If you want to start and nurture a creative company (like Pinterest!), you should drive across the American Southwest for a bit first

Remember that crazy-arse story about how eBay reinvented itself based on a secret, six-person trip to Australia? Here’s another blow for the “let employees do crazy road-trip based stuff, even if it’s not directly tied to revenue immediately” contingent: Pinterest employees just drove around the American Southwest in a Winnebago (“Pinnebago”) for a couple of weeks.  (Here’s more from Pinterest themselves.)

The advantage?

“As soon as we got on the open road, the ideas started flowing,” says Bronkie. “You start to get more comfortable with your coworkers, and you talk about things that you normally wouldn’t inside the walls of an office.”

Indeed. Also consider this:

“Something like this gets you to the point of knowing what’s important,” concurs Hoy. “It helps break down things to the essence of why you’re doing what you’re doing. If I were to start a company, I would most definitely jump in a car and drive across the southwest. It’s nothing but sky and desert. You see that and realize you can do whatever’s exciting to you.”

This is a huge point in American business culture. Most managers look at something and say “Well, no, that’s not tied to revenue or objectives.” I’m not faulting someone for evaluating an idea in that way — if that’s their job, then that’s what they should do. But oftentimes, if you want people — the core of your business, even if you believe it’s really the products — to actually work together well, you need to remove the barriers of a cubicle/Outlook-pinging existence once in a while and let the ideas flow in a different context. You might not see a return for six months, or even 18 months, but you will see it — whether it’s in the form of an idea that came about on the trip, the fact that people aren’t leaving the company (recruiting/re-training costs), the fact that people are willing to stay longer at the office (because they like their co-workers), etc. This is quite literally thinking outside the box — the box in this case being the office — and more people should embrace it. Also consider:

“Action in the world” is how virtual economies become actual ones, and a road trip–even if this one didn’t generate revenue directly–is nothing if not “action in the world.” At all their stops, the Pinnebago generated good will, won over new “pinners,” and reminded existing ones that there was a correlation between the online picture-collecting site and the real, live space in which transactions are made.

Shift the paradigm once in a while to build a team or foster new ideas. Chances are your margins are tight, you’re in a competitive industry, you’re so busy you have no time for anything … so wouldn’t an office cleanse be a potential solution to your bottom-line concerns, even if not immediately?




Ted Bauer