OrthogoPalooza: A Culture of Community and Camaraderie

Adam Pertman

By Adam Pertman President, Myriad Strategic Partners

Every other Friday for the past nine months, Orthogonal employees have gotten together – mostly on Zoom, of course – to engage in a very different kind of team meeting. That is, they don’t just talk shop and report to one another on whatever they’ve been doing since the last time they met. Research pretty clearly casts doubt on the value of such narrow, all-business discussions – and none of us need research to know that we all attend too many of those kinds of (usually boring and too-long) meetings.

So, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python: Now for something completely different! The Orthogonal folks call it OrthogoPalooza1, it’s one way they’re working to institutionalize “learning,” ”inspiring” and “fun” as integral parts of the company’s corporate culture. It’s also an approach that they clearly hope more companies everywhere will think about, borrow from, or simply steal to make it their own.

In short, for about an hour, OrthogoPalooza is an ever-shifting combination of project show-and-tell, training, corporate updates, brainstorming, welcoming of new staff, contests and schmoozing. Let’s just say the meetings move quickly from segments that are thoughtful, professional and illuminating, to funny and interesting moments that blend high-brow cultural references (e.g., European history factoids) and pop culture (e.g., Terminator jokes, Mardi Gras references and a critique of the movie soundtrack for Mortal Kombat).

Lest I forget to mention it, there’s sometimes food and drink involved here, too, such as the Orthogonal Staff Zooming through Summer 2020: Great Work & Margaritas, sometimes provided by the participants themselves and sometimes brought to their door by the firm. The hope is that in the near future, as it becomes safe to do so, more people will filter into their Chicago offices and those live biweekly events that are a hybrid of online and in-person are finally around the corner.

Orthogonal-collage-scaled

This year I’ve had the opportunity to provide consulting to Orthogonal on content development, and I actually asked if I could write this blog. I’ve worked for and led a variety of organizations in my career, including working as a journalist with the Boston Globe and leading a major national child welfare think tank. Over the course of my career, I’ve had good luck getting an inside view of many different organizations and their cultures.   

As an outsider and newbie who is now a fan, I see something in Orthogonal that I think is worth calling out, that distinguishes this rapidly growing firm, and that we can therefore learn from. In short, from my experience working inside Orthogonal, it’s clear that its leadership recognizes the need for companies to bring their employees together regularly for a host of business reasons, but also to simultaneously build interpersonal relationships, staff cohesion and, hopefully, to earn passion, engagement and loyalty from employees. Indeed, those aspects of corporate culture can be as important to the success of an enterprise as almost any decision that’s related to the organizational processes they implement or the products they produce.

What do you think? Is your firm doing anything comparable? Or maybe something completely different that others can learn from and emulate? Please send an email to Randy Horton (rhorton@orthogonal.io), their VP of Solutions and Partnerships to share your experience and your thoughts. And to learn more about Orthogonal, including job opportunities, so you can also participate in OrthogoPalooza, go to orthogonal.io.

About the Author

Adam Pertman is a highly respected national communications and strategy consultant, which pays the bills for his true passion as a national leader, author and advocate for progressive, evidence-based child welfare policies and practices. His consulting firm’s website is www.myriadsp.com, and his nonprofit’s site is www.ncap-us.org. To learn more or to engage Adam to assist your business, email apertman@myriadsp.com.

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1To fact check myself, the meeting is officially called the Orthogonal All-Staff Bi-Weekly Palooza. (The meeting was named in honor of Lollapalooza, in part because Randy Horton worked on the very first Lollapalooza tour in 1991  in a summer intern, and in part because Lollapalooza is now put on every year in Chicago, close to Orthogonal’s office.) Since attending the first meeting, I’ve been lobbying Randy to rename it OrthogoPalooza, which I think is more catchy and worthy of the name for such a great series of company gatherings. My hope is that this blog post helps my (better) OrthogoPalooza name catch on as a fait-accompli.

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