M.I.N.M.: Thought Provoking
Who: Rebecca Randall, executive vice president of marketing and brand development, MaMaMedia.com
Players: All 65 employees are invited.
Frequency: Every Wednesday at 12:30 PM
Why I Never Miss It: "It's a great way for me to step outside of the day-to-day routine and come up with new approaches to doing my job."
Paying more than lip service to creativity can be a challenge for companies already overwhelmed by immediate deadlines and demands. MaMaMedia.com, a New York - based Internet-media company that provides Web-based "playful learning" for kids ages 12 and under and whose award-winning Web site draws some 3 million registered users, holds weekly meetings, called Thought Provoking sessions, designed to provide a creative refuge from the workaday world.
According to Rebecca Randall, 41, executive vice president of marketing and brand development, MaMaMedia takes inspiration from its own educational-design philosophy of learning by doing. "We try to approximate the way children learn through exploration, fun, surprise, and imagination," she says. While weekly meetings could easily become routine, the company, which has been holding its Thought Provoking sessions since it was founded in 1995, keeps things fresh by rotating ownership of the sessions among different teams and departments. "It's easy to say that we like to think out of the box," says Randall. "But when you are designing products for kids, who have limitless imaginations, you have to deliver."
Learn by playing. "One of the best ways to provoke thought is by engaging people in games, play, activities, theater, and role playing. We're trying to shine a bright creative light in a new direction — whether the goal is a great design for a new product or better teamwork."
Show and tell. "At one of our meetings, the application-architecture team had us all make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches by following simple, programming-like instructions. It really wasn't as easy as it might sound, and it showed us just how explicit programmers need to be when they're writing code. Insights like that lead to improved collaboration."
Shake things up. "Every week, a different team hosts the meeting and creates the format. It can be as simple as playing a cool, new board game or as elaborate as a town-hall meeting. If there's an unspoken rule for running the meeting, it's 'Don't be too literal.' We want people to draw their own conclusions, which can lead to unexpected insights."
Guerrilla marketing. "One team recently held a casting session for employees before the meeting. Another group posted a stuffed animal in a prominent place with a sign and a preliminary sign-up sheet. People are very clever at generating interest."
A version of this article appeared in the January 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.