The Start of a Journey
Here we are then. A turning point in our lives. After only two years of working in the 'world of grown-ups’, we have quit our jobs and started the craziest and scariest adventure of our lives.
In this very first blog, we explain why we are about to make this surprising step. We are convinced that work could (and should!) be a lot more fun than it currently is for most people.
We are not willing to settle for ‘an OK job’, we are not willing to get through a job with the single goal of career advancement, and we are definitely not willing to do a job we don’t love because “work is not always fun, but it's part of life”.
Instead, we want to love what we do. We want to be 100% passionate about our work. We want to get the most out of ourselves and we believe that the only way to do that is to do something we truly love. Recently, it dawned on us what exactly that was. Looking backwards it seems all too obvious.
Even without us consciously knowing, this one thing has been developing in our minds for a very long time. As Steve Jobs once put it: “you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”. So let’s connect the dots looking backwards.
It probably already started in December 2009 when we met in Seoul to start our South Korean backpacking trip. The first night we couldn’t fall asleep. This was mainly because of the combination of a noisy, uncomfortable hotel room, a fierce jet lag, and some shots of local Soju.
We started having one of our usual over-the-top creative conversations about our future business and how amazingly successful it would be. This future business was run in a completely different way than any other business had ever been run before. We fantasized about having the happiest and most productive employees in the world to work with us; they would not work more than six hours a day, they would all get company shares, and they could take a nap whenever they wanted.
After hours of talking we seemed to have it all figured out. There was only one tiny little problem… We didn’t have a clue what the business would actually be doing.
Another dot that we couldn’t connect looking forward, but that seems to perfectly fit in now: our part-time job in a truck factory when we were students. The job consisted of working on the assembly line. Every eight minutes, a chassis came rolling by and every person had the task of assembling one specific part. For us, it was the most boring job in the world. The factory and its canteen could easily be mistaken for the inside of a prison.
And it wasn’t just us being completely demotivated to deliver good work. You could see it all around. Fifteen minutes before the shift ended there was a line of 100 meters of people waiting to punch the clock. There were even employees that had developed a special technique to throw a bolt under the chassis in such a way that the entire assembly line came to a stop. When this succeeded, the line was blocked for at least an hour, which resulted in loud cheering in the rest of the factory.
How is that for actively disengaged employees. The only reason we kept working there was the incredible pay to cover our beer expenses. While working there, we used to fantasize what the atmosphere in that factory could be like, when all people were as enthusiastic and motivated for their job as they were for other aspects of their lives. How could that be accomplished? What would have to be changed in the organization to achieve that? We didn’t have the answer, but somehow we always believed there was one, somewhere…
In February 2013, Dutch television broadcasted an incredible documentary about Brazilian entrepreneur Ricardo Semler. This documentary describes his organization, Semco, and the special way it is organized. In short: Semco focuses on the happiness of its employees by treating them as sensible adults and giving them freedom and trust.
Seeing this documentary confirmed there was indeed a way to inspire employees to get the most out of themselves. Seeing the proof of what we always sensed was possible gave us incredible inspiration. We started reading books, websites, blogs and watching documentaries to find out more on how to be successful by focusing on increasing the happiness of employees.
The success stories we came across were amazing and sometimes simply unbelievable. Along the way, it all started to make more and more sense and it strengthened our belief that work could and should actually be inspiring, passionate and fun. Not only for us, but for everyone.
Again… “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”. We loved getting to know more on the subject and it was always somewhere in the back of our minds, but we never realized that this could actually be a career path for us. That changed when the pieces started to fall into the right place and the dots slowly started to connect. It was time we started to follow our passion.
Then, a few months later you suddenly find yourself writing your first blog on radically changing your career. Feelings are a mix of curiosity, mild anxiety, but mainly inspiration and excitement as we are about to start this incredible adventure. Altogether, it feels like the perfect time to start our search for personal happiness by searching for ways to make everyone happy in their work.
Over the next year, we will meet our heroes and search for the holy grail in employee happiness. We have read many books and success stories, and now it’s time to dive into it even more and see and experience it ourselves. During this period, we want to spread the word on employee happiness as much as possible. Therefore, we love to take you with us on our journey to enjoy our experiences and to share the lessons we have learned.
We will frequently blog, post on social media, and share our experiences through ‘old-fashioned’ media. Besides following us, we would also like you to get actively involved: we will be having regular guest blogs, we invite you to send us any interesting stuff on the subject, and we would love to get your feedback on everything we do. In short: we hereby invite you to join us on... The Search for the Happy Grail!
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Bags and accessories made of truck tarpaulins - that's what Freitag is known for. With headquarters in Zurich, around 250 employees work for the cult label which uses holacratic methods. They introduced a new salary model in early 2019. Pascal Dulex is responsible for Organizational Culture & Creative Direction. He spoke to us about their sometimes-painful path to a new compensation system.
We are super excited to launch the German edition of our "Corporate Rebels" book today. We can now reach even more people in their native language and share the stories of workplace pioneers from around the globe. The full title: Corporate Rebels - wie Pioniere die Arbeitswelt revolutionieren.
Many expert observers have made predictions about the “new normal” of work after the pandemic. Some are optimistic, envisioning a paradigm shift towards a more flexible, empowered future for workers through remote working. Others are pessimistic, even somewhat dystopian, projecting a future workplace that is disconnected and highly surveilled.