We all went off en masse last Friday for a company love-in in Amsterdam. It was well deserved as we had a great year and we like to think we have a culture that rewards great work, but one where we still know how to enjoy ourselves in the process.
I was frequently asked if we deliberately picked Amsterdam with some master plan in mind. Truthfully, apart from fond memories of the city, the answer is ‘no’. But now I see a major part of the success of the weekend came down to the selection of that great city and it has certainly contributed a small chapter to our company story.
The fact is that many companies would shy away from the idea of 60 odd people let loose in a city with a reputation like Amsterdam - that well known den of iniquity, but not the good people here at e3. I’ll hasten to add that beside the more hedonistic attractions it’s also a beautiful cultural city and the home of Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum amongst many others.
Here’s why I think, that in hindsight, it was an inspired choice. As we all know there are thousands of bikes in Amsterdam, in fact more bikes than people – apparently they pulled 15,000 of them out of the canals last year alone! This lends itself to car-free quiet streets with the odd gentle ring of a bicycle bell.
But what’s most noticeable about the cycling culture was the way that it just worked. Despite, random tourists and mopeds in the bike lanes, no obvious highway code and even half of e3 taking to the streets on two wheels it all just worked. Sure there were a few near misses, but no raised voices and a quick look at the stats also showed that on average only 6 people die in bike-related accidents yearly. You are more likely to drown apparently and far more likely to meet your maker on London’s streets.
So here’s my point, Amsterdam works because it treats people like adults and therefore allows them to treat each other the same way. It’s a good analogy of how we like to think we treat our people, give them room to fulfil their potential, trust them to take care of themselves, but also give them the opportunity to drop their guard, relax and have fun.
Nobody got lost, we all had fun, laughed until it hurt and lived to tell the tale. Next year I think we should try something different again, China perhaps…