Dolls in the Workplace

Yesterday I just happened to pick up the phone, which doesn’t happen very often, and I’m glad I did! It was from a customer, sitting in a meeting, with a “need an answer right now” kind of question. Thankfully, it wasn’t a head-scratcher.

“Last time you were here you mentioned a very simple doll of some sort used by Asian companies as a motivational tool. Could you tell us about that?”

Yes! I’ve done some work for Asian companies and it’s fairly common, particularly in Japan, to purchase a Daruma, or Dharma, doll to kickoff a new initiative or adventure of any kind.

For our purposes, we’ll ignore the Dharma’s religious significance, other than to note that it’s named after the founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma, and serves as a talisman, or good luck charm.

The cool thing about it, other than the fact that it’s pretty cool looking, is that it’s hard to topple. It’s weighted bottom and rounded shape make it pop right back up after being knocked down! So it serves not only as a good luck charm, if you believe in such things, but as a symbol of team commitment and resiliency.

The doll starts out with both eyes blank. At the launch event, team members all take a turn coloring in one eye and signing their name somewhere on the doll. This signifies their personal commitments to teamwork, delivery, and outcomes. During the life of the initiative, the doll is prominently displayed as an ongoing reminder. I like it!

At part of their post-delivery celebration (you do party post-delivery, don’t you?), team members then take turns coloring in the second eye. Finally, the doll is awarded by the team to its “most valuable player.” It’s an honor, of course, to collect Daruma dolls over the course of your career. Love it!

Just so you know, though, some consider it bad luck to keep Daruma dolls around for too long so they burn them after a year. No resting on our laurels!

Another company I do some work for uses awards Golden Bananas for outstanding achievement–a practice originating at Foxboro. And I just happened to snag one!

What do you think? Do you use any motivational tools like this? I’d love to hear about it.

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