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Gratitude Small Groups

Create mini cohorts that meet monthly to be more educated on, and practice gratitude and appreciation.

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Program:  All employees of company (large or small) will be separated randomly into micro groups with about 5-6 people each. They will meet once a month and employees can take turns “leading” the group through a series of gratitude related exercises. (There will be a website with resources on gratitude related educational information and basic exercises.)

Meeting Specifics: Groups will meet for 45 mins – 1 hour and spend the time studying one element of gratitude and doing a short exercise. This short exercise is more to demonstrate a specific form of gratitude. Each month, a different person can choose which element of gratitude to focus on and which exercise to lead. Education of how gratitude/appreciation works and it’s benefits are core of this program.

Group Selection: Groups will include employees of mixed seniority and cultures. There is no hierarchy during group meetings. New employees will join a micro group at random based on space. Micro networks will stay the same throughout the employee’s employment at the company (unless there is a valid reason for creating specific groups.) There is a deliberate mix of employees from different departments.

Attendance: Group presence is mandatory (you cannot opt out of groups) but you also don’t have to participate vocally unless you are comfortable. This group is also separate from the typical relations employees may have with their peers or their supervisors. It’s a chance employees to meet people within the organization that they normally would not get to interact with.

Sample Curriculum:

  • Month 1: Topic | What is Gratitude? What is Appreciation? Read quick article from the resource website and discuss for 20-25 mins. Exercise | Go around the room and introduce yourself and talk about the one thing you’re most grateful for.
  • Month 2: Topic | What are some of the studied benefits of gratitude? Read quick article from the resource website and discuss for 20-25 mins. Exercise | Think of a person you don’t feel like you could ever be grateful for. Then think of one thing you can be grateful to that person for. Share if you are comfortable.
  • Month 3: Topic | Gratitude for the Wrong Reasons – Why it doesn’t count… Read quick article from the resource website and discuss for 20-25 mins. Exercise | Take post-it notes and write positive things about members of your group. Post them up under their name on a white board.  

Why this Idea?

Gratitude is not a one-dimensional thing. Everyone feels gratitude and appreciates things differently. Everyone also expresses gratitude and appreciation differently. By using educational tools, people can learn how to understand other people’s language of gratitude or appreciation and also learn of some methods to improve their expression of gratitude. 

Gratitude and appreciation can also be affected by many different elements of your life. For some, stress might make it more difficult to feel gratitude, while for others, stress is the one time they remember to appreciate the little things. Everyone can benefit from learning how to utilize gratitude/appreciation in a more scientific way to better their mental health and improve the work culture.

Why not 1-1 sessions with HR or other?

Micro groups work because one-on-one sessions rely too heavily on the 2 participants involved to complete the exercises the “proper way” to get a “proper result.” Small groups have been proven in many different settings (study groups, friend groups, book clubs, religious groups) to help build trust between members which leads to a deeper trust of the overall organization and a deeper connection to the work community overall. Also small groups help because everyone brings differing opinions, ideas and perspectives to the table.

Micro groups allow participants to have an intimate conversation about gratitude and personal moments of appreciation without stepping over the professional relationship line. Many different topics can be addressed based on who is leading (topics that are not appropriate for work can be outlined on the informational website mentioned above) which allow people to feel more empowered since they can choose what to discuss out in the open.

Why keep the groups the same?

Gratitude and appreciation will also be more genuine if you can form trust, and trust takes time to build. Having the same group of people meet over time will help grow relationships that will keep your organization strong. Instead of a bunch of individuals working to advance their career in a singular mentality, the micro groups will form a different type of support network that will help employees professionally. It will also open up the work world for employees that are usually focused on a single task or department. It’s also an outlet for employees to understand that they’re an important part of a whole and bring important perspective that they might not get otherwise.   

Why once a month?

Once a month was chosen because employees are busy with their day to day activities and gratitude will feel forced if weekly meetings are held. Things like thank you notes or obvious gestures of gratitude can be fun at first but become burdensome on employees over time. You may have employees that are upset because they didn’t feel as appreciated as the person next to them. There might be additional stress added to employees that feel obligated to show gratitude toward each and every person equally so it doesn’t look like they’re playing favorites. Rewarding gratitude also makes it easy for people to show gratitude for the wrong reasons which would defeat the purpose of the program over time.

Fun things you can do:

  • Micro groups can be named. 
  • Over time as people get more comfortable, they may also want to bring some home baked goods to share. 
  • Groups that have been meeting for a while can do more advanced activities & there can be more practice in application of gratitude/appreciation. 
  • If your company offers social activities or community service activities, you can bond with your group or other groups.

Idea Title

MicroGroup | MG

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

Part of the Idea is to learn how to implement the gratitude expressing tools given in the program sessions. Whether it's knowing that thank you goes a long way, or a smile of acknowledgement can literally change someone's day, employees will me more aware of gratitude and appreciation which can change behavior from the inside out.

Who are you innovating for?

The whole company can benefit from this Idea. A lot of the time people come into companies in different times under different circumstances. There is a lot of fear of being judged or critiqued because negative judgement can directly impact financial stability, happiness, and work satisfaction. These micro support groups can help people see each other from a human level and understand that gratitude is something that can be shared by everyone.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This Idea is intended to work for all organizations of all sizes. If the company is 2-5 people, your whole company can take one hour out of the month to meet and discuss something other than work, and work results. If your company is 2,000 people, you can still split the groups down to 5-6 people and implement right away.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

I think this Idea can be implemented by first creating the resource website so that everyone feels comfortable with the material and topics. Management should lead the first few sessions and possibly meet once for a brief overview and mini session before implementing so that they are all on the same page. Every organization can choose how exactly they want to implement the Idea. As long as the groups are educational and focus on implementing gratitude techniques, everything else can be customized to best fit the particular organization's culture.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

One obstacle might be when the Idea is first implemented. People can be shy at first, especially if they are asked to share personal stories in front of peers and colleagues. To help ease groups into a more comfortable zone, the first few sessions can focus on mostly education with minimal personal exercises.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

I would test this by first prototyping a very simple website with enough topics and activities to cover 24 months worth of sessions. Feedback can be collected through brief surveys sent to employees who are participating. Feedback would include what elements of the session are working and what is not.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

The first step would be to create the resource website. This site should have the most up-to-date info on gratitude and appreciation, studies done, benefits shown, etc. (Mentoring orgs. will be key to get the best info.) Reading formats should be simple and easy to understand for the majority of people, with links to more complicated data and info if people want to learn more. Everyone should be able to easily participate. Groups can be formed and begin the program almost immediately after.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

This is an individual idea - I came across this site and this challenge randomly and was immediately intrigued. I have always wanted to find ways to bring employees and teams closer together without breaching personal boundaries because I think it makes work a more productive and enjoyable place.

Tell us about yourself

I am a UX/UI/Product designer working at a startup in an office with over 20 people. I also do marketing, data analytics, and product management which allows me to work across teams (dev, design, and executive.)

Where are you / your team located?

New York, NY

Tell us about your experience

I am a mix of many different things - I started in the music business industry and worked in sales and marketing. I ended up working on technology and enjoying it so much that I'm a full time lead product designer at TRN Technologies in New York City. I have worked in many different companies of all sizes; from corporate to 4 people startups. I have also worked in the licensing, beauty, hospitality, health and fitness industries.

Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

I would test to see if this method works by periodically using the small group sessions to get feedback. Feedback can come in the form of quick 3-5 question surveys or discussions during the small group. You can see if it's working by measuring employee gratitude overall. Feedback will always be welcome and can be collected anonymously through an email (of the small group leader) or during the discussion. Companies can see if it's working by measuring the overall satisfaction of employees in general. The material can also be scrutinized to make sure that it's relevant and helpful for people.

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

One of the best parts about this idea is that it doesn't need a lot of resources to scale the idea. A company with 10 employees or a 5,000 can use this idea. The more people participate, the easier it will be to refine the educational information and content driving these meetings. Feedback of this program from several companies can be collected and used to help better the educational tools and experiences in the future. If there is enough interest, a larger organization can be created as a resource to any company who wants to start this program. All of the basic rules, educational materials and methods of how to organize the small groups can be given to whomever is in charge in the company of implementing this program.

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

Having these small groups allow people to choose whether or not they want to participate or not. There is no forcing of gratitude or mandated exercises that people need to complete even if they are not genuinely grateful. By educating people, they are given the right tools to choose to show gratitude when they truly mean it.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

These small groups are designed to create real human connections between a group of people that may not normally have a chance to meet or be connected. Meeting on a monthly basis creates familiarity and trust between the participating members of the group. As more meetings happen, a deeper connection is created which is something that is usually very rare in a work setting.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

The employees and the company will both benefit together. Everyone who participates in this program will benefit because it's a way for every to get involved on the same level. There is minimal technology necessary for the interaction and the focus is more on human-to-human connection and learning what gratitude means for other people. If the employees benefit, the company will also benefit as a result.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

The prize funding would be used to help create educational tools to get this program started. Bringing together reading materials, research, and lesson "plans" will take some time and resources. It would not need a lot to get started however.


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