As a doctoral researcher from St Andrews University, I was fortunate enough to accompany Scott & Fyfe in their journey to becoming a truly innovative company. Since November 2014, I have been coming into the office three days a week, taking on the role as a ‘fly on the wall’ (not a nasty one, of course) and observing how employees go about their daily affairs. My activities have ranged from engaging informally in conversations, asking endless (and probably at times somewhat dull and annoying) questions about their working lives, attending meetings and conducting scientific interviews. Without putting you to sleep my thesis examines a variety of things, primarily however I attend to working practices and how people work together in collaboration.
I experienced Scott & Fyfe as a fascinating place. I was amazed by the way the physical appearance of the innovation space facilitated creativity and collaboration. Every POD (business unit) has a designated space within the innovation space, equipped with whiteboards and flipcharts – a homeport of sorts. As is conventional wisdom, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Here, meetings and creative sessions such as brainstorms etc. are conducted. Because each POD has its own space, one doesn’t have to wipe out all that’s been accomplished at the whiteboard during the meeting. Instead, people leave it on, returning to it later as a group or on their own and continue where they left off.
Because Scott & Fyfe work in cross-functional teams, the collective is overly emphasised. I found this to facilitate knowledge sharing and impact greatly on leadership. ‘No one person has all the answers’ I was told frequently. People therefore are encouraged to step up to challenge conventional wisdom and routine (the nemesis of innovation), share new ideas or offer better insight. More often than not, the person best equipped to make a judgement call, instead of the person who may chair a certain meeting guides future actions. At any rate, I experienced Scott & Fyfe as a democratic environment where all people have a stake in the game for better or for worse.
Speaking of environment, I’m lacking words to describe the atmosphere at Scott & Fyfe. ‘Pleasant’ might be an understatement. I was welcomed astonishingly warmly from day one, and despite being a stranger encountered no reservations whatsoever. This may be the opportunity to extend a huge thank you to all employees who made my time so enjoyable and particularly those who endured the agony of me asking endlessly ‘may I record this meeting?’, ‘would you agree to another interview?’, and ‘what is the meaning of this that and the next thing?’ I don’t think I can say it enough, so thank you Scott & Fyfe, I hope you will have another 150 prosperous years ahead of you!