Festivals in the Workplace – Presentation by Roosevelt Finlayson at SoL Finland Meeting

Couple weeks ago I had a chance to listen a presentation by Roosevelt Finlayson. He’s a man from Bahamas and he has done 12 years of inquiry about the connection and similarity between a workplace and festivals of Caribbean e.g. Carnivals. He started to wonder why people give everything for organizing their shows for the carnivals but do not do the same in their work places.

I got to know Roosevelt a little bit when we met in the SoL Global Forum in Muscat, Oman in April 2008. And now when I heard he will give a presentation at SoL Finland’s members meeting I had to go there because I am quite interested in his work for couple of reasons.

Rio Carnival 2008

Fireworks of one show of Rio Carnivals 2008

Firstly, I was in carnival in Rio last year during my trip around the world. See the picture above. That was a great experience, thank you Paulo for hosting me and Tapio there. Secondly, I think Team Academy is using festivals quite a bit in it’s processes. Third reason is the Esa Saarinen’s fantastic James Bond philosophy. In that the 5th point is following the real meaning of things is revealed in Bahamas. So one day I want to go to Bahamas and understand the real meaning of things.

What Roosevelt told about people who participate organizing festival reminded me of what Pekka Himanen talk about people writing code in his book the Hacker Ethic. In both cases, people are enthusiastic about what they do, are willing to work long hours, they want to do their best and get even better, they feel that they are appreciated and part of something bigger than themselves could achieve alone. The challenge is to bring this into practice. How can we build workplaces where people are like coders at their best or people working for the festival?

In the meeting there was also talk about power of images in building the vision and the power of self-organizing. He mentioned open space as a starting point for a new way of organizing.

This is a question that has no simple answer. (Maybe?) But for this complex issue of building organization Roosevelt brings the ideas of Festivals. He encourages people to organize festivals in their workplaces also literally. They offer people chance to take responsibility and thrive in a position other than their usual one. They are also good for bringing up the spirit of the organization, networking both internally and externally and celebrating success and learning. Like Kouzes and Posner say in their book The Leadership Challenge: Encourage the Heart! Is there a better way to bring up the spirit than celebrating together?

In Team Academy, where I used to learn on a daily basis, there are many festivals. Some are internal and some are open festivals for the whole network including customers and partners. When new penguins (first year teampreneurs) join the Team Academy in August there is a so called baptism party for them. After that they are officially part of Team Academy. That’s usually on the first week when they arrive. About after a month in early october there are the first ones of the bi-annual rocket days. The Rocket Days is a two-day event where whole Team Academy participates. This is the real carnival. All the teams are dressed according to a theme. For example once the general theme of the rocket days was the middle age and thus one team was dressed as farmers, the other one as monks, third one as nobel folks, some as slaves etc. So teams are clearly distinguished from each other. The other Rocket Days are held in March.

Ville & Tapio in Rio Carnival 2008

Ville & Tapio in Rio Carnival 2008. We got to pose by the truck.

The biggest festival of Team Academy is the anniversary held around the 19th of January. The biggest party so far was the 15th anniversary which was also the day when Team Academy reached it’s vision to be the top unit of entrepreneurship in Finland. We had about 300 people in a seminar on Friday and 500 people celebrating in a gala on Saturday night. That was a nice party. Monkey Business (Ville and Tatu) were the MC’s of the seminar and Tatu even continued to host the gala. That was probably also the most international of our festivals as it had Ignition participants there as well as people from the first Team Mastery who actually did their final birth giving at the seminar and people from a Learning Expedition. All that was a good fun.

What are the festivals of your organization? Or your tribe and network?

Ps. Yesterday we were working at Aivomyrsky. It was loads of fun. Good action. I’ll post about that soon. It was a one kind of festival for young people interested in Entrepreneurship. Written by Monkey Ville

Ps2. Pictures and post in Finnish about the above mentioned Rocket Days at LeTim’s blog. Highly recommended!

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