“Work” and “Fun” In the Same Sentence?

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Osten Ryker.

As I type this I’m looking over to a shelf with a book entitled, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, and Outnegotiate Your Competition, a classic bestseller with a premise much like all the other popular strategies of the ’80’s. It’s theme is how to beat the other market players in the battlefield game, the standard militaristic stance of that era. What I found striking about Delivering Happiness is that, in glaring contrast to all the stale, old-school formulas, Tony Hsieh never seems to concentrate too heavily on the “competition” but rather focuses all his attention on his customers and colleagues instead. Although he alludes to the competition occasionally, he does so only to express his desire to create the best possible experiences for the people who subscribe to and provide the Zappos service. In this sense, he seeks to create a c0ndition, since neither his associates nor his customers could find a better experience anywhere else.

Another thing about the Zappos culture that stands out starkly is that the company has clearly been crafted as more of a service provider than a mere product supplier. Zappos manufactures pleasant interactions while locating and delivering products its customers want in a way that is both convenient and satisfying. The company culture therefore falls more under the category of a service provider since they are more attuned to creating a pleasing experience than in merely distributing products. It’s promising to see companies like Zappos experimenting with a new style of business practice, where the words work” and “fun” can be spoken in the same sentence. It took me a while to realize that they aren’t just building a unique delivery platform that could work for any product or service, but they’re simultaneously fueling a revolution in the methodology of business practices for the future.

Tony Hsieh represents a unique cultural mindset that was born with Generation X.  He is the product of an advanced technological civilization that is birthing a new breed of human being. The children born in the 60’s and beyond have embraced an entirely new mode of thinking, a new approach toward viewing the world that has dramatically altered the way we interact with each other as a community. We have bombarded by mass media overload that exposes us to multicultural influences and alternate lifestyles.  Our hyper-stimulated, highly active minds continually search for new operational paradigms. Tony is clearly a child of this digital meta-generation. This new incarnation is the result of an expansive information society that has engendered people who see the world in a qualitatively different way from their ancestors.

Delivering Happiness conveys the potential for true excellence.  Tony’s ability to imagine alternatives to the status quo and then strive to implement his ideas regardless of opposition is a trait we will hopefully see more often as the 21st century unfolds. The traditional methods threaten to lead to moral and financial bankruptcy. We cannot continue onward down the same destructive path. Our lifestyles and economic practices must perpetually undergo a process of constantly changing forms. Only those like Tony who can navigate this accelerated transformation with original thinking and novel application will be able to forge the complex formulas required to insure our continued progress. Our very survival depends upon it.

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