Curiosity drives progress. There are already tens of presentations about Spotify on the Internet but we wanted to see how the work looks like there with our own eyes. Here are some thoughts after our visit to Spotify’s headquarters.
In mid February a couple of Agile Coaches from Allegro visited Spotify office in Stockholm, Sweden. It was a rank-and-file initiative as we were hungry for knowledge about how a well-known agile company looks like from within. Each of us had different questions inside own head and was interested in different aspects of the company. I won’t write here about hard facts or show the detailed structure of the company. You’ve probably seen presentations on the web. I’ll write about some interesting concepts that came to my head during the time at Spotify. At this point I would like to thank Viktor Cessan and Marcin Konkel for setting up this visit. OK, let’s start.
From the very first glance I realised that the company is not about software — it’s about music. Big and small elements of interior design show that this company offers music to people. A huge TV at the reception playing clips and Spotify commercials, band t-shirt Mondays, a recording studio where you can do jam sessions, conference rooms named after favourite bands like “Pink Floyd”, “Evanescence” or “The Doors”. During my whole visit I had a feeling that what Spotify delivers to customers is their passion for the music. Not software, not mobile apps. Just music.
Second thing I felt strongly, was brand loyalty. I saw the Spotify logo tens of times, on t-shirts, lanyards, jackets, walls, doors, tablets. I wouldn’t be surprised finding a guy who have tattooed it on a chest. If one day I were dropped by aliens in the middle of the company, after 30 seconds I would know it was Spotify. People are aware that it is a cool thing to work there, they seem proud of it. When asked if there were many companies they invite to visit, they jokingly answered that in fact companies invited themselves. Such internal feeling of greatness becomes a greatness radiator. When workers think that the company they work for is awesome, the rest of the world thinks the same way. It doesn’t really matter if the company is cool or not, what matters is what employees think about the company.
Co-founders of Spotify highlight the concept of having fun at work. But what does it really mean? Is this just fooling around all day long? Playing table tennis or foosball? No. This is just playing. Satisfying basic needs is not fun either. Thinking about survival in a hostile environment or who your boss is gonna be next month is not what is desired by employers and employees themselves. Fun at work means not encountering any obstacles which may prevent you from releasing your creativity. Just doing things you deem great, something that users will bless you for. Fun is when all you have to think of is creating something new, interesting and innovative. All the rest is secured by the environment in which work is done. And this is exactly how Spotify deals with it — by creating an environment, where all you have to think of is… work. When you have an idea which requires tinkering with hardware — no problem, a fully equipped electronics lab is at your disposal. If app for runners requires testing — you have the treadmill already installed in the office to do some valuable tests. When you’re in the middle of work and don’t want to think about acquiring food, because at the moment it is a waste of time for you, there are a couple of fridges with sandwiches and cold drinks available for free.
Combining workplace with pleasure seems also quite interesting. Events at the office like concerts, hanging out with friends, drinking beer after working hours, social meetings make you feel good at the office. Your brain unconsciously knows that a reward awaits at this place. A reward that pulls you with huge power every morning and holds you till late hours. The workplace becomes a space where good things happen. So you love spending time there and you take care for this place.
What I’ve learned is that Spotify manages the environment, not people themselves. In a secure, transparent and fair play environment, creativity and people’s growth will flourish. Like almost every seed will grow when put into well-prepared soil, so will almost every employee release own full potential in a well-managed workplace. Above mentioned examples show only some details of the office arrangement, but I’m sure it is merely the tip of the iceberg. I guess, with such office perks, a mentality comes along. A mindset of openness, honesty and safety. All together creates a workplace where all you have to think of is how to serve your customers. Nothing else.