September 23, 2016

In any given desk at Dixon Schwabl, you’ll find thumb drives, forgotten Tim Horton’s Roll-Up-the-Rim pieces ... maybe the occasional Rolodex. There’s something in common in most of them, too—a stack of white and red poker chips, with various initials Sharpied on their faces. We know what you’re thinking. And no, once the lights go out, DS employees don’t perform their own mashup of Fight Club and Rounders. (Oh, Ed Norton, take me away.) The impetus behind the chips is actually way cooler than the various cash denominations they represent.

We talk about collaboration a lot, about breaking down silos and bringing more people to the table. We practice it, and each time we do, we learn how much more room there is to improve. Whether it’s collaborating more with teammates in the same department, distant DS cousins who live on different floors, clients or even community partners, it’s a conversation. It’s an initiative. It’s a buzzword and it’s not altogether unique to Dixon Schwabl. Everybody’s talking about it. Some are doing it. Others are doing it well.

Whenever one DSer goes out of their way to help out another, a chip is typically given as a physical representation of gratitude. Sure, a simple “thank you” would suffice for anyone under this roof, but the idea (cooked up by the Workplace Wow Committee) is for everyone to have a cache of gratitude at their desk, in the form of these chips. The simple fact that they’re there reminds us to use them—to go a little out of our way to appreciate someone who went way out of theirs.

Chips are periodically turned in in exchange for beautifully designed DS swag, like growlers, scarves, patches and messenger bags. And that’s cool. But really, the value of the chips is in that tangible representation of something we often internally express, but sometimes struggle to put out there where it’s actually useful—gratitude.

And yes, of course it took roughly 20 seconds for plans of a chip black market to be laid out—I’ll give you all my chips for all of yours, then we can corner the market on fashionable accessories, eventually taking over the Greater Rochester scarf racket. But after that died down and chips actually started to be shared sincerely, an overwhelming spirit of appreciation took over.

What we’ve found is that chip giving isn’t limited to an obvious above-and-beyond scenario from an unexpected source. Random acts of collaboration or the simple acknowledgement of a job well done are now chip worthy. And while this may seem to devalue the chip, it hasn’t. Because the chip isn’t what’s valued—it’s the gesture.It’s nice to be thanked. It’s nice to thank others. When you have a reason to do so sitting in your drawer, it can make someone’s day (because they made yours). Then you both end up feeling like all that ... and a bag of chips.

Pete Wayner is the Content Manager, Paul Gangarossa is a PR Executive/Brand Journalist and both agree that drawing on walls is the key to creative thinking.