting people while we are here. California and Las Vegas have lots of amazing things to offer that we’ll be exploring with our tiny camper van. Work hard, play hard is what they call it, right?
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When I was asked to speak at a University of Michigan symposium on the subject of humility a few years ago, I honestly knew little or nothing about the subject. Beyond a general understanding of what the word meant, and that it was probably a good thing to have, I wouldn’t have had much to say about why it would matter. In the intervening months of inquiry, I’ve learned a lot.
How to survive a major crisis in an organization? How to thrive after? These are relevant, even crucial, questions. Especially today. Recently, I found valuable answers to these questions, as I was developing a case study for our Online Academy. This case is about Panelfisa, a NER Group company.