Creating A Better Game Through Collaboration and Culture

posted by Tom Cramer on 05/09/2014 in Outcomes

My name is Joseph Duke, CEO of Center Stage, a place where team experience comes first.  More than just a company, Center Stage is the pursuit of an ideal.  That ideal is achieved when good-hearted enthusiasts bring life into otherwise boring and monotonous tech and development projects through our collective art.  The output of our work has caught the attention of amazing organizations like The Guggenheim, Spanx, PAWs, The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and hundreds more whose causes we have joined to our own, with the support of amazing partners like NCR and Blackbaud.

I have been a member of the Braintrust for 3 years.  I selected the Braintrust because I aligned very quickly with their genuine, self-imposed commitment to doing things right.

This seems simple, but if you have been doing business for any amount of time, you will have undoubtedly found a lonely game where it’s understood that everyone is out for themselves, sacrificing group enjoyment for personal self-interest.

The Brain Trust has had a wonderful influence on some of the outcomes of our work discussed below.

As a child I learned that when one person cheats in any game, cheating becomes the only way anyone can win.  That cycle was predictably distasteful, often ended with the cheater ousted, and universally delivered a rotten experience.  The best games were those during which I laughed with my peers and was inspired to play again.  We recognized the shared challenge of doing better than we had before and competed for the prize, but never claimed the win at the cost of truly earning it.  We celebrated in our mutual growth, and the trust we had earned with one another made it so worthwhile.

The spirit of traditional business rarely leaves people genuinely wanting to do more business with one another.  That is sad.  It is sad that so many think the rules for business should be creatively bent for competitive edge.   I prefer to view business like the games I played in my childhood, where there is an absolute refusal to cheat and it is mutually understood that when parties win together, all parties can win together again and again.

When business is done right, the team enjoys their work, failures are seen as opportunities, collaboration is unilaterally desired, resources are shared, clients are fans, continual innovation is on fire, the focus is on genuine creation, and best of all – the reciprocal affect is that you attract the team members and clients who align with your core principles and bring their own unique value to the total experience.  I am proud to share a few traditions created and celebrated by the Center Stage team.

Lunch ‘n’ Learn – Each week, one Center Stage team member offers a 1 hour lunch presentation on something they have learned, whether it is a personal experience, consideration for a new way of thinking, or even an idea that might benefit our team or customers.  It’s a mini TED – each week – Center Stage style.

Main Event – It’s Showdown once a month at Center Stage.  3 team members plan, create and present an idea to the entire team that will bring an improvement to one of our processes or offerings.  We all vote and the lucky winner gets to wear an official WWF champion belt, one lunch destination veto and front space parking.

LEAP – An annual 24 hour invent-a-thon.  Center Stage believes in empowering passionate people to create the future.  The Center Stage | Leap Forward event is a platform to foster passion-driven creation. We set the stage for passionate creative collaboration by fostering an environment for talented people to pursue their personal inspiration over a 24-hour sprint with all the tools and talent they need to succeed at their fingertips.

Center Stage In Touch – A weekly internal newsletter and companywide discussion celebrating one of our clients, keeping our teams up to date with the hippest news from Facebook feeds.  We discuss their mission, a fun fact, some principles or stories that we can learn from.

MBSFF – Nope, it’s not the Minecraft server list.  Its Mind, Body, Spirit, Finance and Fun.  The 5 measurable currencies we keep our eye on every day in everything we do.

Stretch Goals – Each month, every staff member commits to an improvement that directly impacts their team.  It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be something we can celebrate in together.

Responsible Giving – Center Stage is supporting our local community in earning the right to give back.  We are currently developing a responsible giving program that creates space and encourages involvement of for-profit business and non-profit organizations to jointly think together and work together in pursuing the creation of our combined interests through new methods.

+1 Google has nothing on us.  We have been +1’ing each other for jobs well done well before Google got their hands on it.  I recall one week where over 50 unsolicited positive reinforcements were shared amongst staff members.

I am grateful to the Braintrust for creating a space for passionate people to openly collaborate on their ideas while supporting the creation of a better game.  Center Stage aims to align ourselves with leader organizations who inspire their industries to break out from being stuck, who believe in our cause and would like to explore how we can create genuine value together.

–        Joseph Duke, Founder and CEO, Center Stage Business Solutions