From Humor to Play: A Good Reason to Found Another Company
People call me a serial initiator, having launched so many initiatives and companies in the past 20 years. Some very successful, equal amounts less successful. That’s part of life. One thing I know for sure, founding a company with your heart is much more fun. The definition of success will also be much more easy. Do what you love will be the success meter. Here is the story of PlaybookToolkit.
For years I have been researching the role of humor and play in organizations. Understanding what makes people tick and what are the true reasons people behave the way they behave. The difficulty was how to make it concrete. I gave tens of tips during my talks and visits but still people had issues how to implement it and to get acceptance in the organization. Implementing a new way of working based on humor principles is a bridge too far in many cases. Regularly I got great feedback they hired another -boring- consultant to make it work with procedures and blueprints. They would come back to me enthusiastically explaining how they had implemented two of the research principles instead of all and I was like …sigh…aarrghh.
Years passed and I continued to travel the world giving workshops, keynotes and lectures, with customers ranging from Mexico to UK, from Nigeria to Indonesia. Crossing cultures is just awesome, especially when your message attracts so many different people. It is fun travelling and all of that, but the impact is relatively low because you can only make a difference for a day and then move on. It nagged me. At the same time Liberty Global, back then the largest cable company in the world, knocked on my door to make an innovation toolkit for them, a kickbox. With the cool Roel de Vries from the company, we devised something rocking and meaningful, which won multiple recognitions later on thanks to the acute content and beautiful box. I was blown away by the responses of people seeing a physical box. The power of physical is indescribable, it has a magnet like attraction to people like honey to a bear.
Soon, many customers followed with similar requests. I want to highlight the dare box from insurance behemoth Delta Lloyd, that got in our way. The combination of work and play, the understanding of the matter and the team, it feels good when things come together.
Having said all of that, 18 months ago it dawned on me that there is a non-serviced market in the business. Almost everyone believes digital will be the only future and stick their guns to it. With a team of rogue entrepreneurs and former corporates, we decided to investigate the other way. The way of what would happen if you would not focus on the means digital but on the means play. WE pivoted with all kinds of new ways of offering knowledge in formats. Kids games, Complex board games, books, card sets, editable boards, etc. We soon realized it is the combination of tools and means that make it count. The easier the better it seemed. We have never anticipated the rise of the 30 day challenge for example. This was a project originally done for an international retail clothing chain. They needed help with improving their sales, more specifically for the 6 weeks leading up to the Christmas sale. This is the most important time of the year for the company. Everyone in the company knew this was an important time, but they wanted to ensure everyone was triggered in a different and deeper way than in the past.
In our creative process we realized it would be absurd budget wise to ask for trainers or consultants with boots on the ground. So we had to devise something else. That became a…30 day calendar. Calendars are special, because everyone knows exactly what to do with them. There is no special instruction needed. As you can imagine, this strengthens the adoption rate of a concept dramatically. Combine this with a little pun here and there to make it lightweight and slick design. You get a piece of perfect adoption work.
Anyway, it was a special calendar with sales tips and tricks on it. Also on it, special exercises to do as team. The result? Raving fans. The floor people, very practically focused, loved it thanks to the simplicity. The HQ, famous for trying to mold strategic themes into actionable items, was blown away the calendar made a direct impact.
The calendar is just an example on how to get something complex into something simple. We have devised around 50 different books, tools and games to date and much more to come in the making. From ethics to strategy, from digital to teamwork. We have covered lots of ground. The good and most important news is we still like what we do.
Why? Because it is just so much fun to do something you actually like.
At a certain moment we realized this deserves more than some random collection. So we are here again, launching a company. With a bunch of friends. Thank you Michiel, Jennifer, Konstantin and Martijn for making this happen. What an adventure this PlaybookToolkit thingy becomes.