CHAPTER 28The Importance of Workplace Rituals

“In the midst of an assembly that is full of life and activity, sensations are felt, and emotions are awakened in the individual that are unknown in private life. These new impressions come to him not only from the very fact of the gathering, but also from the special practices that are followed on these occasions.”

—Emile Durkheim

At Stickyeyes, a U.K.-based marketing agency, the completion of every successful project is marked by the project lead hitting a gong. With a Nerf gun. Their head of Design & Development, Andy Duke, explains the intention behind the ritual: “We found a common problem within design teams is the temptation to jump straight into the next project as soon as one ends. We wanted to create a culture that encouraged designers to take time, reflect, and enjoy the successful end of a project.”1

Hitting the gong is not exactly a habit at Stickyeyes. It’s a ritual. What's the difference? While both are done “habitually,” they're actually quite different. Habits tend to have a raison-d’être that is derived from the action itself. We brush our teeth to have good dental hygiene. We do a crossword puzzle each week to keep our mind sharp. A ritual is different—a ritual transcends the end result and holds an underlying meaning. When I hit a gong with a Nerf gun, I'm not just shooting the gong for the sake of it or to improve my aim. I'm celebrating a job well done.

Due to their respective natures, habits tend to be ...

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