If you’ve seen enough renovation work, you know that a great many things hide behind walls. The most interesting finds are the signatures, notes, artifacts, and memorabilia often left by workers. I don’t mean the errant piece of trash, soda bottle, or measurement notations. I’m referring to the piece of oneself that an individual deliberately left behind.
People leave these remnants because it’s their way of leaving their mark on something where they would otherwise leave no trace. In essence, it’s their way of saying “I was here. Look what I helped to build.”
The desire to sign our work is very human and speaks to our need to create. That sprang to mind when I read a recent article about the genesis of Easter eggs in video games. While I’ve read about their origination before, the April 15 article made the subject top of mind again.
In many ways, the story of video game Easter eggs’ origin is about pushing back against standardization and its cousin, anonymization. Standardization has been of great benefit to the world — and the past 150 years are in large part a testament to the power of standardization.
Unfortunately, everything positive also has a negative corollary. Many lessons about standardization embedded in our modern era no longer serve us well.
Which brings me back to video game Easter eggs and the signatures hiding behind walls.
People crave recognition and acknowledgment of their accomplishments. This can be difficult for leaders to act upon when so much of what people do is not a “team effort” or part of an organization’s larger mission or purpose. Yet there is always an opportunity to allow people to shine and sign their work. When those opportunities are not provided, people will create their own.
So, the question for you and your organization is: Are you allowing your team to sign their work, express their individuality, and leave their mark for future generations to see?
Or are you suppressing that desire in the name of standardization and corporate policy? If so, you may be surprised to find what’s hidden within your walls.
Got a question about how to make room for signatures? Give me a call; I’m always up for a good discussion about workplace culture.