Their Zappos Insights website is a great source for discovering how Zappos is Zappos and how to take some of their ideas into your own organization -- but now they've gone beyond anything I've ever seen.
As I type this post, they are publically live webcasting their all-hands meeting! Quoting from one of the other people watching the webcast (we have a great Twitter window that auto-tags our comments), "@moniquereece: Zappos does it again-check out the new level of transparency." I came in during keynote speaker Chip Conley's talk (CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and author of PEAK). It became clear that employees of the Bellagio Hotel (site of the all-hands) were also in the audience. Note that Chip Conley's company does not own the Bellagio: this was invited transparency within an industry.
The next segment was a mass brainstorming. The audience, including friends and family, broke into 52 groups (this is Las Vegas), brainstormed for 10 minutes and wrote their ideas on tablecloths. The video crew asked Chip what he thought about the brainstorming activity. His response, "The executives realize that the best ideas are not in the executive suites." ...and given Zappos welcoming friends and family to the brainstorming, I think they also realize the best ideas can come from outside the company walls.
As a facilitator I was torn about the tablecloths... I usually recommend online brainstorming, even for face to face groups, so that the ideas can be saved, sorted, searched, etc. When I heard about the tablecloths I thought it was a great way to signal the value put on the ideas -- much higher than just a flip-chart. But then it got better: The video folks hinted to the virtual audience that the tablecloths are destined to become a quilt of ideas!
Well done Zappos. I'm off to class with great new examples of the varied forms of social media and the role they can play in innovation.