We’re in the business of making travel stress-free, and travel itself has now fundamentally changed. As we made the shift to being at home full time, it became clear very few customers would onboard onto our platform this year, and that our current customers would need our help. Adapting to our new reality required change at all levels of the organization, and while we were all working remotely for the first time. We had to create big change, in a very short period of time. We chose an unusual solution. We put a full stop to our day to day work, and the entire organization spent a week fully submerged in learning from our couches.We called it #CouchCon2020
We planned a week long, internal, fully virtual conference in a week and a half. We built technical and leadership sessions ourselves, and booked international guest speakers representing airlines, GDS systems, content providers, industry analysts, and avid travellers (thank you again!). On top of all of that, we added a 48 hour hackathon and social events.
“We had to shift our mindset, our strategy, and the way we work while really grounding ourselves in the moment we’re in. Couchcon was the starting point of recognizing and rallying around that.” - CEO, Robin Hopper
Planning, and experiencing CouchCon was an incredible moment in and of itself. What we learned as an organization in this time, will change us forever. We hope that they can inspire you to challenge old ways of working, and create rapid change for you as well.
What we’ve learned from our couches
Connection can come from unusual places
Pre covid-19, we had a very “in person” culture with the ability to work remotely, anywhere, when you wanted. The sudden change to being fully remote, left us feeling disconnected, no matter how many virtual socials we planned. For #CouchCon2020, we created a virtual office (thanks to sococo!) to inject some fun into the conference, and to ease logistics. Everyone had an avatar, could gather together, head into different meeting rooms, and chat by the virtual watercooler. Suddenly, it felt like we were side by side again. Our sense of connection returned. We’re keeping our virtual office, and now we’re even questioning whether or not we ever go back.
Creating opportunities to learn was even more important than we thought
In a time where we are all searching to stay connected we thought that the social events were going to be critical to its success. We poured our efforts into planning virtual cooking classes, trivia nights, and turning our regular gCrew casuals virtual. When we asked about highlights of the conference, the social sessions were barely mentioned. The trend we saw was that the additional insights and learning opportunities were like gold and that they want more. Nothing social that we planned beat good ol’ learning and development.
Embracing change and rethinking old structures proved to be powerful.
Our organization has been set up in 4 distinct functions, Growth, People and Culture, Finance and Delivery. For our 48 hour hackathon, we blew that up. Everyone self organized into teams of their choice to solve a problem aligned with our new strategy. Self organizing by problem to solve instead of being organized functionally was a game changer, it removed blockers in a ton of different areas. It’s fundamentally shifted how we think about creating teams.
Everyone is willing to help right now.
We were able to create an amazing experience because we asked everyone to help make it one. In a time of so much uncertainty everyone is more willing to pitch in and figure things out together. We landed major industry experts as well as saw internal team members step up with incredibly short notice. If you’re looking for some advice or help during this time - everyone else is too, start by asking.
Take the time to reset - challenge the everyday.
By any definition, CouchCon was a huge success. We have started to transform how we work as a team and it’s made us stronger as an organization. gCrew members have a new outlook, and a new license to do things differently. At the end of the week, we honestly felt like it was too good to not talk about.
See the full schedule for #couchcon2020 here.