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How to Make Your Office Incredibly Awesome

How to Make Your Office Incredibly Awesome

If you’ve ever seen the movie Office Space, you know there are only two options for workplace culture: (1) Cubicles, TPS reports, and birthday parties where the haves get cake, and the Miltons get sad music and, (2) 37 pieces of flare.

Except, that is, if you work for any number of big and small companies across the world that are radically reshaping what office culture can (and should!) be. After all, what better way to keep employees motivated and working until the job is done than helping them actually enjoy office life? Let’s take a look at a few truly unique initiatives at some of the world’s most fun companies for a few cues and a lot of inspiration.

1. Bigstock’s Random Holiday Celebration

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day. These are just a few of the many holidays most companies celebrate throughout the year, but how about National Doughnut Day? If you work for Shutterstock, that’s more than enough reason to roll up your sleeves and dig in.

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Earlier this June, a very humorous series of images appeared on the company’s blog, with employees and their children weighing the merits of fruit vs. doughnuts. Perfectly on brand, the images paid tribute to the best doughnut stock images in the company’s vaults. While the delectable glazed treats were undoubtedly delicious, the real benefit here was likely the boost in morale and creativity that comes with doing something a little different and swapping deadlines for play.

What This Means for You: Do a little research and find the wackiest holidays out there. Then have your office vote on the ones they’d most like to celebrate. Initiatives like this not only boost morale, but they also make great blog posts, giving your customers and clients an inside look into your company and establishing rapport—a fact you can use to convince your boss.

2. Comvert’s Personal Skatepark

There’s BYOB and then there’s BYOS—Build Your Own Skatepark. That’s what the Italian clothing company, Comvert, did when they converted this old movie house into a warehouse. That’d certainly provide a better way to let off steam than rummaging through the break room cupboards for a good round of stress eating.

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What This Means for You: Okay, so you probably don’t have the time, money or perhaps even interest to build an entire skate ramp. But that doesn’t mean you can’t outfit a good game room, complete with video games, ping pong, foosball, and hey, why not trampolines, too? This is another good one to put to employee vote.

3. Selgas Cano’s Outdoor/Indoor Retreat

Sure, most of us would prefer working outside to hunching our lives away in a windowless cubicle, but it’s not like we can plop our desks onto a dolly and haul them to the grass every time the sun peeks its way out from behind a wall of clouds (can you tell I live in Seattle?). This is one problem the architects at the Madrid branch of Selgas Cano don’t have to worry about, as their offices are made almost entirely from windows and are tucked away in a suburban forest. For knowledge workers of any stripe, this is the best kind of “fun” one can have: peace, quiet and plenty of natural inspiration.

What This Means for You: So maybe you can’t get your boss to replace all of your walls with windows, but you can bring the great outdoors to you. Decorate your personal office space with local plants, and see if you can outfit the hallways and break room with hanging plants and planter boxes. Tell your boss, “Nature is the source of all productivity.” It’s worth a shot!

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4. Shutterstock’s Hackathons

Hack-athons have become pretty commonplace at many tech companies these days, and it’s no wonder: In these intensive, 24-hour (usually) marathons, engineers, designers and even non-tech employees meet to brainstorm and build “crazy” new ideas. Many will be left to gather dust once the hackathon is done, while a precious few will be further developed into prominent new features or even new and important products in their own right.

Shutterstock is famous for their hackathons, with the initial idea for the company actually stemming from an event in which CEO and founder, Jon Oringer, participated over 9 years ago. Given the intense conditions, hackathons like this also build camaraderie at the same time as they’re possibly birthing the world’s biggest next idea. How’s that for a great combo?

What This Means for You: From 24-hour play festivals to all night design marathons and mini-NANOWRIMOs, hackathons aren’t the sole domain of the tech sphere. Order some pizza, stock up on the Mountain Dew, dial up the intensity, and host a hackathon of your own.

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5. Google’s…Um, Everything

No article on fun work environments would be complete without Google—the company that defines the concept. When it comes to office design itself, how do pods, swings, hammocks, ski gondolas, slides, pubs, forests and bowling alleys sound to you? (Take a peek at Google’s coolest offices here). Googlers also enjoy 20% time; an initiative that allows them to work on their own projects 20% of the time, as well as yoga classes, gyms, and easy access to healthy and delicious food, wherever they go.

What This Means for You: What can your workplace learn from Google? You mean… besides everything? While most companies won’t have the funds for Google-level perks, you can still argue for 20% time as an effective way to rejuvenate the mind and possibly even produce a useful and unexpected new feature. Google is also a great example of a way to give workspaces creativity and an individual feel without relying on cheesy posters and figurines. To decorate like Google, why not hold a hackathon specifically devoted to the subject, and see what creative spaces you can produce?

Takeaway

You may feel you work in the world’s most corporate, sanitized office, but chances are your colleagues are also looking for a little injection of fun. Fortunately, fun often leads to that business buzzword, “innovation”, and a well-reasoned argument should get your boss right on board. So hack your office with a little amusement, and make the office space of your dreams.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Traditionally, when you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you would create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion like this:

  • Intro to Visual Facilitation
    • Problem, Consequences, Solution, Benefits, Examples, Call to action
  • Structure
    • Why, What, How to, What If
  • Do It Myself?
    • Audio, Images, time-consuming, less expensive
  • Specialize Offering?
    • Built to Sell (Standard Product Offering), Options (Solving problems, Online calls, Dev projects)

This type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It obviously lacks in clarity. It also makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing.

You always have too much information to look at, and most often you only get a partial view of the information. It’s hard to zoom out, figuratively, and to see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected.

To see a fuller picture, create a mind map.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to “dump your brain”, or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas before your eyes. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

    Image Credit: English Central

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    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

    3 Simple Steps to Create a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[1]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner.

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out next to it in the same way, using your pen.

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          You can always add more to it later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits”. Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Mind Map Examples to Illustrate Mind Mapping

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

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            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches. And so on.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                A branch after another, and the mind map is complete.

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. So here you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

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                      Idem for the next level. This is level 3. You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. No rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                          I recommend using a combination of the “Branch by Branch” and the “Free-Flow” strategies.

                          What I normally do is I add one branch at a time, and later on review the mind map and add elements in various places to finish it. I also sometimes build level 1 (the main branches) first, then use a “Branch by Branch” approach, and later finish the map in a “Free-Flow” manner.

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you.

                          The Bottom Line

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and have your thoughts organized.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on the phone and computer.

                          More Tools to Help You Organize Thoughts

                          Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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