Culture Club

One of many moments of Jenga suspense

One of the things I love to observe when I travel are the local customs and traditions that people participate in — what brings them together and what makes them tick. The Buenos Aires office has built up a rich culture over the years that includes a wide variety of traditions, both internally and client facing. The bonds developed through this yields a great team dynamic plus morale and ultimately better work. Given the warm reception I was welcomed with upon my arrival here last week, it’s no surprise that this inclusive team immediately invited me to join in and participate in these fun activities.

Forging strong bonds

Will the tower remain after Dulcinea’s turn?

One of my earliest initiations to the office traditions was the Jenga challenge. I was teased for not taking my turn immediately (I swear I was preoccupied writing an email back to the NYC office) but that didn’t last long. Prior to playing participants must sign an agreement that they will bring in breakfast for the team should the tower collapse on their turn.

It was amazing seeing this friendly competition unfold as it added an extra dose of fun and excitement to the day. For added effect they always hilariously play a suspenseful theme song, as many gather around to observe with anticipation. Fortunately, my turn passed with success.

The Wall of Fame, illustrated by Nico Marci

Each day Nico Macri asks a different person who they’d like him to draw a caricature of for the ever-growing “Wall of Fame”. The requests have included celebrities, musicians, movie and comic book characters. On my turn, I requested Madmax played by Tom Hardy (sorry Mel, the originals were good but Tom’s face mask trumps your style.)

Nico the illustrator with my finished request, Mad Max

Every week the running club goes out for a run during lunch. I have been invited but unfortunately I don’t have my running shoes yet… I’m aiming to get it together to join them for a run eventually but warned them I can’t run more than two miles before getting winded. #outofshape

The fruits of the amazing chef Leo’s labor

“Holy Thursday” began a couple years ago between a few coworkers having after work drinks at the office. It grew to a sizable gathering of asado (BBQ) lovers at the rooftop cafe, while watching futbol (soccer). I happily joined the merry men in charge of supplies, acquire the food and charcoal at the nearby Mercado de San Telmo (market) nearby. The rooftop patio at the office has an impressive industrial BBQ akin to those seen in restaurants.

The team happily enjoying asado (BBQ) at the office rooftop cafe/patio

Communication without borders

The same great spirit I’ve seen in the team’s group activities carries over to their work approach to doing work together. In my previous post, I had mentioned the communal music played on the floor throughout the day. Though this may not work for every agency environment, everyone here seems to appreciate it or at least be tolerant of it. I’m sure we’ve all had moments back at our home agencies where we needed to shut out the world and focus on a task while listening to music.

What’s interesting at the Buenos Aires office is that there is a social etiquette around the prolonged use of headphones. It’s discouraged because it gives off the signal “don’t bother me” — the larger the headphones, the stronger this message. Ideally, everyone should be easily accessible and approachable to communicate with, especially managers. If you need an extended period of alone time the polite thing to do is to go to a small conference room to complete your work.

…everyone should be easily accessible and approachable to communicate with, especially managers

Strengthening client connections

An annual tradition to celebrate Mobext’s clients

The Buenos Aires office has a fantastic way of extending their culture to their clients, that includes Renault, LG, Philips, Clorox, and Starbucks to name a few. They show their clients appreciation by hosting an event called the “Mobext Awards”. When one typically thinks about award shows in this industry you would expect the competition to be between agencies, but for this agency hosted event several clients across the accounts are invited over to celebrate awarding of them with achievements.

Mobext Awards categories

These awards range from best creative in a category, to the client who invested the most. To add some humor they also give out a few sillier awards to employees, such as the employee most considered to be a “villain”. This event really spotlights the co-creation relationship between the agency and client, plus gives the agency a platform to share cases studies across clients; giving greater exposure to the creative work, the agency capabilities and technological solutions. I think this is an amazing way to engage clients and grow relationships in a fun and casual environment.

When it comes to the work, the Mobext group practices two “hack-a-thon” work session approaches with their clients to quickly develop creative solutions.

Brief 24: With this approach the team works over a weekend for 24 hours non-stop. The client has two touch points: a check-in at the halfway point as the creative concepts are taking shape and again at the end creative presentation.

Molab: For a more immersive client experience the client works side by side with the Mobext team over the course two full eight hour work sessions to develop the concepts together every step of the way.

I’ll get into more details about these two approaches next week.

Tools of the trade

The creative teams here are using Adobe CC for all their digital creative work. Like some of the creative teams in the NYC office creating websites, they are hesitant to take on the learning curve involved in acclimating the team to Sketch as a workflow between XD (experience design) deliverables to the visual design phase of a digital project. This is mainly due to a lack of time. Sometimes UXPin is used for creating wireframes.

Quick prototyping is done with Marvel, which is similar to InVision. When it finally comes to development, Sublime Text is the tool of choice.

For project management and tracking, Trello is preferred. Coming from a tech background, Juanjo (Mobext Head of Projects and also my coach) thinks it has stronger organization and task tracking features than Basecamp.

The takeaway

I’ve always felt strongly that office culture is critical to the health of an agency. My observations over the last two weeks here are a great reminder of the importance of making a conscious effort to perpetually support and evolve it. Whether it be for strengthening the bond between team members, groups and departments or finding new or unconventional ways to engage clients, a strong culture can only lead to positive outcomes and better work through a community of happy people. It’s no surprise to me that when I ask people how long they’ve worked here most have answered at least dos años (two years), all the way up to nueve (nine).

…strong culture can only lead to positive outcomes and better work through a community of happy people

Inspired by some of the client engagement methods used here, I look forward to discussing new opportunities to try back in NYC. As a department head, I’ve started some team building initiatives back in NYC but will also encourage and nurture my team to develop some of their own.

Holy Thursday asado (BBQ) night
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