The Zappos quarterly “all hands” meeting ended just before 4:30 p.m. with CEO Tony Hsieh telling the 52 workers brave enough to lead various “Open Space” chat sessions that they could keep the company laptops they used to take notes.
Then after the Oprah moment, 1,500 Zapponians — as Zappos staffers are called — left the Cashman Center theater for a Zappos happy hour that consisted of free booze, beer, finger foods and roller skating next door inside a big, open hall with a disco ball in the center of the makeshift roller rink.
Welcome to Zappos, where Hsieh oversees a company that likes to “create fun and a little weirdness,” according to a meeting fact sheet.
The Zappos staff meeting is a four-times-a-year rite, with Hsieh serving as master of ceremonies. In all, about 2,000 people, including workers with Hsieh’s Downtown Project and assorted guests, filled the Cashman, theater main level and balcony on Wednesday. Downtown Project is Hsieh’s $350 million downtown redevelopment initiative.
At this afternoon gathering, Hsieh introduced a program called “Open Space,” which encouraged 52 workers to come to a microphone and offer a headline for an issue, topic or concern.
About 15 minutes later in the hall next to the theater, all 52 were leading sessions on those topics, ranging from four-day work weeks, downtown homelessness, women in leadership to sense of entitlement, single mom’s club, and emerging tech and innovation.
Zappos planned to download the sessions’ notes from the laptops and wanted to distribute the info in two days, Hsieh told the audience.
The online shoes and clothing company, headquartered at the old Las Vegas City Hall building in downtown, is known for its casual business style and youthfulness. The average staffer age is 35.
And they’re encouraged to speak up. Like one worker named Joey, who introduced his name this way to the 2,000 theater visitors when explaining his Open Space topic: “I’m Joey, like a baby kangaroo.”
The Open Space program was designed to draw comments from Zappos workers. Some of the sessions drew only one or two people, such as the single mom’s club gathering. Others, like the women’s leadership session, had about two dozen women staffers in a circle.
Open Space was ruled by the “law of two feet,” that is, “taking responsibility for what you love. At its heart is a foot of passion and a foot of responsibility.”
After the 52 sessions, the Zapponians re-assembled in the theater and were invited to ask Hsieh follow-up questions.
One staffer asked, “What do we expect from this?”
Hsieh explained he can’t address all 52 concerns, but they will be digested by the company.
“This was an experiment,” he told the audience.
A few minutes later, Hsieh said he appreciated the 52 workers who were willing to come up with the Open Space topics, take notes and lead the sessions.
“The laptops are yours to keep,” he told the 52.
Minutes later, the workers left the theater to enjoy happy hour, drink beer, eat buffalo meat balls and lace up the roller skates.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.