One of the companies that we visited in my recent trip to Silicon Valley along with the SVSquare fellows is Evernote. I was also quite looking forward to the meeting in that Evernote happened to be one of my favourite productivity applications. I use Evernote almost only for clipping articles though.
Few things generally stand about the tech startup work culture in Silicon Valley; large open spaces, free food, large walls of idea paint etc. All these were visible at Evernote as well. But during my visit, I got to learn about few more things of Evernote that you usually don’t come across at other companies. I’ll write about one of those instances in this article.
As soon as we entered, there was a coffee counter right next to the reception area. Now this was normal. What was not normal was that a person, who will carefully prepare the coffee and hand it over to us, manned the coffee counter. Now this was uncharacteristic. All the coffee counters that I have come across till day in the valley offices belong to the “Help yourself” category. After I had taken my coffee, I also happened to see this person having a very engaged conversation with the next person that came over for coffee.
It was a few minutes after that coffee that Troy Malone, our host at Evernote, came to receive us. Troy was this amazing enthusiastic energetic person and to our amusement he was also wearing a jersey of the Indian cricket team.
I had to ask Troy what was this person manning the coffee counter all about. That’s when we all got to know the real story. The person who was manning the coffee counter on that day was some senior VP from the engineering team. Everyone is expected to man the coffee counter for an hour on a rotation basis. This is intended to give people a reason and an opportunity to get to talk to each other and get to know each other better. They have an internal calendar on which the coffee schedule is visible to everyone. If you see someone on that list that you wish to catch up with, all you got to do is decide to have your coffee break during that scheduled hour. Simple, effective and brilliant!
Smart organizations have realized that they key to creativity and camaraderie lies in enabling good conversations between people. Creating an environment that is conducive to it and actively facilitating conversations between people is an active role of leadership; more so in this age of information overload, attention deficit and personal consumption devices.
Some trivia before I wrap up this article. Ever wondered why Evernote has an elephant for their logo? Apparently, there is a saying that goes “Elephants never forget”! Came across a really nice picture also on one of their idea painted walls that read, “Elephants never forget”
They also have Hobbit themed food names. Now that’s only because their CEO happened to be a huge hobbit fan. Not everything is related to productivity calls I guess. Or is it?