Last week, in an annual attempt to welcome the influx of young, contractual employees into the madness of Just For Laughs, we created new office ID plaques.
This annual tradition not only helps us identify each other as our ranks swell exponentially, but by skewing and screwing with our titles, it adds a bit of whimsy to the 24/7 stress of putting on the world's largest comedy event(s). Below you'll find mine:
My new title reflected a throwaway comment I made in a meeting, but it must've resonated. I loved it; so much so that I took a photo of it and uploaded it to Facebook almost immediately.
The response was incredible. Over 100 likes and 40 comments in minutes. On a picture of my stupid title plaque.
I wondered why this, more than anything else I ever put up on Facebook, resonated to far, so fast. But after reading the comments, it became clear. This form of passive-aggressive, Dilbert-ian rebellion strikes a chord amongst all of us doing our best to deal with day-to-day corporate life.
In turn, this got me to recalling one of the most revealing lessons learned during my 11 years running Airborne Mobile in between Just For Laughs stint. During that time frame, we had some of the most prestigious partners around--major global iconic entertainment studios, professional sports leagues, massive wireless carriers, huge international publishing concerns. And the common refrain amongst the people we worked with who worked for these renowned, respected, perhaps even idolized corporate entities, was the shocking echo of:
"This company is the
most fucked-up place
The lesson then was that no matter who you work for, in many cases (most cases?), you're seeing the organization from the inside out. The warts, the stains, the dysfunctional behavior are all in your face on a constant basis.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that most people never see your company from the inside-out; only from the outside-in.
Cut to Dawson College two weeks ago, where I was presented with an award for Just For Laughs; an award that celebrated us as "The Organization of the Year." Cue laugh track. We are many things, but again, from my inside-out vantage point, I had to smile sardonically. See photo below:
I also had to deliver a short acceptance speech, and explain to the assembled students at a prestigious, weekend-long case competition, what makes an organization great. The request came as somewhat of a surprise, and I had no notes, so I came up with this kinda off the cuff.
I recounted the above Airborne-era tale and explained that every one of us sees the faults in our organization. But in the end, what really makes a great organization is NOT what we think; it's what our CUSTOMERS think.
It's not WHAT we make or how me make it, it's how our customers REACT to that we make.
If you make or do things that make your customers BUY them and LOVE them, THEN you're a great organization. Everything else is secondary...or irrelevant.
So what makes Just For Laughs a great organization?
The fact that every summer (or fall in Toronto, or spring in Australia), people gather en masses in places to forget their troubles and laugh.
The fact that despite the daily turmoil, I still get chills on opening night of the Galas, when the audience claps along to the opening notes of our theme music and gives the MC a standing ovation.
Not to mention the fact that I can have a sign like the one atop this post plastered on my door.
So...what did I learn this week?
Greatness is seen outside in, not the other way around.