Celebrating Success and Embracing Mistakes: The Whale and Monkey Method at Rocketium
Explore Rocketium's innovative Whale and Monkey approach for team development, a strategy that celebrates both achievements and learning from mistakes
At Rocketium, we believe that a healthy work culture is the backbone of a successful team. This belief has led us to implement a system that draws from the wisdom in the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott. This system, designed to foster both praise and criticism, was initially introduced by Dan Wood, CTO of a start-up in the 1990s. It revolves around two main components, or rather, two stuffed animals: a whale and a monkey.
The "Killer Whale" of Achievement 🦈
Every Monday at Rocketium, our engineering team members have the opportunity to nominate themselves or a teammate for the "Killer Whale" award, which is conferred for a week. This award encourages team members to openly discuss the extraordinary work they've completed during the previous week.
As opposed to an employee-of-the-month style approach, the Killer Whale format ensures that those who do outstanding work get recognition promptly, at the beginning of the following week. If there are multiple nominees, the award's recipient is determined by a team vote, further emphasizing our focus on collaborative decision-making.
The Killer Whale mechanism motivates the team to strive for excellence and sets the tone for the week ahead. It promotes an environment that encourages individuals to take the initiative, innovate, and share their accomplishments with the team.
Embracing Mistakes with "Whoops the Monkey" 🐒
The second part of our system involves another plush toy and an equally important lesson: recognizing our mistakes. Team members can nominate themselves for the "Whoops the Monkey" award, designed to encourage open discussions about errors made in the previous week.
When someone owns up to a mistake they've made, they receive the monkey, symbolic of the automatic forgiveness that comes with it. This process creates an open, transparent atmosphere where it's okay to mess up, as long as you learn from it. The monkey is also a gentle reminder to others to avoid repeating the same mistake.
Bringing it to Life
To enhance visibility and make the process more interactive, we display photos of the winners with each toy on a wall in our office. Additionally, winners change their Slack profile pictures to the respective toys for a week.
While we've only been practicing this system for a while, it generates excitement every Monday morning as team members await the nomination process.
The Killer Whale and Whoops the Monkey system at Rocketium aims to create a culture that values both achievements and learning from mistakes. While it's too early to measure its long-term impact, the system has invigorated our team dynamics and turned Monday mornings into a celebration of accomplishments and growth. Through this, we're fostering a work environment where praise, constructive criticism, and learning go hand-in-hand.
You can read more about our culture and our processes at culture.rocketium.com. We work with highly motivated and smart people in an open and collaborative environment. If you would like to be on this rocket ship, do write to firstname.lastname@example.org.