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Friday, October 23, 2009

Corporate whimsy

WHIMSY - extravagant, fanciful, or excessively playful expression; an odd or fanciful notion. [Whimsy week starts here, click for this weeks Bliss Initiatives]

When I decided to write about corporate whimsy I immediately thought back to a couple of my favorite jobs and I realize that whimsy was one of the biggest factors in making those jobs memorable. Back in my late 20's (wow has it really been so long!) I worked for an outfit called American Teleconferencing Services (ATS). The owner, Bob Cowan and his wife Jenny, collected Disney artwork and we had it all over the office. Indeed the passion continues today for Bob (You can check out his animation blog here) and I am here to say having that whimsy in the office made a difference. It permeated the culture and added something I have spent a good part of my corporate career trying to duplicate. In addition to the artwork Bob also fostered a culture of recognition and we were always enjoying the celebration of reaching our corporate milestones.

In addition to the big celebrations, like our 10 year anniversarry, little things also meant something to Bob. I remember one particular company meeting where we were discussing the company finances (another feature of Bob's leadership was an open book management style) and we zeroed in on the line item: M&Ms. They were on just about every desk in the office but it really hadn't occurred to me that it cost something for them to be there. At this particular meeting we were looking at cost cutting measures but my co-workers and I decided the money (I seem to recall it being a couple of thousand dollars a year! -- but my memory could have inflated this number) spent on M&Ms, provided a vital cultural component to our work so they stayed!

After I left ATS, I had trouble finding a corporate fit until a company called Latitude. They too had a culture of celebration and recognition. Each year the entire company would go on team building trips which included things like Space Camp, Fire Fighter Training and. the last one I remember, Curling in the San Jose Sharks arena. The reason I became interested in the company, in addition to the product I liked, was the fact that the Executive team had posted their favorite vegetable on the company web site. It totally cracked me up and I thought that any company goofy enough to post something like that might be a place I might like to work. To this day I remember that the president, Emil Wang, loves broccoli.  Who knew that M&Ms and Broccoli were, for me, the way to corporate bliss!

Of course I am taking a hiatus from corporate gigs to raise my beautiful girl, but all things corporate still interest me. I love finding what makes one business fly and another flop.  Time and time again it seems to me that corporate whimsy contributes to success. Phyllis Korkki, wrote in the NY Times (published February 17, 2008 ) about The Power of Whimsy (click to view complete article) in a piece she did on Sandra Boynton: By one rough estimate, Sandra Boynton has sold around a half-billion cards, which may make her one of the best-selling card creators of all time.Her cards were thoughtful, wry and whimsical. While the sentiments may have been unconventional, they resonated with the public.“Things are getting worse,” said one card that featured a bewildered hippo. On the inside it said “please send chocolate.”Whimsy, it turns out, had been undervalued. And the big card companies eventually took some of their artistic cues from her.

[Click on graphic to go to Sandra's website]

Speaking of card companies, when this topic came to mind I also thought of my friend Kare who recently took a job over at Minted. From her facebook updates and little snip-its I'd heard through the grapevine it was clear that Kare had found a place where whimsy was treasured. She describes it this way, "What I fell into was a decadent surprise: luxury and beauty, all pouring out of the fun and fresh culture that drives our creative challenges and bold designs.


[Click on logo to go to their site]

Minted's whimsy is simultaneously blatant and subtle, in the physical structure of our office (one of our engineers and I often work side-by-side in our mid-office lounge area, which features two couches and two cozy chairs with funky slip-covers) and in the offerings we have for anyone who stops by the site to take a look. We take ourselves and our designs pretty lightly (although our commitment to do just that is pretty serious!)"
Minted has just released their holiday line up. If you are looking for something whimsical and unique this year I highly recommend you take a look. I think we are going to do the Holiday Minibook 

Peace Love and Bop by Alex Elko Design - funky and fun, with a tinted photo:

Candy Tree by Gleaux - including one of our bestselling innovative formats, the Yearline (TM)


Footsteps in the Snow by Oscar + Emma Design - in our brand new format, the multi-photo and multi-page Minibook, packing more adorable pictures and text than your average holiday card!

I am not alone in my observations. This from Creative Lantern a consulting company founded in 2008, New Lantern LLC represents a new approach to corporate innovation by bringing together two different, well-established worlds – the business class and the creative class. Using innovative techniques, New Lantern helps companies successfully mine and develop talent that already exists within their own worforce.
Add ‘Whimsy’ to Your Corporate Vocabulary
You should also add “whimsy” to your corporate vocabulary. Nurture and celebrate those within your organization who turn dreams and fancy into innovative products and services – and in doing so, enable your business to grow and thrive.

Look what you get when you click on whimsy in their blog post... Brilliant!! Whimsy is definately where it is at!

Next Post: Kitchen Whimsy

My 13 bliss virtues: joy, order, creativity, passion, whimsy, serenity, inquiry, community, romance, gratitude, moxie, humility, surprise
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Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues

  • 1. TEMPERANCE - Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • 2. SILENCE - Speak not what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • 3. ORDER - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • 4. RESOLUTION - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • 5. FRUGALITY - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  • 6. INDUSTRY - Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • 7. SINCERITY - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • 8. JUSTICE - Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • 9. MODERATION - Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • 10. CLEANLINESS - Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths or habitation.
  • 11. TRANQUILITY - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • 12. CHASTITY - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or to the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • 13. HUMILITY - Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Benjamin Franklin Quotes

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