In Joy, Inc. How We Built a Workplace People Love, author Richard Sheridan reveals his proven formula for cultivating joy in the workplace. He was able to capitalize on his experience at an aggressive, fear-filled corporation by creating his own ‘joy-full’ company, Menlo Innovations, a small software company in Ann Arbor, MI, where he serves as CEO and “Chief Stortyteller.”
Instead of pursuing specific work-life balance initiatives for employees, Sheridan focuses on one guiding goal: JOY. Regardless of your title, role, level, experience, etc. here are three key principles from his book which, when followed, will enable you to attain joy in the workplace.
- Freedom to Learn– Sheridan implores leaders of every organization to provide employees with the freedom to learn, and opportunities to share the acquired knowledge. One of his recommendations is to, “Tear down the walls,” meaning to literally break-down the walls of cubicle nation and also figuratively by eliminating divisions in labor and organizational hierarchy. Both foster open team and cross-departmental communication which enable employees to learn more quickly. Sheridan puts Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principle #17– ‘Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view,’ to work. Coupling team members and rotating them weekly enables all employees to learn from each other’s experience and gain new perspectives. It also fosters creativity and ignites ‘AHA!’ moments.
- Make Mistakes Faster– The biggest and oldest poster at Menlo states, “Make Mistakes Faster.” The premise behind this statement is that experimenting widely and frequently results in developing an ideal solution more quickly. Dale Carnegie’s 19th principle is to, ‘Appeal to Nobler Motives.’ Setting a goal to keep trying until a viable solution is obtained—a nobler motive, instead of worrying about making mistakes along the way results in the rapid development of the right solution.
- Observe and Empathize– In their development of custom software, Menlo employees have eliminated the missing link between software users and software creators. Using High-Tech Anthropology, they observe people in their native environment to develop personas which enable them to create software use cases according to those personas. Again, Mr. Carnegie’s 17th principle, ‘Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view,’ is applied. Simply asking end users what they want new software to do does not work. Observing their actions and activities enables software developers to code according to actual needs. This approach minimizes mistakes and delays while maximizing the software’s functionality and development budget. Only by observing and understanding the audience—albeit it end users, prospects, cross-functional team members, etc. can employees joyfully develop products in a joyful environment.
Sheridan stated, “A pursuit of joy within a business context is not about the pursuit of fame or profit. Humans aspire to a higher purpose… We’ve found that profit, fame, and glory often follow us in this path, too.” The bottom line—create a workplace full of joy wherein employees have the freedom to learn and are encouraged to make mistakes, observe and to empathize.
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