Surf’s up! Let’s go!!

Posted by  admin —February 14, 2011
Filed in Just observations

Alexander (aka The Chief Happiness Officer) has written here about a work policy that could change the world! It’s simple … when the surf’s up, any staff member can drop what they are doing and go for a surf.

Straight from Alexander’s post, here’s how the founder of the company Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard summed it up in a previous interview:

I’m a businessman, but I’m still going to do things on my own terms. I’m going to break a lot of rules, and we’re going to blur the distinction between work and play.

So we have a policy here – it’s called “Let My People Go Surfing.” A policy which is, when the surf comes up, anybody can just go surfing. Any time of the day, you just take off and go surfing…

That attitude changes your whole life. If your life is set up so that you can drop anything when the surf comes up, it changes the whole way you do your life. And it has changed this whole company here.

I like the questions that Alexander asks us readers…

Are you free to plan your own time where you work? Or are you locked into working whenever it suits the workplace – not you? What would it mean to you, if you were completely free to plan your own time?

My own response to this …

I am one of the lucky ones and worked hard to get to a point where I am completely free to plan my own time. Nothing is ever a complete holiday though and I’m sure the policy at Patagonia didn’t result in breaches of trust and loss of productivity either. When I have a deadline or a facilitation gig, ‘all of me’ shows up to do the best I can – I love what I do. There are also times when the surf is cranking and work tasks stop me from going. I am sure that happened plenty at Patagonia as well.

“Let my people go surfing” as a policy, sounds remarkably similar to a law from Open Space Technology called, “The Law of 2 Feet”. It says that if you aren’t fully engaged and contributing then use your feet and move someplace else. “Whenever it starts is the right time” is an Open Space principle that fits Yvon’s style as well. It means that creativity and innovation is not bounded by the clock. You cannot schedule creative leaps by a diary … it happens when it’s ready and when you least expect it.

I am sure that when Patagonia’s staff were fully engaged at work in tasks that really mattered (and that they loved doing), the surf wouldn’t have always lured them away – at least not for too long. An organisation full of staff who simply clock-on/off would probably abuse Patagonia’s policy. But then that’s a problem leadership, not of the policy or of the staff!

It’s 2011, Facebook is now way more than 5 years old, and I still work with passionate people who are restricted from going surfing by their organisation. Not in the ocean mind-you, but on the web. A client the other day said they have limited access blogs and wikis. No access to Facebook to and Twitter! How on earth do the leaders in these organisations expect their staff to communicate and remain relevant? How on earth do they expect to recruit tomorrow’s workforce?

So for organisations who are not located next to a surf break I have some advice … “Let your people go do something” – even if it’s to surf the web and connect with other people’s ideas.



  1. Rachael West says:

    Great post, Geoff. Thanks for sharing the Chief Happiness Officer!

    It’s amazing how the concept of breaking the flow is so obvious and so effective, and yet so scary – not just to the companies who permit flexible working, but for the individuals who accept the offer.

    There’s an art to really knowing when your body is telling you, ‘Go surfing’, and being able to trust that you will be back to finish the job. Sometimes the “I turned up at my desk for eight hours – I’ve done my bit” approach is the easier option.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ben Ziegler, Samantha Bell. Samantha Bell said: @GeoffBrown3231 rocking it out on a workplace policy of "Let my people go surfing" #beyourself #cleverinnovation 😉 […]

  3. admin says:

    Thanks Rachael, Sam and Ben … For me I think it all boils down to a few questions and one of them might be this …

    What are the conditions we need to create (in the workplace) in order to engage the collective passion and creative capacity of our people?


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