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Why Think Week was worth the 308-mile commute

People having a conversation during Think Week

Much like a beloved-book-turned-movie-adaptation, we’ve collectively experienced life adapt into an online version of itself over the last two years—tempered expectations, and all. So many moments were creatively mediated through a screen, be it a parent’s milestone birthday, best friend’s bachelorette party, or nephew’s baby-naming ceremony… just to name a few from my own Zoom archive.

Think Company is no stranger to adaptation, having embraced the possibilities and challenges of remote work. Think’s decision to hire a geographically dispersed team (across the U.S. and, now, Canada) opened the door for me to join the company as an Experience Designer living in Cambridge, MA—it’ll be my 1 year Thinkiversary in May!

Many companies grapple with how to cultivate and sustain authentic connections in a virtual realm. Think Company is “on it,” from matching Thinkers for virtual “coffee chats” via Slack’s Donut feature, to hosting a hybrid mixology class, where a combination of remote participants and in-person attendees learned to craft cocktails.  

In early April, Think Company ventured into its biggest connection-boosting endeavor yet… Think Week! Think invited employees from all around the country (farthest: California | most corn-filled: Indiana) to gather in its beautiful downtown Philadelphia office for a week of togetherness. While attendance was optional, Think’s light-filled space was brimming with Thinkers, joining together for a week that culminated in a celebratory Q1 meeting.  

This multi-day experience of 3-dimensional gathering got me thinking—and feeling—a lot. Here are some of the thoughts and feelings that emerged during, and in reflection on, my experience of Think Week:

“I like what my fellow Thinkers bring out in me.”

Joining Think Week reminded me how we gain much of our self-understanding through our interactions and relationships with others. Whether in 1:1 conversations, small groups, or company-wide events, I felt energized by sharing time and space with other Thinkers—exchanging ideas, swapping stories, telling (or, more often for me, laughing at) jokes. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this buzz of enthusiasm for forging connections with such a variety of people. While I generally enjoy connecting with people, my gregarious side was empowered by the down-to-earth vibes, warmth, and supportiveness of other Thinkers. To my own surprise, I even sang 3 karaoke songs at our in-office karaoke event, bolstered by a fun-loving group of people that were rooting for each other. Yet true to my inner introvert, I also managed to recharge in Think’s single-person phone booths, stepping back from the social stimulation at times. 

“I appreciate how transparent, approachable, and human Think Company’s leadership is.”

During Think Week, I had several opportunities to connect with members of our executive leadership, whether casually chatting with Brian (Co-founder) by the couches, having a small group dinner with Russ (CEO), or discussing unusual vacation experiences with Phil (EVP).  Their sense of caring—whether about my experience at Think Company or my thoughts in general—was conveyed in how they actively listened, shared their own perspectives, and brought candor to our conversations. I felt that their genuineness shone through in the larger scale formats, too, such as the Q1 presentation. Russ initiated the team-wide strategy update with an earnest acknowledgment of how challenging it is to compartmentalize and show up to work in the face of devastating contemporary events. There was a lot of company specific content to cover—which he did—but I so appreciated the time he took to address the larger picture, recognizing that we are people, first and foremost.

“I’m grateful to be part of a culture that celebrates kindness and being yourself.”

Every quarter, Think gathers nominations for its “Uncle B.” award, presented to a Thinker who inspires others in embodying Think’s values. More than the recognition of any one individual, I view the Uncle B. award as a celebration of these values, a chance to express our shared appreciation for the qualities that this Thinker brings to the table.  This quarter, the Uncle B. award went to a dear colleague, Sayla, whose attributes of thoughtful kindness and calm leadership were robustly applauded by Thinkers—both those who attended in-person and remotely. As Phil read excerpts from the nominations, I was proud that Think Company is a place that encourages us to be ourselves, affirming that one need not be the loudest voice in the room to be heard and appreciated.

“I’m excited to be part of Think Company’s ongoing evolution.”

One of the themes in the Q1 presentation was that Think has evolved a lot over the years, and will continue to do so in the years ahead. The answers to how the company will continue to adapt as a business are actively under construction.  I appreciated the honesty and vulnerability when Russ acknowledged that the truest response was sometimes, “I don’t know, but we are going to figure it out together.” In speaking with Thinkers whose tenure spans years at the company, I learned that they’ve experienced different “eras” of the 14-year-old company. Take Think Week itself… due to Think’s significant growth over the last 1+ years, this wasn’t so much a reunion as it was an introduction—a chance to meet one another, many of us for the first time.  

It was a lively mix of Thinkers from the before-times and those of us who started after the shift to remote working. I teased some of the Thinkers who sought their pre-pandemic desks that I was of a new generation of  “nomadic” Thinkers, without any particular desk attachment due to joining the company remotely and not living in the Philly area. Desks aside, it’s clear that Think’s compass for navigating the uncharted territory is one that embraces creativity, communal feedback, and collaborative problem-solving.

“We’ve all got different work experiences, and they can all teach us something.”

Working in the office together provided visibility into the variety of work experiences that we are all having in this hybrid world. Some people enjoyed whiteboarding with their teams, others worked solo at their desks, and some reserved phone booths for their calls. It’s clear that we each have our own unique circumstances and ways of working; Think Week was a great opportunity to learn about what other people were working on, and how they enjoy working, in an organic way. 

I also gained perspective about my own experience. Throughout my time at Think Company I’ve been on a dedicated client project, whereas other Thinkers work on multiple studio projects. With that, almost inevitably, came comparison (and, dare I say, envy) when learning about some of the other projects Thinkers were working on that were pretty cool. Overall, though, I came away from Think Week feeling as though my own project has something to teach me, and that I can draw lessons from my particular situation. I also realized that I can continue to seek exposure to different things within Think, even from my home office—whether that’s watching a recorded design presentation by another Thinker, or listening in on a call for a project that piques my interest.  

“I miss my Thinkers who couldn’t make it in-person this week.”

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Think Week, I was pleased to realize that I missed several Thinkers who couldn’t make it to the office! These Thinkers, who I have either primarily or exclusively connected with online, have been an important part of my Think experience, and our relationships matter a lot to me—so much so, that I thought of them in the midst of an immersive in-person experience. It was fantastic to realize that I’ve been able to cultivate strong relationships through the virtual sphere, especially as Think Company continues to expand.

I’m not ready to give up on my home office any time soon—and thankfully, I don’t have to.  Instead, I’m happy to infuse my Think Company experience with a quarterly burst of real, in-person togetherness. 

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