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Why we got rid of the snack table: A lesson in collaboration

What do snacks have to do with teamwork? It turns out when your entire company culture is centered on collaboration, your coworkers don’t need to be lured with tasty treats.

Back at KW2’s old location, the two-story former church with a garden view on Old Middleton Road, the Digital Department was burrowed away in the back corner known as the West Wing. We had a sneaky little entrance where we bikers could secure our ride, go straight to our desk and start working. Some mornings, I wouldn’t even say hello to the folks working up front until my first cup of coffee around 9:30AM. Not because I didn’t want to see them, but simply because I didn’t have any business in that part of the building.

Maybe it’s because our work was independent, or maybe it’s because we’re typically unkempt and quite strange, but we didn’t get many visitors from the front of the building in those days either.

One day, to encourage more smiling faces and interaction with the rest of the agency, we decided to develop and maintain a snack table. We loaded it with treats from dark chocolates to trail mix to Goldfish crackers, and saw our visitors increase sevenfold. Time in the West Wing increased by an average of 2:00 per visitor, and the number of unique interactions increased. However, our bounce rate remained high. People came for the snacks, stayed for a little conversation, then left. Word-of-mouth seemed to be our highest traffic source, especially on days when we had a new shipment of sea salt caramels.

 

Fast forward to today, in our new one-story space at 2010 Eastwood Drive (you should visit us sometime; the view is to die for). Our layout still has the Account Service team’s offices nearest to the front entrance, but the more open space encourages foot traffic between the Account, Digital and Creative departments. Big windows and wide hallways and standing tables all encourage us to stand and talk, sit and talk—just, talk. To keep up with tradition, we originally met to discuss where the snack table should live in our new space, and what our first treat offering should be. However, our move wasn’t the only change that happened last fall.

The entire company was also invigorated, excited, and ready to start a new journey—together. We were inspired to be a part of a more collaborative advertising agency. As a result, we found a new interest back and forth among the departments, a crossing over of expertise and knowledge. Folks started helping out on things we previously wouldn’t have touched, or even known about. It didn’t come from the new building’s layout alone, but it was primarily a factor of our new philosophy of growing together as an agency for good. We had made a new commitment to collaborate.

Suddenly, I didn’t need a reason to visit “up front” like coffee or to see some sunlight. And people stopped by my place, not for chocolates or the promise of an afternoon crunch, but for sincere, great discussions about each others’ clients and projects.

We got rid of the snack table because we, as an agency, don’t need a lure anymore to work together. We’ve realized that seamless integration of brand strategy, creative thinking and digital strategy is the key to our success. This kind of cross-discipline thinking helped us win Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, our biggest client yet, and it will only help us serve our clients better and better in the months and years to come. The result: everybody learns, and everybody gets better.

 

At KW2, doing Good for our clients means putting them first, giving them the best thinking, and producing the best work possible. We’ve realized that this kind of thinking comes only when we work together, naturally, using our combined talents, experience and abilities. So while we still bring in treats from time to time, they’re placed in the community kitchen where they belong. The creative and strategic thinking fills in all the spaces around that, in a colleague’s office or on the sunny patio, in the cozy workshop or the focus-friendly conference room. Collaboration is all around us now, and we think that’s a good thing.

What’s your office culture like? Do you have any tips on how to encourage collaboration? We’d love to hear from you.

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