Partners discuss delight in their workplace

Designing delight into the workplace

Intuit’s Suzanne Pellican kicked off her Delight Conference keynote by saying, “If you are here to delight your customers, you have to think about your culture from within.” This theme continued to reverberate across the presentations, workshops, and conversations during the event’s three days in Portland, Oregon.

And for good reason.

While most customer experience efforts begin with an outward focus, companies are increasingly adopting a design-thinking mindset—and designing delight into their workplace culture from the inside out.

Infuse design thinking

Suzi Hamill and Ashwini Srikantiah of Fidelity Investments tackled this topic head on in an interactive huddle on the conference’s second day. Suzi and Ashwini are part of Fidelity Labs, a design and innovation team that works across Fidelity’s 40,000 employees to explore how the organization can deliver new experiences that can transform the business.

Collaborating to design delight into the workplace

The energy they help infuse into Fidelity was on display in the way they jump started the huddle, by having all 40 people in the session get out of their seats and high five everybody in the room. As folks settled back into their seats, Suzi kicked off the session with the acknowledgement that “we’re in a new economy where we’re rewarded on our intellect and fluency in emotion.”

The Fidelity Labs team believes that employees can’t be creative if they don’t feel safe. “If you aren’t feeling happy, it’s hard to generate ideas to make other people happy,” said Ashwini. “It’s hard to be resilient and not take things personally if you don’t have delight and joy.”

Take it personally

To help team members find more joy in the workplace, Suzi and Ashwini preach the mantra of “bringing your whole self to work.” In doing so, they have developed a number of rituals that help build team collaboration and a greater shared understanding of each other.

One of these rituals is what Suzi described as backstory night. As part of this ritual, employees share personal experiences outside of work that have shaped them. She says these stories are incredibly powerful in connecting teams and helping to gain a better understanding of what motivates people.

Suzi Hamill of Fidelity Investments

Suzi Hamill of Fidelity Investments Design Team


Suzi and Ashwini then turned the focus back to the room and had individuals pair up and interview each other to find what brings them joy outside of work. Within five minutes, people were sharing personal photos and stories about where they find delight in life.

From there, the Fidelity team had the same individuals interview each other about their goals and challenges at work and facilitated a brainstorming exercise to generate ideas on how to create a more enjoyable workplace.

Create artifacts of joy

The activity concluded with an adventurous arts and crafts exercise, where table mates created a makeshift object to give to each other as a reminder of the delightful ideas that were shared.

Creating artifacts of workplace delight

This fast-paced 90-minute breakout session demonstrated that some very basic methods and activities can start to facilitate more engagement between team members, which can in turn can lead to meaningful change in an organization’s culture and community.

Suzi says the real joy she finds in the work isn’t the new ideas team members generate, but the change that happens in the culture and the shift in how employees approach their work. “They realize that they have these skills to apply to ambiguous problems,” she said.

It’s easy to see how these changes ultimately benefit the business, because happy teams make happy customers. What approaches have you seen in your own organization or others to design delight into the workplace? We’d love to hear about them.