Things get great when anyone can quit at any time

Peter Gray, The Play Deficit

For the last few years, I’ve been telling myself that I’d like every single person in our company to have the abilities, freedom, and opportunity to leave our company at any time, but have our company culture be so strong that no one wants to.

Lenore Skenazy and Abby Schacter recently led me to a wonderful article by Peter Gray that articulated that aspiration in a way far better than I ever could.

Some backstory: since becoming a parent, I’ve followed (and been inspired by) Gray’s articles. As my wee ones have grown to become fully-formed little people, and the wonder of the wide wide world becomes as important and influential to them as the comfort of our cozy home, my appreciation for his writings grows.

Cultivating a strong company culture is similar to cultivating a strong culture at home, but there are some notable differences. One of the biggest is that adults can generally leave a company, and children can’t really leave a home. But in children’s play anyone can withdraw at anytime.

Schacter quotes Gray:

The reason why play is such a powerful way to impart social skills is that it is voluntary. Players are always free to quit, and if they are unhappy they will quit. Every player knows that, and so the goal, for every player who wants to keep the game going, is to satisfy his or her own needs and desires while also satisfying those of the other players, so they don’t quit….

That’s exactly what we’re working toward with our company culture.

As grownups, we have the added challenges of creating value for our customers and making some money along the way so that we all get to keep coming back to play another day.

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