What Brings You Joy?

As questions go – at first glance this seems an unusual one to ask people at work, at least it does to me. We often refrain from linking such expressive language to the person in the workplace, for example it might be alright to talk about how much you love:

  • Your job
  • This latest app
  • Those shoes

But dare to express love for another person, and you can imagine that the next steps of that conversation will involve a stern talking to from HR. Maybe the L word is a bridge too far for work, so for the time being I will retreat to the comparatively safer territory of joy.

What Brings You Joy?

I’ve wanted to ask this question of people more and more lately, and occasionally I’ve managed to ask it out loud, though it’s usually followed immediately by something more tepid like ‘You know, what do you like to do?’ No sooner have I uttered the question than I’m withdrawing to what I perceive to be a safer (more boring?) place. A few days ago I was facilitating a group of people gathered from across the world, and my brief was simple. Help this group get to know each other better and encourage them to work in teams. In under two hours. I had initially thought we might play ‘What’s My Thing?’ but as I stood with this group of enthusiastic people, I decided to go a little further.

Draw for the Bin

After an initial exploration of drawing for the bin, instead of playing What’s My Thing? I invited the group to explore ‘What Brings You Joy?’ I did not seek to explain the question any further. In small groups, people talked about the question, illustrated the question and then told stories about their responses to the question.

This flipagram slideshow is a very brief look at what the group cocreated. I hope it conveys a hint of the energy, enthusiasm and yes, the joy in the room. After the session the group decided to mount all the pictures at their global HQ and send copies out to whoever in the group wanted them.

I’m glad I got past my own reluctance about using the word joy in a work context as it’s very often these little tweaks that make the big differences. What is it you really want to ask people and how might you frame it in a way that elicits a more engaged, useful and human response?


Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *