Confessions of a newcomer

In a few short weeks since my arrival at Board of Innovation, I’ve learned that this is a workplace culture that is exceptionally good at nurturing the full potential of its staff.
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At Board, there is no sign of a “what can this company do for me” mentality. The general feeling is: “I want this company to do well, and I will do what I can to make that happen”.

Having worked in several industries (retail, financial, restaurant, consumer goods manufacturing and science), I’ve become very aware of what makes employees thrive. I also learned the hard way what makes an employee’s motivation shrivel up and die faster than a neglected office plant. Just like the difference between a tree surrounded by concrete and one in the wild that has room to branch out, environment determines an employee’s growth potential.

Employees have a huge impact on a company’s well-being in terms of costs, profit, innovation, lean processes, rapid development, efficiency, etc. Here’s how Board of Innovation maximizes our capabilities as employees, while keeping us happy.

How company culture lays the groundwork for productivity and engagement

Bring your whole personality to work

The attitude here is: the better colleagues can get to know you, the better they can learn how to work with you. In fact, every month, new colleagues give a 20-minute presentation on their lives so that the staff can get to know them, both personally and professionally. Here at Board of Innovation, we can come to work however we want (or work remotely as often as we want) and focus on what matters most: the work itself. And it’s intense work, but the relaxed physical space and laidback way people relate to each other motivates us to work harder.

Be your full self” was a motto that didn’t take long to get used to. On the first day, I planned to play it safe and greet everyone with a good, old-fashioned handshake. (I am German, afterall). The first person I saw was our office team support, Klara, who welcomed me with a big warm smile, and attempted to hug me. It was an awkward moment when I stuck out a hand in return. Hugs (and high fives) are par for the course here.

Another refreshing thing about Board of Innovation is that they didn’t parade me around on my first day, making me feel like a prized cow as I strained my brain trying to learn new names. Nor did they put me on the spot at the company meeting on my first day and ask me to say a few words to the whole team.

The feeling that most of my previous jobs left me with was “this is not me”. Pretending to be someone else to fit in made me feel like I didn’t belong, and I eventually moved on. At Board, they identify and tackle the reasons people might not feel at home or aren’t blossoming, and do their best to find a way to fix them. As such, employee engagement is very high here.

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Feel comfortable at work

This is something that Board of Innovation has perfected to a T. We make good use of huge leaf-shaped cushions, cozy meeting rooms with a bed for naps, couches, lounge chairs, a rocking chair, standing desks, and swings. The office plants are in very good health.

I’ve seen some of the hardest working people at the company take off their shoes and wander around in their socks. It’s not unlike a funky co-working space where everyone happens to know each other. The giant horse statue that stands in the middle of the office is programmed to neigh when people walk past it. There is a unicorn piñata with a gold scarf standing on a colleague’s desk as a mascot.

Occasionally, colleagues will play a mean game of ping pong (my favorite) or darts, or pick up a nerf gun and begin firing (this usually intensifies on Fridays at beer o’clock). One colleague occasionally brings her dog to work. Our company WhatsApp group features a steady stream of pictures of colleagues enjoying themselves on weekends and holidays.

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My personalized Moleskin notebook given to me on my first day with messages written inside it by my team members

Feedback

My first day at Board of Innovation coincided with the monthly company breakfast meeting (with every staff member in attendance). It began with giving out what we call “tacos” – a term used to congratulate and express appreciation towards team members on a job well done. After a taco was given, many people clapped, and some people even started cheering. Cheering? Was this summer camp? I was used to a clear ‘feedback giver’ and ‘feedback receiver’ along the well-defined lines of ‘boss’ and ‘subordinates’. Here, there was a sense of camaraderie and commonality. The “taco” team spirit might sound a bit fluffy at first, but it is one of our best methods for preventing it from becoming a toxic workplace and makes us stronger and more productive.
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Transparency

During the breakfast meeting, the most recent strategic decisions and the reasons for them were announced to everyone. What’s more, there was room for questions. When working as area manager for an international retail giant, there were some clear rules: 1. Do what I say without asking any questions and 2. Do it without pointing out problems, and just get it done.

At the Board of Innovation strategy meeting, not only was I able to connect the dots of what is happening within the company, but I could also see the overall picture of where I fit in. It was as if someone were saying: “We trust you, we value you, and we rely on you to shape the future of Board of Innovation”.

Focus on Development

At Board of Innovation, we have the resources at our disposal to validate our ideas, and can carve out a development path that we shape ourselves. To do this, we’re given a monthly personal development budget to invest in a topic we feel would improve our job performance.

At my previous jobs, the job profiles were so confining, they left me feeling stifled and lifeless. The oppressive dictate “we decide what, how, and when you have to execute”, is not only a strategic burden for every team leader, but also thwarts creativity and curbs agility and, eventually, growth. Employees can only excel at tasks where their highest capabilities are not just used, but allowed to flourish.

After just one week at Board of Innovation, it is clear to me that my new colleagues are some of the brightest, humblest, and most open-minded and enterprising minds I have ever worked with. It is the place I have been looking for the past 10 years of my life. I have finally arrived. Still looking forward to Friday though, because I could use a little sleep.

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Join our team and add your superpower to the board.
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Thanks for reading!

I’m Farid Malyar, Innovation Consultant @ Board of Innovation. Spreading innovation culture is in our DNA – if you liked the read, contribute to our mission by sharing this article.

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