Monday, July 09, 2012

The Belonging Sessions 005: Michael Piliero of Free Association

Free Association is a boutique digital agency in Brooklyn that partners with brands to deliver world-class digital experiences. They’re human friendly and they’re in the business of delivering experiences, not things.

I sat down with Michael Piliero, Creative Director, and posed three crucial questions about belonging.

1. Good brands are bought, but great brands are joined. Why do you think your employees join yours?

It’s a confluence of factors. First, we’re intentionally small, progressive and focused on human centered design. We have really low turnover. Second, we’re are able to create great digital products that are easy to use. I’ve had exposure to large agencies with misalignment on point of view. And I remember the question that first disrupted my thinking: “What do you really, really want to do?” Most people don’t have an answer to that question. For us, it’s driven a lot of change in the organization.       

2. The great workplaces of the world have soul. What do you do to humanize your culture? 

We have very few top down processes, strict procedures or company outings with trust falls. We keep it pretty simple. We’ve assembled an intentionally small team of unique and talented people. We eschew the layers and politics you see at most agencies. And we inject a lot of green tea and turmeric juice. Instead of playing telephone with a bunch of managers, we just let the experts directly interface with clients and run the show. That’s what clients want, but don’t get very often.                                 

3. Belonging is a basic human craving. How do you remind employees that they've found a home?

Natural human relationships are huge. And we let that happen organically between owners and staff. We also put a lot of thinking into our collective point of view and mission. That’s how we create significant positive impact in the world. That’s how we wrangle complexity together. And while our core clients are global corporations, we also do a lot of non-profit and startup work too. The nature of the impact varies, but it’s always human centered. All those factors, combined with our passion, come together to ignite the tribe. That approach, the way it takes shape, sparks the feeling of belonging – more than any human resources review would.  

Thanks Michael!

Meet the Free Association team here.