The Phase2 tradition of “P2Con”, our annual all-company event where our entire staff travels to a destination to meet in person once a year to learn from one another in a conference setting, is alive and well. Last week, over a hundred of us descended on Portland, Oregon, the home of our second largest staff concentration and office.
Why This Works For Us
As we expanded into a national vs. a regional agency over the years, we opened offices on the west coast (San Francisco / Portland) in addition to the east coast (DC and New York). In order to recruit and retain the absolute best talent, we maintained our commitment to hiring distributed team members and offer work from home (WFH) as an option for everyone. This gives us maximum flexibility and distribution for our staff and clients, but also spreads us increasingly far away from each other.
Even though we recognize the value of maintaining a geographically distributed company we also know that, even with the use of remote working tools like Google Hangout and Flowdock, nothing can replace the value of in-person connections. One of the most important aspects of P2Con is that we have an opportunity to see our colleagues face to face and share a meal, coffee, karaoke jam, or a drink to toast to our experiences together. These interactions don’t ever really end there. If you were a silent observer in Portland, you’d see that the broad smiles, the loud laughter, and the conversations, are a chance to challenge each other with new ideas, knowledge, and approaches to our work.
What Did We Learn
In addition to being a great time to touch base with our colleagues, P2Con is indeed a full-fledged modern digital conference that features keynote talks from our leadership on strategic trends and direction; staff organized sessions on topics ranging from “A Crash Course in Digital ROI” to “Tools for Effective Public Speaking”; and even our own TEDx style lightning talks like “How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Web Development” and “Countering Stimuli Overload with Calm Technology”.
This year, all of our talks featured a large emphasis on the impact and opportunities presented by new digital technology trends to change the way we guide and direct our clients into the future. As the digital landscape rapidly evolves, we continue to keep our eyes on the horizon - embracing the technology and looking beyond it to find future forward solutions for our clients. Several talks focused on voice platforms like Siri and Alexa, AI, machine learning and virtual reality. There was also a focus on the interpersonal skills required to compete and succeed as an agency like teamwork, contribution, delegation, management skills, body language, and having productive difficult conversations.
The Concept of Impact
This year’s theme was Own Your Impact. We believe that Phase2 is essentially a cumulation of the actions that all of us do every day, which is why we think it so important to really explore what our impact is (together) and how we can own it - for our own individual benefit, for the benefit of the organization, and for the benefit of our clients.
Over the last year, we have embraced the concept that our work does indeed have an impact on our clients and the world at large. This theme really captures the shift in our focus to the purpose and meaning of our work in an industry where we can sometimes feel like “order takers”. And it reminds us that our work products can make a difference, long after the countless hours and tight project deadlines have come and gone.
Owning Our Impact
At P2Con we wanted every person in the company to leave knowing what their own contribution to that impact was. And the key to success is, as much as possible, owning that impact and being deliberate and cognizant about it.
This year, we asked each presenter who gave a talk or conducted a workshop to provide a statement or quote summarizing the impact or take-away from their presentation. We had these printed on beautiful cards that each attendee would collect from every session they attended. At the end, we asked each attendee to write their own impact statement on a card and we gave everyone a card holder to display these on their desks around the country so that the work we did at the conference can remain a focal point long after we traveled back to our respective offices.
We also continued our tradition of sharing “karma” with each other in the form of small wooden tokens we gave each other to recognize individual contributions and impact. This ritual is a nod to the digital karma we give each other daily through our chatbot in our chat rooms - when someone has done something laudable, you type @handle ++ and the bot bestows a karma point to that individual in public. I love this aspect of our culture because no matter how distributed we are, we can recognize good things each person does in a public way that adds a little boost to everyone’s day. And at P2Con, we bring that back to the physical world.
Taking It Home with Us
In the days following P2Con, the trick is to take our new perspectives, motivation, and confidence back to our “day jobs.” Our cards, our karma, and our camaraderie are reminders of that positivity - but they can only last so long. With this in mind, we will ask our staff to engage beyond their regular duties in one of many strategic initiatives and endeavors we have created to evolve and continue to improve the company and stay ahead of the changes in the evolving digital revolution.
If you are reading this and feeling inspired to work for or with Phase2, I encourage you to reach out to us and learn more.