When it comes to developing teamwork and team bonding, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Since the start of time, food has been a communal activity, where people laugh, joke and bond over a good meal. It’s only recently that busy lives and hectic workdays have meant that people spend less time eating together. Next Jump has developed a very simple way to build teamwork through this innate love of food, as well as to develop character ‘muscles’ that are then transferrable to the everyday workday.
The first day I joined Next Jump’s UK office, last October, I was assigned a breakfast team. The whole office is split into teams of 4-5 people and every Friday morning one team cooks breakfast for the whole office. In very Next Jump style, however, the teams compete with each other on which one will prepare the best breakfast – with ratings given not just for taste, but also presentation and creativity (we’ve seen everything from hueveos rancheros and turkey wraps, to yoghurt parfaits and bircher museli, to Indian curries and – most recently – a three-course gourmet breakfast cooked by the team in bow-ties and formalwear).
My first breakfast Friday, my team was preparing pancakes for the whole office. Coming in early in the morning, making the pancake mix, taking everyone’s orders and trying to deliver breakfast on time was quite a stressful morning for a newbie. A very unique way to start your day at the office! This however made me understand that preparing breakfast for the whole office is something more than just cooking.
In the beginning, getting to know those outside of my team in the office better and opening up to them through the breakfast initiative was more than enough to push me outside of my comfort zone. However, I soon was pushed out even further! When I was nominated leader of my breakfast team, I was suddenly responsible for encouraging creative ideas, delegating tasks and satisfying the hungry tummies of all of my colleagues.
When I started at Next Jump, I was never confident enough with my actions, so taking charge scared me. But it’s true - actively pushing yourself is the only way to grow, so being in charge of my team’s breakfast planning and execution made me feel more confident with my actions.
This also made me more aggressive and, a few months later, I applied to captain the whole initiative in the UK office. The breakfast initiative is classed as a HCE initiative (Human Capital Engineering). HCE initiatives at Next Jump as delegated down through the company, in order to grow leaders in an “above the waterline” environment. Each HCE initiative will have captains (me in this case), a coach (often someone who was a captain beforehand, or another senior member of the company), and often right and left hands to help grow and execute the initiative. Captaining a HCE initiative is similar to owning a project with the difference being that someone can experiment and learn through the process of failing. For me, being more aggressive and getting things done faster are the main areas I am focusing on through this initiative. As an engineer in a fast growing organisation, agility and quick actions are quite essential. Failing in these areas in a safe environment – the breakfast initiative – and experimenting with ways on how to improve has helped me improve and grow in these areas.
The areas I’ve been working on here include how to best gamify the competition (the winning team each quarter now chooses a fun activity for the entire office, which is then organised by the losing team), how to brand the competition (‘Next Jump’s Next Top Breakfast’ as it is now called) and extending it to our other offices.
We recently launched our breakfast initiative in the Next Jump NYC and Boston offices with great success. Liaising with the captains of the other offices, taking decisions on a company level and also sharing my learnings to improve this initiative company-wide is something where confidence on your own actions and decisions plays an important role. That made me realise that there is a great opportunity within myself for improvement and growing my confidence character muscle even more.
As the breakfast initiative is running in most of the offices now, this is a great opportunity for people from not only different teams but offices to interact and collaborate with each other. This is a perfect example of the Better ME + YOU = US notion of Next Jump culture.