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Powwow says ciao

By Richard Ferguson

Foodbev.com – 26.04.2010

When I read that the water cooler company Powwow had been taken into administration and effectively closed, it triggered a thought. I was struck by the irony of a water cooler company going under as we begin to come out of a pretty tough 18 months…

How many water coolers in offices, shops and stores around the country have been the focal point for conversations that have spawned a new idea, agreement to try something different, or just a real moan for somebody to get something off their chest, ultimately enabling the organization to survive and prosper in tough times.

“Organisations don’t create the space, opportunity or focus for the radical conversations required to drive them forward”

In today’s hectic working environment, the water cooler has become the last bastion (other than the pub) for employees at every level to engage in conversation and discussion that can make a difference.

My belief is that organizations suffer from the fact that they don’t create the space, opportunity or focus for the radical conversations required to drive an organization forward – be it a strategic conversation, a cultural conversation or indeed a customer conversation. We’re all so busy running as fast as we can to keep the hamster wheel that’s ‘business as usual’ turning that we rarely take the time to stand back and reflect on whether the wheel is actually moving us in the right direction.

I remember overhearing a conversation between employees at the back gate of a busy supermarket as they were having a ‘fresh air’ break: insightful, sharp and revealing comments that the CEO would have been well advised to listen to. Sad that these insights are created in isolation and on employees’ time rather than harnessed in the working environment to support the issues and opportunities that the organization is facing at that point in time.