What are the vegetables and desserts in your organization?
I read an article by the University of Southern California’s strength and conditioning coach that discussed their football team’s lifting program when they were winning national championships in the early 2000s. They were doing major lifts, like back squats and power cleans, to build the functionality and explosiveness needed for football. On weekends the players were allowed to work on their “beach muscles” like biceps, triceps and chest.
He described this method as eating their vegetables on weekdays and eating dessert on weekends. Sometimes you need to eat dessert to reward yourself for all the vegetables you ate. This helps keep the players engaged and have fun. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I like to do CrossFit. I enjoy all the “vegetables” or functional lifting, but I like to work on the “desserts” or fun muscles on the weekends.
I think this analogy applies to business as well. Each department has its set vegetables, like KPIs, that work hard every day. In the same way that vegetables build a healthy and growing body, they build a healthy and growing business. I encourage you to think about where the dessert is in your business and each department. What fun things do people want to work on, and are you carving out time to do those things? There are many different ways for that to look, depending on the department.
Google has talked about this concept before, where you can spend 20% of your time at play, working on whatever you want. It could be used for side projects or something completely outside the strategic realm that might turn into something cool. In fact, this is how our Data Science Team started. One person taking time out of their daily responsibilities to work through data showed us some interesting results that positively impacted our business.
There’s no blueprint on this. Maybe try to let your people play and work on things outside the scope of their everyday work for two hours a day. They’re eating vegetables all the time but let them eat some dessert. Give it a try; I think you’ll be pleased with the results!