A Lesson From Zappos in Disruption


To support our theme for our 23rd Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence, The Revolutionary Assistant, I challenged the Office Dynamics Team and myself to “live” being revolutionary in our individual roles and as a company.

One definition of revolutionary is to disrupt the status quo. For us to open our minds to that concept, we decided that we are going to take some team “field trips” this year to different organizations and places in our community to gain new perspectives and open our minds.

Zappos Employee Work Station
Employees are encouraged to let their personality shine through their work stations.

Yesterday was our first field trip and we were blown away. We visited the “ever-famous” Zappos!!! I know you have heard of them. They are known for their unique company environment and that is putting it mildly. We spent almost 2 hours at their corporate campus. Not only is their workspace and office environment unique but their culture has had some dramatic changes this year. I am excited to share with you something new.

I imagine 99% of you have never heard of “Holacracy.” Holacracy is new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss. So, at Zappos, there are no bosses!!! Imagine that. An employee can no longer say they have a bad boss.

Stopping by Human Resources where wild animals, hugs and recliner chairs are in abundance.
Stopping by Human Resources where wild animals, hugs and recliner chairs are in abundance.

This was such a wow moment for me as I have not come across this in my travels yet. I believe the good news about this approach is that every employee is responsible for their own job, their own success… and their own failures. The work is actually more structured than in a conventional company, just differently so.

Also, we learned that instead of having teams or departments, Zappos has “circles” according to job areas such as the Culture Guide Circle.

You might be wondering what this has to do with you and your role as an administrative assistant, secretary or executive assistant. Here are a few things:

  1. If you are going to disrupt the status quo, you have to be exposed to new ideas, fresh environments, different people and diverse places. And they are not necessarily going to just show up at your front door or desk. You have to reach out and seek, with open ears and eyes.
  2. Be inquisitive.
  3. Listen and ask questions; lots of questions. Our Culture Guide was Letha Myles and she was fabulous. She was patient with us as our team had many questions, which she gladly answered. #ZapposTour #TeamApple
  4. See things in news ways and don’t be afraid to mix things up or turn things inside and out as Zappos did by creating circles instead of having departments.
  5. Own your career. For years, I have told administrative and executive assistants to own their career; that they are responsible for their own happiness, success and failure. I have prodded assistants to be accountable and take ownership of their job.

I am very excited about Office Dynamics 23rd Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence as we are going to break the status quo. We already have talked to several speakers and experts who will be teaching our conference attendees how to think and act differently. But you don’t have to wait until October 2016 to be revolutionary. Start today just as I have challenged my team.


Pictured Above, The Office Dynamics International Team Preparing To Be Schooled by Zappos In Disruption From Left To Right: Brian Burge, Joan Burge, Tony Benach, Jasmine Freeman, Sabrina Matthews

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