Who: Robert May, CEO, Ikonic Interactive Inc.
Players: 80 to 100 Ikonic employees
Frequency: Mondays, 9:30 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.
Purpose: "To share information. This company is like a big orchestra that comes together to play a symphony every week. This is when we gather our sheet music."
Why I never miss it: "It's a humbling 20 minutes, and I get a new appreciation for the depth of people's insights."
Talk about a commute! Employees of Ikonic, a Web-development firm in San Francisco, don't just cross the Bay Bridge to get to work; they cross into another realm, called "Ikonia." As founder and CEO Robert May explains it, the designers, programmers, and others who make up the company's 100-person staff "aren't just a team. We're more like a planet with diverse ecosystems." That's pretty far out, but it hasn't kept Ikonic from packing its client roster with such stars as Microsoft, IBM, and American Express. The real challenge, says May, is to keep all Ikonians - at offices in New York City and San Francisco - on the same wavelength in the face of explosive growth. His solution? A technique borrowed from "Star Trek": the Vulcan Mind Meld. Captain Kirk's serene sidekick, Mr. Spock, would touch his fingertips to someone else's temples, so he and the other person could immediately read each other's thoughts. Ikonic's methods, while less paranormal, are no less ambitious. The Ikonia Mind Meld links employees on both coasts with telephone and computer hookups - to share news, business strategy, and poetry.
Deep communication - fast. "We keep it simple and structured. Each presentation has to answer four specific questions: What is it? Why is it important to the industry? Why is it important to Ikonic? What are the three things we should take away from the presentation?"
The poetry reading. "It's weird," admits May. "But when we walk out of the staff meeting, we've had at least five minutes of reflection on bigger things than the report we've got to write. We've had a rich variety of poetry - everything from Wendell Berry to the book Very Bad Poetry. We read from Naked Lunch when William Burroughs died."
"Bicycle shorts are encouraged. Our parking lot is a row of mountain bikes that runs down one hall."
"We run alphabetically through the employee list to designate meeting leaders, so everyone gets a chance to be heard. After opening with five minutes of news, the leader calls on a department head to present on a given topic."
"We capture a log of each meeting on our intranet, and anybody who wants to review a presentation can go there during the week to see it."
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.