My husband and I found ourselves needing some coffee and half an hour’s worth of shelter on Old Street this last weekend. He’s a cycling type so the first place he thought of was Look Mum No Hands. We found it looking like the staff had carried out a trolley dash in the Disney Princesses aisle at Toys R Us. The Giro d’Italia would be on later on in the day, and Alberto Contador would be confirmed as the winner of the maglia rosa, and thus all the pink. Alberto might be more of a fan of bunting than I am.
While waiting for my coffee I was flicking through the flyers left on the counter. Everything was pretty much as you’d expect: green film festivals, bespoke bike makers, exciting new black cycling jerseys with words on them that the other jerseys don’t have, season leaflets for theatres on the other side of town. I picked one of them up and pushed it under my husband’s nose. It was advertising corporate events at the Lee Valley Velodrome. He nodded and mumbled something, again, about cycling being the new golf. I didn’t understand: how are you supposed to network while you’re whizzing round on a single-speed bike at 45 degrees from upright? No, no, he explained. You probably have drinks after, and talk about all the amazing times you’ve set and how the boss looked like the last bike he’d ridden had three wheels and now let’s have a quick chat about the deal.
I thought about this. I’m – how shall I say this without it sounding self-loathing? – not someone you would mistake for a track cyclist. I am far wobblier than Victoria Pendleton, both in my manner of riding bicycles but also bits of me wobble a fair amount when I walk. I was overcome with empathy for an imaginary male middle-aged middle-manager who didn’t want to do this but had been told it’d be top bants and so couldn’t say so. I could see him with his greying hair and his paunch spoiling the aerodynamic effect of his skin suit, having to walk around in clicky-clacky shoes on the wooden track, feeling daft. I know really that many offices are lousy with people who think a weekend without a triathlon is no weekend at all. In the last place I worked a terrible spell had been cast over all the men and they were unable to go a day past their 35th birthday without setting out to run a half-marathon.
Still, there has to be a kinder way, and I know what it is. Corporate knitting events. Hear me out.
You see, the thing about all of these terrible Scout camp activities for office workers is that they prize competition and adrenalin. My experience is less of these things would be good for your office. I worked occasionally with people who would disdain planning ahead because they really enjoyed the sense of terror and freedom that came from not having the first clue what they were going to do. The thing that made this so enervating was that generally they didn’t have responsibility for everything that might capsize in their wake. Meanwhile, competition might be great externally but internally, within and across teams, it’s a horror and you know how Enron ended up the way it did, don’t you?
Knitting, meanwhile, will teach you:
- Attention to detail
- Teamwork, as you work together to decipher “P1, k2tog, yo, k1, [k4, p1, yo, k3tog, k1, ssk, yo, m1p, k2tog, m1p, yo, k3tog, k1, ssk, yo, p1, k4, m1k], four times, yo, ssk, p2tog.”
- The ability to multi-task (sort of, if watching television or gossiping is your secondary task)
- That some mistakes don’t matter, some do, and the more you do it the better you are at telling the difference
- That making any mistake really doesn’t matter as long as you fix it.
- That you will survive long boring things (garter stitch scarves/team meetings) and you might even learn something while doing it
- That you can plan and measure and plot and sometimes it still doesn’t work; putting effort into something to see it fail is not the end of the world and normally something can be salvaged.
- that as long as there’s been people, we’ve been making things and whether those things are project reports or your dinner or baby booties, the more things you know how to make, the more at home you are in the world.
I’m not a total idiot. I know that the list above won’t have immediately convinced many people, and so I’m going to address my marketing challenges in part 2.