For the first 54 pages of Delivering Happiness I could have been reading about any Silicon Valley 24 year-old entrepreneur with a success under his belt. The next 189 pages WOWed me. This isn't just CEO Tony Hsieh's story, but rather a transparent look at Zappos through thick and thin, and what the company has learned along the way. Many CEOs tell their stories after the fact. Tony Hsieh and Zappos tell their story as it develops. From Twitter (@Zappos, @dhbook) to the CEO/COO blog, I've had the chance to follow the story for a while (hiring & on-boarding, marriage to Amazon, starting a movement).

With Delivering Happiness, I feel like I'm getting to play a part. I see the questions the Zappos community asks itself and I want to reply. This is more than transparency. This is engagement. The folks at Zappos engage with their:

  • customers - a hallmark, see p. 145 describing their call center approach
  • vendors - see p. 187 where Fred Mossler describes how they came to give the same info to vendors as they do to their buyers
  • future hires - they're working on this one, but they want to build relationships, beginning with college freshmen, leading to internships and possible hires (p. 199)
  • job candidates - the incredibly interactive interview process includes questions like "If it was your first day on the job at Zappos and your task was to make the interview/recruiting process more fun, what would you do for those eight hours?" (See Christa F.'s story starting on p. 169)
  • employees - for example, open town hall meetings, the value put on recognizing/knowing fellow employees (the login-in "Face Game" and even how the building entrances are set up, p. 150), and the famed Culture Book (p. 134).

The Culture Book: During drinks at a local bar (a common form of Zappos engagement), Tony asked the group to talk about the Zappos culture for the benefit of a new hire who was with them. As they finished telling their stories, they realized that story-telling was an amazing way to bring the culture to life. Thus began the Culture Book. Every year employees are asked to send an email describing the culture in 100-500 words. This (unedited, except for typos) material is published in a book they give to prospective employees, vendors, and via request (yes, I have one!). The process isn't just about building the book and documenting the culture. It's an open-ended way of interacting with the employees and has resulted in other changes, including a monthly newsletter response to emails that "Ask Anything."

This level of engagement is raising the bar for all of us. Zappos has approximately 10 million customers. That's 10 million people who see what engagement can be like. True to their values, Zappos isn't trying to hoard the insights that lead to this engagement -- Zappos would like us all to join the Delivering Happiness Movement:

Over the next several months, the site will evolve to become a place for you to read and share your own stories about Delivering Happiness, passion and purpose, in business or in life. In time, we hope this site will become a place people can play a part and learn about the ongoing movement of delivering happiness to ourselves and one another.

I think they're on to something. I've said that transparency is the concept of the quarter, and I'm thinking that that if we talk about transparency and engagement we may have the concept of the decade. I'll return to these ideas in a post on June 7 (release date for Delivering Happiness). I'm looking forward to thinking more about the impact the Zappos experience can have through the book release and the continued growth of Zappos Insights. ---- I've based this blog on an advance copy of Delivering Happiness, so please note that the page numbers may shift a bit in the final version. Bloggers, here's the link to request your own advance copy.