Water is necessary for life. It is common knowledge that without it, one can survive only a few days. Naturally, then, it makes sense that in almost any company you will find at least one water cooler.
What else will you find? Usually, a multitude of water jugs waiting to replace the empties – because we ALL need water.
Besides quenching our thirst, the water cooler has historically has taken on a different role as it quenches and nourishes our thoughts. Everyone, at one time or another, has shared or been told a story of some type around the water cooler. Of course, we refer to this as “water cooler talk.”
Halfway through this column, I’ve told you nothing you don’t already know. However, based on the importance of water cooler talk, one thing stands out: WE NEED MORE WATER COOLERS!
As mentioned above, stories get told around the water cooler. Often these consist of simple ramblings, grumblings or rumors. However, the water cooler needs to be utilized by every company as a place to share important stories – stories that can build expertise and experience!
We work with companies on creating scenarios whereby other employees can actually practice their decision making and thought processes. Where do all these scenarios come from? They are the STORIES and EXPERI- ENCES told to us by the employees – the ones who have seen it all and done it all.
Every organization has employees who they consider to be experts. They are considered experts not only because they are good at what they do, but because they are good at handling the unpredictable. Expert employees are basically ‘experienced’ employees. That experience enables them to quickly assess situations and make quick decisions – quick ‘workable’ action plans that help avoid problems.
These are the stories that need to be told, that need to be shared. With both every successful
outcome and every problematic situation, there is something to be learned. Often these incidents are documented for various compliance purposes, but how often are they utilized for learning? Cue the water cooler!
If your organization does not utilize internal scenarios for transferring internal knowledge and expertise, might I suggest everyone meets once a day with an experienced employee over a nice, refreshing paper cup of cold water! Encourage them to tell their story, explain when they weren’t sure of what to do, why they nearly panicked….then how they decided upon a workable solution.
Naval and Marine aviators once had a common practice – if they nearly crashed a million-dollar aircraft but managed to save it, that incident would go with them to their grave. However, their ability to rectify the situation and save the aircraft and themselves was a story that needed to be shared. These days, those stories ARE shared.
Your employees’ stories need to be shared. This alone can build expertise and minimize unnecessary accidents and on-the-job problems.
So…please keep the water cooler full!