Susse Jensen
Roman Kalantari
Guri Venstad

Fjord Makeshop Owls: Creating Community in a Global Workplace

Employees today want more personal connection in the workplace, but creating bonds across multiple offices, time zones and cultures in global organizations is difficult. Common workplace communications from email to IM and video conferencing are often cumbersome, overly rigid and impersonal, and distance gets in the way of forging personal connections.

We believe there must be a better way to strengthen culture and extend community. So we turned to the Fjord Makeshop, our proprietary build-to-think process that allows us to explore ideas and build design solutions in fresh ways, to see what we can cook up.  

We started by looking for light interactions in the spots where people may traditionally connect, to see if we could quickly create meaningful communication between locations and people. We created several Design Studies to draw out the connection between people across distances – stuff like fun, simple notes and images left in various forms placed throughout some of the Fjord studios, which would encourage people to connect.

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Our intent was to draw on digital to help us connect distances and the physical to increase emotional connection. Connecting digital and physical deepens the relationship instantly. After several iterations, the Makeshop Owls – a physical manifestation of that connection – emerged as the messengers of these light interactions.

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Using one of the many collaborative chat tools available in the market today, people send notes and pictures through the Owls to a person on the other side. We chose participants based on their perceived distance from each other in personality and skill – this follows on from a recent Google study, showing that the most effective teams show respect and openness to each other regardless of skill. The Fjord participants didn’t know each other at the start, but they’re drawn in by the light, surprising interactions and learn a great deal about each other over a short period of time.

The Makeshop Owls have already increased our contact across Fjord studios and have resulted in several surprising friendships.

By focusing on this kind of experimentation, we hope to create/strengthen bonds (not just with our own people but with employees in other organizations, too) in ways that are meaningful, sustainable, easy and fun.

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Susse Jensen
Roman Kalantari
Guri Venstad

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