How does a global, fully distributed organization do successful company events?
Serendipitous connections, like discovering a shared interest with someone in line at the coffee shop, look slightly different in distributed organizations. This year, leveraging the values of open source, Automattic shared the planning and organization of a company-wide 24-hour online event among the entire company, in order to create space for serendipitous connections.
What followed was energy, diversity, and abundant creativity!
The Purpose: Intentional Random Connections
As we welcomed 2023, this event was an invitation to connect across divisions, timezones, and geographies across 90+ countries:
- Intentional: We scheduled a date one month in advance so that people could create space to join at times that were convenient to them and their team.
- Random: We invited any and all wonderful ideas to the agenda. We believe that great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone.
- Connections: Communication is the oxygen of a distributed company and our intention was to create space for connections to form.
The Invitation: Open-Sourcing the Agenda
Rather than deciding the agenda up front, we entrusted the agenda to the whole company. We invited people to contribute what they’d like and then join any sessions that interested them. (This structure is built on the values of Open Space by Harrison Owen.)
Hosting a session was simple — all one had to do was choose a topic and add it directly to a shared Google Calendar which we created for the day. All that was left from there was to arrive on the day at their selected time to host their session with the folks who chose to join.
Movement among sessions was welcome and everything was optional.
The Outcomes: Abundant Creativity!
In total we had 38 sessions hosted over 24 hours (both synchronous and asynchronous). The creativity, energy, and diversity that was created far exceeded what any one person could have planned on their own.
We had cat parties, dog walks, asynchronous virtual raves, collaborative poem writing, role playing games, lego sessions, language lessons, art parties, parenting discussions, muffin making, company trivias, children’s book readings, open mics, musician parties, walks around the globe, and a lot of games! For the full list of sessions see the bottom of this post.
While many companies report difficulty getting engagement in online company events, the survey feedback from this event showed that:
- 100% of participants would recommend future events like this
- 95% of participants met with someone they’d never met before
- 100% of people who hosted would host a session again
For a 2,000-person company, these are pretty staggering results. The value of distributed ownership and co-creation speaks for itself!
We hope these results convince you to try this out in your own organization!
A Peek Into Some of the Sessions
Full List of Sessions
- Hidden Identity Games x2
- Automattic Trivia
- Mandarin Conversation: 中文聊天網聚
- Tabletop Roleplaying Games 101
- Cat’s Party
- Dungeons & Dragons for Newbies
- Children’s Book Reading and Conversation
- Bavarder en Français: French Conversation
- LEGO AFOLs Unite
- Play Pokemon
- Cyberpunk 2077 Roleplaying Session
- Make Banana Muffins with Greg
- Defuse a Bomb x2
- Drawful Game
- Virtual Dog Park
- Charla en Español
- Art Party
- Parenting Teens Conversation
- Brazilian Portuguese Conversation: Papo Farofa
- Open Mic
- Power Yoga
- Play Gartic Phone
- Automusician Connection
- Cat Party
- Let’s Speak Italiano!
- Tales from the Table
- Open Screenshare
- Animal Crossing Parade of Homes
- Silly Games and Snacks
- Casual Hangout
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