Leadership and Staffing

Having Fun Making Work, Work For You!

The illiterates of the future will not be those who cannot read or write. They will be those who cannot learn and relearn.- Alvin Toffler

Patt Schwab, PhD


It’s always more efficient for a group to master new ideas, approaches, and technologies. Here are three quick ways to enjoy your colleagues, limber up your thinking, anticipate change, and make relearning enjoyable:

1. Create an iLc, or Intentional Learning Community

An iLC is like a flash mob of colleagues who come together to complete a fast, fun, coordinated activity, and then disperse. They are linked by a common interest or expertise. The difference is that an iLC can meet in person or online and its focus is a specific work or professional problem.

An iLC can also be a group where everyone has a different expertise to share at the appropriate time. My friend, Lee, works for a large charity organization. The youngest of ten siblings, she has always been fascinated by generational issues. Most of her staff are bored with the topic—except at fundraising time. That’s when Lee updates them on generational issues the group should know about, in relation to their donor population and client base. She’s delighted to share her expertise. The staff is delighted she has it!

2. Reverse brainstorming

When brainstorming topics about superior customer service, better employee morale, etc. becomes tiresome, reverse them! Challenge a group’s creativity by brainstorming topics like:

  • What can we do to provide really terrible customer service?
  • In what ways can we undermine our lab’s loyalty?
  • How many ways can we lose the “Race to the Future?”

Groups have fun and produce much more creative lists. At the end, simply reverse the answers and the group has a list of powerful, fresh, solutions to the original problem.

3. Create a multipurpose link between your professional and personal interests

Pathology Associates Medical Labs, in Spokane, WA, is a large medical testing lab for physicians and hospitals. A few years ago, the company’s very overweight CEO was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He took action by substituting lunch three days a week for a walk around the grounds, and invited any staff who wanted to join him to do so. A small group did. It was called “Walking with the President.” As they walked, they covered topics from current events to issues in the industry, projects staff were developing, lab equipment needed, and the like. Fast forward three years. There are 100 staff on these walks. The CEO was getting input from staff he never would have met before. Research and lab staff were connecting throughout the organization. The company was voted one of 100 best places to work in Washington state. PLUS: staff used measurably fewer sick days, a large group of them entered the local 12 K race, and the CEO lost 60 pounds!

I hope these models spark your thinking. To further inspire you, let me share a quote from Eric Hoffer: “In time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. Those who have finished learning find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”


LABCAST: Be sure to attend Dr. Patt Schwab's Lab Manager Academy webinar "Making Work, Work For You" on Wednesday, December 3rd, or afterward at www.labmanager.com/work to watch the archived video.