Employee Engagement: Honeybees offer a new handle for Starbucks
…and even if bees had revealed to us nothing more than those mysterious flashes of brilliance in the all-powerful night it would be sufficient for us not to regret the time spent in studying their economy and humble customs which are so far removed from, and yet so close to, our great passions and proud destinies. Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of Bees, (1901)
The buzz. I believe we need to offer more white space in our organizations with employees and customers to help us create both our organizations and our brands. Our customers and our employees may surprise us with their innovations, even more than a community of honeybees given one week to work with the new open logo of the Starbucks cup. We need to look carefully at the the physical and experiential invitational structures we create in organizations to foster collaboration, co-creation, and community with our employees and customers.
White space invitation. This summer, as part of a three year project working with honeybees and learning lessons for engagement, co-creation, artistry, branding, social media, and community leadership, I invited honeybees to co-create a Starbucks cup in their hive. I was interested in how they might respond to the new white space of the logo change and to see if they would “work” with the mug. Click on the image above to see a full size version of this picture.
Starbuck Tall (2010). Last year I also gave the honeybees a Starbucks mug, Starbucks Tall (2010), to work with and they created a little froth around the top of the mug. The mug had been in the hive a lot longer than Starbucks Handle (2011) but there was little engagement with the mug. Could this be because of the old logo not offering a chance for the worker or customer to interact with the expanded white space of the logo?
White space. As Starbucks moves Onward they changed their logo and created white space around their iconic image by removing the outer circle and the words Starbucks and coffee. They realize in the age of engage that brands are not what we say they are but what our employees and customers say about us. Brands are much greater than a logo. The new logo seems to open up the mug and invite the customers or the bees to reinterpret or reinvent the mug or their experience.
Honeybees put a new handle on Starbucks. The bees created their own handle for the mug, forsaking the original handle on the mug. I thought they would fill in some of the space of the handle yet the bees created a mirror handle a few centimeters away. The bees did not just fill the empty space they created an innovative grasp of the mug. Their handle was filled with honeycomb construction that oozed sweet honey. Perhaps the bee baristas were creating their own drink of sticky honey coffee with an edible handle customers could munch on. The honeybees also designed their handle to stretch below the mug so that it can perches at the end of a table.
Brand Champions. Employees can be the everyday brand champions and these worker bees in Starbuck certainly championed a new experiential architecture of the coffee mug. I appreciate the work of Ian P. Buckingham on Brand Champions. Here is a statement from his book that resonates with the worker bees and their engagement with the cup:
Employees are the brand custodians. It’s an often forgotten point but their engagement with the brand is actually discretionary. It can’t be forced or faked. Even though the fate of all brands undoubtedly rests upon the relationship between the organization and its employees.
A towering fill. What I found inspiring was how the bees filled the inside of the mug. They worked around the inside of the mug and created an even layer of honeycomb to line the inside. What was truly remarkable and makes this an iconic piece for my project was the structure they built from the bottom of the mug to the top.
A Gaudi Structure or Petronas Tower. It is quite fascinating to witness the community architecture of honeybees. The middle of the cup resembles one of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur or the magnificent architecture Antonio Gaudi used for his buildings in Barcelona, especially Sagrada Família. Guadi had a fascination with the construction design and capabilities of honeybees and workers are still creating his towering church in Barcelona. In addition, the tower inside the Starbucks cup rises to the top of the cup and has a small section that connects it to the side of the cup similar to the sky bridge connecting the Petronas towers or the connections Gaudi used in his cathedral.
But man does not create… he discovers. ~ Antonio Gaudi
Co-created work, brands, and organizations. The efforts of our work is co-created and requires a good dose of artistry to balance our metrics and measurements. Ultimately, we need to look at the world in new ways, think differently inside our hives, and respect and learn from the world of the small. As we act on these learnings we begin to transform our organizations into authentic communities.
Coffee with a little bit of honey, anyone?
David Zinger, M.Ed., is an expert on employee engagement and an amateur on bee engagement. His central hive online is the 4200+ member Employee Engagement Network. David’s 3 year ZingHIVE project involves co-creating engagement and artistry with honeybees culminating in a social media mingle with the honeybees in 2012 to offer new lenses for our ways of working and social organization while increasing awareness and support to help honeybees overcome colony collapse disorder. He is fighting the temptation to pour a cup of coffee in the mug and fully experience the sweetness of Starbucks Handle (2011).