We’ve compiled this list of cool companies that inspire us, in the hope that they will inspire you too. We
don’t think any of them are perfect. We don’t think you should just wholesale copy any of them. But we do think they all do some really cool stuff, and our experience tells us that cherry picking cool stuff is a pretty effective way of changing an organisation for the better.
We tell clients all the time: “Just because things are the way they are, it doesn’t mean that’s the way they have to be.” People start companies, and people can change companies. If things are pretty great at the moment, then you don’t need to worry and you don’t need to change. But if things aren’t great and you find yourself complaining all the time, then we reckon you have 4 options:
1. Continue to complain
2. Shut up and accept it
3. Try to change it
Options 1 and 2 aren’t great for you or the people around you. So that leaves 3 and 4. Work hard to change the things around you that you can change, or leave to find somewhere else where you can do awesome work and be happy. In the affluent West, most of us are fortunate to be able to choose where and when we work. Let’s not waste our time and energy complaining and being miserable. It’s time to take control.
The Happiness Advantage
Before we look at the numerous wonderful examples of organisations who are working differently and achieving amazing results, let’s take a quick pause to talk about something incredibly unprofessional: happiness.
For too long, happiness has been seen as something that’s done outside of ‘work’ and certainly not something that is of any relevance to the organisation itself. In fact, there has long been a dangerous belief that if ‘I am successful, then I will be happy.’ Luckily, thanks to progress in the fields of positive psychology, we now know quite conclusively, that the opposite is true. The reality goes something more like if ‘I focus on my happiness, then success will follow.’
American positive psychologist and happiness researcher, Shawn Achor, after working with 1,000s of students and 100s of organisations, “found that happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement , creativity, and, in particular, our jobs, careers, and businesses.” He shows examples of it being the cause of longer lives, giving a greater ability to recover from minor and major illnesses, to better memory, to greater divergent thinking. The results are amazing.
For the capitalists amongst us, the results at the organisational level are even greater. Achor speaks of the “Coors Brewing Company, […] reported a $6.15 return in profitability for every $1 spent on its corporate fitness program”, and how “Toyota saw an instant jump in productivity at its North American Parts Center when it instituted a strength-based training for employees.”
For leaders of organisations, the advice is clear: bring positivity to your team. “One way to do this is simply to provide frequent recognition and encouragement. As studies have shown, managers who do so see a substantial increase in their employees’ productivity. And not just by some small amount; one study found that project teams with encouraging managers performed 31% better than teams whose managers were less positive and less open with praise.”
Over the next couple of months, we’re going to be sharing stories of wonderful places to work, of organisations with smart structures, but there is one thing that is essential to remember: an organisation is a group of human-beings working together, and the quality of their work depends on the quality of their human experience.
Whether you’re in it to create a great place for people to work, or simply to make cash, the secret is still the same: build an environment which favours happiness.