Guilds, innovating together

by Vasco Duarte

People always ask me tons of questions. Of course, lots of questions are about change management and organizational change. Lately I heard this one: “We want to work on innovating in our organization. How can we get started?” The story my friend Florian Hoffmann told me came to mind.

Starting change bottom up

Florian works at a company called comSysto, they are into consultancy and work with things like big data.

To make their own company better, they have strategy teams who are working with open meetings in a bottom up kind of way. 

One of the things they work on is something they call the Organization Project. They figured that, although they work in teams at comSysto, they missed a sense of cooperation, of togetherness in the company.

They discussed several ideas to solve this problem; one of those ideas was to organize guilds, also known as Communities of Practice.

In short: a group of professionals that share a common interest or area of work. The directors liked the idea, so they started to work on it.

A recipe for new ideas

Three months ago they had their kick off. On a special location Florian and fifty of his colleagues came together. There was a talk about vision and strategy to get everyone in the right mood, and then they discussed the guild idea. Everyone wrote down topics and after that they started to discuss them. Since there were different rooms and timeslots, you could select and join the discussion on the most interesting topics. It worked.

People who didn’t know each other started to talk about interesting things; there was a feeling participating in the creation of new ideas.

In the end they grouped several topics and formed guilds around those. Every guild has five to twelve people, who even signed a contract with a common goal to show their dedication to the guild.

Each guild has a specific time where they come together to work on the details for the topics they chose. They use Google+ as community platform.

Florian told me there’s a lot of communication going on; within the guilds but also between them. They are planning to get everybody together again in September next year where each guild will present the highlights of what they discussed during the year. After that, new guilds will be formed according to the topics they find important and interesting at that time.

Lab Days: brewing innovation

comSysto-guilds-2013
Photo by comSysto

The surprising side-effect of creating this Guilds, is that it triggered something that already existed in comSysto but was not used: the Lab Days.

Every quarter comSysto employees have three lab days to work on new and interesting ideas. A sort of FedEx days. But, as it often goes, those days weren’t used by everyone.

With the Guilds working on new ideas as a group, these Lab Days are now used fully, many topics are discussed because, through the Guilds, people feel motivated and care about them.

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For Florian, the Guilds are a success. As he says, “I’ve seen people collaborate more and more within their teams, now I see inter-team collaboration as well.

The guilds touch on people’s core values and intrinsic motivation, so they are very active, it makes them happy.” As a wise man once said, ‘nothing gets you going like a common goal!’

Photo: Photo by ell-r-brown

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