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January 07, 2016

2016: The Year We Rediscovered Play

January 07, 2016

I decided to blend today’s Think Kit prompt of "How can you make your story interesting in 2016?” with "Fast forward to the end of 2016. What will be different? What will you have accomplished?" I am taking the perspective of what 2016 will look like for SmallBox. 

Let's travel through time and look back on 2016...

It’s January 1st 2017. 2016 has been an amazing year. Not without its challenges. We did some bold things that changed our lives. Most of all, in 2016, we changed the way we work on a core level. We started 2016 with a firm commitment to be happy at work and experience joy in our lives. 2015 was pretty stressful for many of us. We grew up as a company in big ways but we also got stuck in some unhealthy ruts. Out of this, we became much more focused on doing the work we wanted to do, the experiences we wanted to have.

That commitment lead to what we began calling 3.0. The third phase of SmallBox. At first 3.0 seemed like a distant land filled with design thinking experiences, new services and more meaningful client relationships. But the more we worked on it the more we realized that 3.0 wasn’t a distant land, it was a journey which we were already on. Shifting our thinking away from finding the “bridge” to 3.0 was the first step. Then we started asking, ok, what’s next?

What came next surprised us at first. We decided we needed a day each week to be offline and out in the world. Away from screens as much as possible. Interacting face to face with humans. To experience joy at work we needed a weekly space to explore and play. We decided that what our company needed, and so many other businesses needed as well, was to rediscover the energy of play. Shedding the burden of “work” and embracing the power of “play”.

When humans play they get lost in it. Sandcastles and tree forts get built, ideas become real and hours pass without a thought. We wanted that experience at “work”. We rejected the notion that work was just something you did because you had to. Simply a way to make money. We challenged ourselves to think differently about work, to build new models.

So we started offline Fridays in early March of 2016. No email, no internet, no sitting at your desk staring at a screen. We returned to using devices simply as tools, use them to create with others. No solo work. At first it was a little rocky. We didn’t entirely know what to do with ourselves. We felt a little stressed getting all our "screen" work done in 4 days. But as the weeks went by we found ourselves being highly focused during the “online” days and then playful productive on offline Fridays.

We spent time with people we cared about, we explored ideas and opportunities, for ourselves, our clients and our community. We took long walks and had even longer conversations. We read and reflected. We came up with new ideas and began to map them out. We laughed a lot more. Our energy was strong and we went to bed at night feeling good tired, not drained. Unexpected opportunities came our way as word spread about our way of working. Other companies asked for us to come help them rediscover play at work. Our services evolved to help these companies. We began doing more and more of the work we loved. Helping great people in great organizations do good in the world. We set our intentions and the law of attraction took over. Soon our "online" days began to feel more like our "offline" days. Play took over our company and spread to those we interacted with, locally and nationally.

2016 was the year we drew a line in the sand. We decided to truly live our beliefs and test our theories. We believe that work should be a deeply meaningful experience. We proved that happy employees, ones that really care, can spark transformation. It was a little scary at first first but looking back on it there is no doubt on my mind—we should have done it much sooner.


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