Thursday, August 11, 2011

A review of Fish!

Based on a recommendation from a fellow journalism teacher, I picked up and read the book Fish! - A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. It was a quick read with a simple parable about how the qualities of a successful fish market in Seattle can be applied to any business or organization to make it a more productive and enjoyable place to work.

As the advisor to my high school's newspaper, I am interested in ways to make the staff more productive and engaged in their task of creating a quality scholastic publication. Fish! gives its readers a glimpse of the inner-workings of Pike Place Fish, analyzing the business for the qualities that make it a world-renowned market.

The authors found that the market's employees demonstrate the following: 1) they live in the present moment, 2) they aim to truly make their customer's day, 3) they infuse elements of play with their work, and 4) they're aware that they have the power to choose their own attitude each day.

That last concept is the most important. While we can't always choose the work that we do, we can choose the way we do it. By bringing positive energy to what we do, and by doing it to the best of our ability, we can transform mundane tasks into meaningful ones.

I am currently on vacation at the beach. A couple of miles down the road from where I am staying is a small coffee shop. Its ice coffee is flavorful, its breakfast sandwiches are hearty, and its wraps are a delectable balance of meat and accoutrement. What makes it special, though, are the employees who work there. The last time I was in, the woman behind the counter engaged me from the moment I placed my order until the second the door closed behind me on my way out.

The server spoke to me with energy and passion, excited about her culinary offerings and invested in making sure I got everything I wanted, in as pleasant and joyful a manner as possible. She referred to me as "honey" and "sweetie," and asked her coworker if he could "be a doll" and get her an iced coffee. The fancy chicken wrap sandwich I ordered not only had the word "fancy" written on it, it also had a picture of a bow, as if it had been wrapped up all nice and special, just for me.

These actions are those of employees who are engaged, living in the moment, and bringing energy to what some might consider the basic, even menial task of working food service in a small coffee shop. The way these people approach their job makes for an enjoyable customer experience. It also leads me to believe that their attitude helps make Cape Ann Coffees a fun place to work.

If you're looking for insights on how to boost the productivity of your workers and cheer up your workplace, I'd recommend this book. Its effectiveness lies not in the depth or profundity of its message, but rather on the few simple truths it manages to capture clearly and convey earnestly.


LK said...

I've seen video about that fish market a couple of times. I agree with the underlying theory/attitude.

I may be getting a bit old and cantankerous, however, because I seem to have to insert fun into the classroom surreptitiously.

I realize that step 4 is always possible, but steps 1-3 do need some support from the bosses

Do you work in a school that allows you to openly implement the "fish way"?

Just curious

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks for stopping by LK. One day I'd like to visit the market (and the northwest coast) in person.

I've got to say I'm pretty deliberate with my attempts at fun and humor. Sometimes it's hard to tell if my failed attempts at humor are actually funnier than the (few?) times when I succeed in landing a joke...

As for your last question, I would have to say that I've encountered no resistance from the higher-ups in my attempts to implement the "fish way."

In fact, I can't imagine working in a school where, on a basic level, the fish way wasn't encouraged by the administration.

I think we can agree that the most effective teachers are there, in the present moment, with their students. In turn, good teachers are able to capture the attention and interest of their students so that they too are in the present.

What teacher wouldn't want to make a student's day? Isn't it great to hear students tell you they look forward to your class, or they wish it were longer? This is one way the students let us know they appreciate what we do, which, in turn, makes us want to do the best we can.

Research shows that humans learn through play and exploration. Directed play can stimulate our imagination, feed our curiosity, and develop our creativity.

One of the ways I am hoping to infuse "play" into my classroom this year involves having students create vocabulary videos, where they will produce 60-second informative skits which will serve as primers for the various words, roots, and literary terms we'll encounter this year.

In the past, I've had students write vocabulary story quizzes, where the most creative and captivating are used as actual assessments.

I remember my 6th grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Reinstein, asking us to create our own gods during a Greek mythology unit, or to reenact scenes from Macbeth (yes, Macbeth in 6th grade!) with cardboard swords and crowns.

One of the reasons I recall Mrs. Reinstein's class so fondly was because she infused elements of play into her activities. She engaged us and put us in situations where we had to live in the present moment and be creative and innovative in order to have success. Because she was able to make the work fun helped us want to engage and be an active part of her class's culture.

LK, I am curious to know what your administration would find questionable or problematic regarding steps 1-3 of the fish way. Why would your (or other) administrators not want to see teachers implement the fish way in their classrooms?

LK said...

It may be that I am not living up to choosing a good attitude. :)

I believe that all classrooms experience tensions between "living in the moment" and preparing students for the future outside of school. That tension is compounded by "the test." Some boss folk may believe the latter should take precedence. (I notice you use "higher ups"; I must have watched to many cop shows.)

The customer analogy has always troubled me. Schools have students, parents, post-secondary institutions, and employers who all claim to be customers. The latter two "customers" seem to view students as a product. Some administrators also seem to see students that way; therefore, making the students day is on the back burner. To these administrators, the customers whose day must be made are like Elvis: they have left the building.

As far as play goes, I believe that some boss folk support play that they would have done in the classroom and little else. Again, I may need to adjust my own attitude on this one.