Sitting on my desk is the most prized possession in my financial institution. It is a plastic replica of Thor’s Hammer which probably cost fifty cents to manufacture.  Yet every Friday people wait in anticipation for a chance to win this costume accessory. To stay true to the mythology, only the person in possession of the hammer is allowed to hold it. When you are in possession of the hammer, it is yours for exactly one week. During that week you can carry it around anywhere you like – to meetings, take it home, or just wave it at people as they pass by your desk. For one week you are the ruler of the universe at Solarity, and everyone who walks by your desk knows of your accomplishment. But nothing lasts forever. Every week people also wait in line to challenge you for your prize. And on each Friday the challenger who reigns supreme among her rivals has the chance to challenge the king.

Everyone at Solarity knows of the weekly chess match on Fridays. The day when the hammer is again up for grabs for anyone who is brave enough to sit down at a table with a room full of people watching as you try to dethrone the current king. It is an intense scene where people from all over the organization show up to watch a game they may not even play just to see who walks away with the hammer. And at the end of the day, a proud winner walks back to her desk with a prize that she alone can display. The hammer only has value because of Solarity’s culture.

For a moment think of the things that have to be supported by an organization to make this possible… for one, the organization needs to support people playing board games on their lunch breaks. Not a terribly hard thing… but what if your boss walks by while you’re playing, or one of the executive team? Should you worry? Not here. Here you’ll most likely find the CIO among the contenders trying to win a shot to take down the king. On any given Friday you’ll find someone from the Marketing team playing someone from the IT team. You’ll see a junior team member in his first full-time job playing a senior vice president in his 40s. When you sit down at the table, all ranks and privileges are void. For a company to embrace that kind of culture, everyone from the CEO to a brand new employee needs to have a similar understanding of values.  We work hard here, we change fast, and we are constantly pushing into uncharted waters in the financial space. We also celebrate together, we laugh together, and most importantly we have each other’s backs. When your culture is that good, when people enjoy coming to work in the morning, when people feel safe in their careers, when people feel they are valued and make a difference things like the hammer just happen. No one planned for a plastic toy to become a defining part of Solarity’s culture, it just happened. It happened because people were allowed to try something new and feel comfortable doing so. When you work in a company with a good culture it should feel good to be there – that isn’t something that can be faked – and when you get it right, neat things happen.

two men playing chess