A Lesson in Fun: Drive Time, Meetingless Wednesdays and other Silly Ideas from KCG

Have you ever visited us on the first floor of the main tower in Wichita? People seem to be fascinated by the idea of “creatives” in the corporate world. When people give tours of the building, they walk through our space and say, “This is where the fun people work.” On employees’ first day, HR shows them the café, the in-house dry cleaning service and KCG.

While I love showing off our people, space and work, I wonder why everyone can’t be “the fun people.” Someone told me recently that I should teach a class on how to collaborate and have fun at work. I don’t think anyone will sign up — and I probably can’t convince the Market-Based Management® team to make that a part of their curriculum — but I can take over the KCG blog and wax philosophically without much resistance.

“Having fun at work is a requirement. And it is the furthest thing from being unproductive.”

First, can we all agree that FUN is not a dirty word? To me, having fun at work is a requirement. And it is the furthest thing from being unproductive. We spend more time at work than we do at home. Don’t you want to love that time? Yes, there are frustrating days. There are unproductive and redundant meetings. There’s burnout. But those moments pass. What I remember and cherish are the times I spend with great people, doing great work we’re proud of and having a little fun while we’re at it.

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Mayra used her drive time to reignite a childhood passion: crocheting.

Some of what we do in KCG is completely random and unplanned. However, we are intentional with the space we have created. We are die-hard believers and try-hard practitioners of MBM®. It starts in the interview process. We are transparent from the beginning. This place isn’t for everyone. We work hard. We can work long hours. We have to be flexible, nimble and thick-skinned. We kind of have a no B.S. rule. We don’t like drama. We encourage competition amongst ourselves and our counterparts in the advertising/design community. But it’s built on a mutual respect and desire to build each other up and do great work.

Some of the intentional things we do to build a “fun” environment includes Meetingless Wednesdays. This idea is not really about having fun, but it is about getting things done. Which, to us, is fun. We can all get in calendar hell — go to a meeting, rush to the next one, answer an email, check voicemail, and in between, try to at least grab a coffee or two. Then before you know it, the day is gone and you have not really done anything you intended to do. As a creative team, we get paid for our ideas. If we aren’t thinking, we aren’t creating value. Meetingless Wednesdays block our calendars for the entire day so we can try to get some real work done. Occasionally we have to sneak in a meeting or two — but just seeing that day blocked out on my calendar is a freeing thought. A freedom to think, create, build, collaborate. We all need to meet less and do more.

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Amy, who is already a ridiculously good baker, expanded her repertoire with strawberry and red velvet whoopee pies.

Along that same theme, we believe that passion breeds creativity. We also believe that not everything is created by sitting behind a computer monitor all day. You have to get up and GET OUT. Get out of your area, get out of your building. A small change of environment can make a world of difference. You literally and figuratively start seeing things in a different way. We encourage people to take their laptop and go sit in our lounge space, or take a notebook down to the cafe or take nothing and just go for a walk. Think, daydream, space out. We started something called “Drive Time” last year. This is a dedicated time for employees to get out and be creative, do something they are passionate about and open up their minds to new ideas and possibilities. We’ve had people teach themselves how to crochet and how to cook. Some have gone to the art museum or the bookstore. One person learned how to build a website and someone else wrote a short story. No, they are not working on billable work for a client — but each comes back with a new idea, a fresh perspective, a clear mind and a rejuvenated spirit.

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Ben went retro with his drive time by creating and coding his own portable video game console.

We have 30 people on our team now. When I started seven years ago, there were six of us. So building a collaborative environment where people truly like each other takes some work. But when you spend time with your co-workers, you start getting to know them, you start liking them and you start trusting them. When you trust each other, the challenge process is much easier. Collaboration happens. And the work is better for it.

We celebrate birthdays, babies, weddings, graduations and everything in between. We cheer each other on. When Chad ran his first marathon in Kansas City, several of us were there at the finish line. We play and hang out at pumpkin patches, restaurants and art studios.

While it may look silly, it matters to us. I have never met a group of 30 people that get along so well and genuinely enjoy being together as much as this group. All while keeping the common goal in mind, which is to do great work for Koch companies. So remember, play hard, work hard and have fun. Class dismissed.

 


Terri newAs the marketing director for KCG, Terri McCool is basically to blame for all the “goings-on” around here. From marketing strategy to brand development, Terri’s vision has propelled KCG to new heights. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising, Terri stays on top of the latest in the ad world by reading everything she can get her hands on and collaborating with her great team. When not at the office, her two teenagers keep her pretty busy. You can find her most days at a sporting event cheering on her son or starting a redecorating project at home.