The definition of an ‘Open Mic’.

Noun

1. ... To be honest with you, I didn’t know what an ‘Open Mic’ day was. So what do you do when you don’t want to look like a failing millennial? You Google it! Google told me that it was a live show in a coffeehouse, nightclub or a pub somewhere that amateur people performed their chosen talents.

a. And it turns out Google was sort of... kind of... right.

2. So as the days drew closer to discovering what the entirety of an ‘Open Mic’ day was, I became more an more interested in why I was so freaked out about taking part in this team day. Maybe because of the following:

a. Open Mic day occurred on my second month of full-time employment.
b. I was still getting to know where I stood as a member of the team/family.
c. I was working al ong side some incredibly talents design peeps.

There were days that would pass where a comment or idea was thrown out as if it was a passing comment, but not for me, so I was taking down some serious mental notes to later Google on my lunch break to try and figure out what is was that we were actually going to be doing.

Here is what I knew:

a. The team was going to create something.
b. We had a time limit of 1 day.

That was it.

Adjective

  1. The day arrived, and yeah, I was well prepared with the little information I had, and concluded that Google could help me if all else failed on my creative side. So as the morning brainstorm began, we started expressing our ideas of what we were going to create, and what seemed like a disadvantage at the time ended in the following — create a Jaxzyn zine without the use of technology.

  2. Man, was I confused... A zine? I honestly couldn’t even comprehend what the word even meant, and well, Google wasn’t going to be able to help me, as technology was now out of the picture.

a. So yeah, I was so not ready.

3. The questions started rolling around in my head as others were finding humour in calling the zine a ‘JAXZINE’. Which meant it was time to ask the question — “Hey Guys, what exactly is a zine?”

a. for those who are like myself... It turns out a zine is a small magazine that is filled with creative ideas around a topic or train of thought, often delivered as a A5 booklet in black and white.

Verb

1. Once the team explained the whole zine thing, we all headed out to the People Mover* to travel over to a near by inspirational place called ‘The Dust Temple’.

a. And because my ability to describe something isn’t great, here is their website: www.dusttemple.com.au

2. Our regular coffee orders arrived as we began to discuss all the different elements that we would create to go into the zine. For some context, they ended up being ideas around all the things we do at Jaxzyn (e.g. How to brew Buddha’s Tears, where to park, how to cook like Jen, how to get free muffins, and much more...)

3. We then selected the ones we wanted to help create, teamed up, and went to find a place to discuss how we were going to present our topics in the zine without the use of technology. First up... Buddha’s Tears.

4. Jen and I were tasked with creating a 2 page spread for Buddha’s Tears. It started with the big ideas, like the journey of how Buddha cried, and displaying how much each tear costs to both your pocket and the child who rolled the tea leaf.

a. So I don’t know about you but when I have little confidence in what I am about to say, I like to pass it off as a funny joke to see if anyone actually thinks it’s a good idea.. Yeah it’s not a great habit, and Open Mic day helped me to see why.

b. Hint... it’s perfectionism, as it is the main cause of my lack of confidence... which was a trait that was fast removed when we got back to the office.

5. As we got back to the office to start bringing these ideas to life we soon realised that it was more difficult than we first thought. So I just grabbed the tea pot and started to brew the tea. Jen pulled the leaves out at each stage and displayed them on paper, and then we scanned it. We thought to add some writing and realised that our handwriting wasn’t great. So we walked next door to the massage lady who knew how to write in Chinese, and wrote 'Buddha’s Tears' and the brewing method for us in her language. We scanned the writing and the unravelled stages of leaves together, and BAMMMMM... the most elegant 2 spread page of the zine was created.

a. It wasn’t until this stage that I realised that the ideas in the first stage are really just teasers for the ideas that you get along the way. I discovered that perfectionism is created over time and often needs to be refined over and over... It was kind of my aha moment.

6. We then swapped and repeated the process with another team mate until 5pm where we put together what we now call our beautiful ‘JAXZINE Issue No 1 - June 2017’.

Ok, if you haven’t realised by now I was trying to be all creative by giving a ‘definition’ of an Open Mic day through the format of what a definition looks like on Google? Get it?... Yeah ok, I’ll stop.

In the end I finally understood what an Open Mic Day was... It was a time to recognise the small things like feeling comfortable to ask a silly question, or jumping into a car with your work mates to feel like a family, or just being a part of producing a final product that you thought was impossible to create. And also recognising the big things like the journey of perfectionism... oh and finding out how useful technology really is! No really, I’m serious.

After all that, if you are still unsure on what our final product looks like, there’s some photos below.

Talk to you soon... Jess

* The People Mover is Timothy’s car. It’s big, white, and can move people.

Co-creating cultural artifacts

At Jaxzyn, Open Mic is a biannual tradition. By tradition, I mean that we’ve done it at least once before but intend to do it again, which puts it onto a long list of esteemed Jaxzyn traditions including Burger Friday (RIP), Acai Thursday, Huddles ✎, Carpark Parties, Tim’s Toolbox Talks, The MoMoMe ☑︎, The Happiness Wall ☺︎, Board Meetings ✌︎, Can You Kick-off? ☞, and Tea Time ☕︎.

You might be familiar with Open Mic as it’s more commonly known: FedEx Day. As far as I know, Atlassian first popularised the concept of developing and shipping a product overnight with 24 hour coding events that encouraged their people to brainstorm, prototype, and pitch their own ideas. It’s since become a tech start-up staple for sparking innovation.

Our version is a little different. Instead of 24 hour delivery, we set our time limit for a far more civilised 8 hour work day. We’re also a little less focused on the end result, and more interested in the process of creation. It’s a chance to try new techniques and mediums, explore, experiment, learn, and make something without the usual commercial constraints. I can’t remember exactly why we named it Open Mic. Probably the parallel with bravely putting yourself out there with equal possibility of fame or failure. Failure mostly, TBH.

In our previous Open Mic (by previous I mean the first and only other one) we split into two groups. One team with set about creating a stop motion video to celebrate ‘the few who move the many’. The other group set out to simplify the process of how waves form.

This time around, we all came together to create a zine ✄ from concept to production, with one devious caveat — no technology allowed. Yep, no internet, no computers, no phones, no cameras — just five brains, ten arms, and a photocopier. The content was inspired by typical things that make up our worklife at Jaxzyn.

After squandering several hours eating pastries under the pretence of a brainstorming session, we split into groups of two to develop content. At around 1pm we figured we should probably start making something.

This is where the real fun began. By fun, I really mean trauma. Over the next four hours I witnessed everyone go through what can best be described as a technology-deprivation grief cycle. Questions were left frustratingly unGoogled, and adrift in a maelstrom of glue sticks, scalpels, and collaged elements, perfectionism was quickly abandoned, and all hopes of a reasonable-looking end result were jettisoned. There was anger, there was denial, there was depression, and there was certainly an embarrassing amount of bargaining (“Maybe we could use the internet once, just to work out how this bloody photocopier works…”). How many Gen X’s does it take to use a photocopier? ⚐

Finally though, there was acceptance. And the way the team worked through unfamiliar challenges together, and the creativity that emerged, was far more glorious to behold than the end result. Best of all, it was done without regard for role — creative, strategic, admin — it didn’t matter one bit. Heck, Nadeen, our finance and administration officer, scored the coveted centre spread with her striking illustration of Angry Horse / Neutral Face Horse. Special mention also to new Jaxzynite, Jess, who threw herself headlong into uncertainty like a veteran (read about her experience here).

Unlike the parent with the unfortunate-looking baby, I’ll be the first to admit that the final product might kindly be described as naïve, realistically labelled as crude, and if you’re particularly heartless, you might even call it ugly. But beyond the benefits of the process — it’s only in hindsight that I realised we’d inadvertently co-created a wonderful cultural artifact through a collaborative cultural experience.

We have a Jaxzyn culture book. It has all the typicals — vision, mission, values, and maxims. It looks nice. It’s written well. Ahhh, but this magnificent monstrosity inspires so many other possibilities…

Culture, vision, mission and values will always originate at, and filter down from leadership. Great leaders demonstrate these values and behaviours, communicate them effectively, and find and foster them in their people. But there’s something interesting in the idea of a co-created cultural artefact. Especially when an experience brings people together to live the organisational values and produce something that means something to them — an interpretation of culture that could never have come from leadership or corporate comms. Something that they have ownership over.

For us, this zine perfectly encapsulated our lead value: Creative Ideation. It also encompassed a swag of our maxims: Better by Design, Relentless Enthusiasm, We Fly our Banner Proud, and Capable of the Most Magnificent Failure. Ugly, perhaps, but also a remarkably accurate snapshot of life and culture at Jaxzyn.

What could your co-created cultural artifact be?

The Jaxzine. Revel in it's unashemed ugliness. Such creative though. So cultural, also.

✎ Huddles: rapid-fire morning meetings where everyone declares 3 intentions for the day.

☑︎ MOnday MOrning MEeting: an extended version of the huddle that includes 3 weekly goals for each person, and a comprehensive breakdown of weekend activities.

☺︎ The Happiness Wall: All new recruits add 20 photos of things that make them happy to the wall. A less bestial way of peeing on the tree, as well as sharing interests and establishing commonalities with the rest of the team.

✌︎ Board Meetings: lunchtime surfs.

☞ Can You Kick-off?: Kick-off meeting at the start of a new project, heralded by the sounding of A Tribe Called Quest’s 90’s hip hop anthem, Can I Kick It? We most certainly can, and do.

☕︎ Tea Time: Began with Buddha’s Tears, an aptly named tisane because of the tears Buddha must’ve cried when he was told how much 50g of his delicious tear-duct juices cost. Replaced with Russian Caravan for budgetary reasons.

✄ Zine: A magazine/fanzine. Typically a small-circulation, self-published, handmade or illustrated publication using low-fi reproduction like a photocopier.

⚐ Five.

🤔🤗😵 (Q1 2017)

A spirited exploration into the emotions of curiosity, anticipation, and surprise, and how we can use them to foster engagement, facilitate learning, change behaviours, and build better employee experiences. Along the way we’ll wallow briefly in a guilty pleasure, cast aspersions on the intelligence of infants, and talk conspiracies and inappropriate human-extraterrestrial relations. Don’t operate heavy machinery because you’ll literally be high as a kite before you’re halfway though. That’s not a promise, it’s a guarantee. Curious? That’s only natural. Come, let's sate your voracious cognitive appetite…

Head on over to One Slash Four