I’ll admit it, I’m a little star struck.
In my professional world, Tony Hsieh is a star, and I recently had the opportunity to hear him speak. He is the CEO of Zappos, and he is best known for transforming the way we think about company culture. Tony has created a workplace culture of happiness at Zappos, a company frequently referred to as one of the wackiest places to work. He is now taking his inventive ideas on employee engagement one step farther – he’s revitalizing the business community of downtown Las Vegas. Through the Downtown Project, Tony is deliberately building a community in which people of all professions collide with one another to maximize innovation.
When I registered to attend his speech, I was prepared to gain gems of wisdom on how to transform company culture. I would take these gems back to my own workplace and make my office every bit as fun as Zappos. I also thought I’d be filled with blogging ideas on how to empower people to address professional goals, and become more engaged at work. Instead, I left revitalized by the concept of “where does innovation come from?” and couldn’t I possibly be as innovative as Tony?
Tony shared that, “Research has shown that most innovation happens as a result of something outside your industry being applied to your own. These are usually the result of random conversations happening, and ideas generated as a result of collisions.” To be available for these collisions, you need to spend time outside of your office, and outside of your home. You need to be out in community, interacting with both friends and strangers. This could be as simple as the two-minute interaction you may have with a friendly gas station clerk. The hour-and-a-half you spend at the gym, both working out and saying hello to the employees and other members. Or, as involved as spending an evening at a networking event. In all of these settings, you have the opportunity for multiple collisions with others.
Tony estimates that on a daily basis, he personally is out in his community 3-4 hours per day, available for these collisions to occur, or “collisionable hours.” I took this as a personal challenge, thinking that there was no way I could possibly be out and about in my community that much on a daily basis. So, I logged my minutes last week and surprisingly found that I had 22 collisionable hours, or 3.14 per day.
Did I have some profound epiphany as a result of my 3.14 collisionable hours? No. But, what I did gather is why collisionable hours might matter to someone who is not an entrepreneur. In those hours, I interacted with a barista, a banker, a bakeware vendor, a bartender, two CEOs, a construction worker, several counselors, an engineer, two fashion buyers, a financial analyst, a physician’s assistant, a philanthropist, a personal trainer and a teacher. At least two collisions directly involved the subject of work. In these interactions, I learned:
- I have more professional skills than those that I use on a daily basis in the workplace;
- I have many resources when I am in need of empowerment or inspiration; and
- I have a wealthy knowledge bank to tap into when I am trying to do something that is outside of my professional safety net.
I was also the patron of four small, local businesses. By selecting these businesses, I supported those who directly work to innovate my community.
I was able to see Tony speak as part of Young Professionals Week, a series of events sponsored by NEWaukee. NEWaukee is a professional organization committed to attracting and retaining young professionals in the city of Milwaukee to maximize talent and innovation within the community. If you would like to learn more about Tony’s speech and the event that I attended, check out this link to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/firms-need-sense-of-community-to-succeed-zappos-ceo-says-8r9l4v8-204010611.html.
Kate N., MS, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP counselor, then became a performance specialist in 2012. Kate has a master’s degree in Educational Psychology. Kate is devoted to helping individuals determine how to make lasting changes. Prior to joining Empathia, she worked in the social work field as a case manager for Child Protective Services. Kate enjoys baking, yoga and escaping into the woods of Northern Wisconsin.