FISH! – A Philosophy of Team Work

FISH! is a philosophy that people around the world are implementing in workplaces and educational facilities to help foster fun and teamwork in their business. This philosophy is interesting and has been

successful. The founders Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen pulled together to create three books on teamwork which are named Fish!, Fish! Sticks and Fish! Tales. In these books they give pointers and tell stories of how making work fun and working as a team creates success. (Lundin, Paul, & Christensen, 2000) The idea of this philosophy emerged in 1998 from a film produced by John Christensen. The film is about Seattle’s World Famous Pike Place Market. John translated and depicted through his film that “even in a workplace where fishmongers spent smelly 12 hour shifts stocking, selling, and packing fish that amazing things can happen when people accept the invitation to: 1) Be There for their co-workers and customers, 2) Play, 3) Make someone’s day and 4) Choose their attitude about how they show up for work.” (Christensen, 2007, p. 1) After the film appeared the book Fish!, this has been on the best seller’s list and translated into 17 different languages. Today the Fish! Philosophy has flourished among corporate and educational markets throughout the world. “We are not afraid to use words like love, soul, and spirit because those are an essential part of our humanity. But these values are just as important to businesses…We are on a journey together.” (Christensen, 2007, p. 1)

Lundin, Paul, and Christensen believe that there are four secrets and strategies for a better way to create fun and teamwork in businesses. First, be there for co-workers. The biggest ways to do this is by smiling and acknowledging people while walking by them. Say hello, converse with co-workers, be friendly and help co-workers laugh. Take the time to listen to people around the workplace. When seeing a co-worker not happy, go up to them and give them a pat on the back and a compliment. Make an effort and try to get to know everyone. Show up for work to help the team. A team is not a team with people missing. These are all some of the things we can do to be there for co-workers. These strategies are used worldwide and seem to help. The second strategy is to play at work. Playing helps energize the workplace. Some examples of play are telling jokes to co-workers, maybe even pass around appropriate jokes (no personal jokes), saying things throughout the day to help people laugh. Have theme days where everybody dresses up differently. Having office parties helps unite play and team because everyone gets together. Create bulletin boards and decorate the office with fun stuff ensuring everyone’s involvement. Making work fun helps work to get done and makes people want to participate in a team. Third, make someone’s day which is easy to do and makes the team run smoother. Several ways to make someone’s day are as easy as saying hello, complimenting their looks, bringing baked goods to work, having a candy bowl out for others to enjoy, thanking people for the small and often overlooked things they do for us, acknowledging others’ accomplishments, being nice, and by simply volunteering our time.

When working as a team it is very important to remember team means “we” not “I” that is why it is so important to help the team work easier. (Morton, 2007) Fourth, choose your attitude. Attitude plays an important role in teamwork as well. The good thing about attitude is you can choose a new one. Some ways to keep a positive attitude and help support the team are start each day with a personal positive thought, go to work with a positive attitude, put on a smile, start the day with a laugh or by being helpful, think positive. If you feel yourself getting a bad attitude change it so it does not affect others, be pleasant even if your day is not going well, leave home at home and last walk around, speak to co-workers and wish them a good day.

Successful teams all over the world are using these strategies and making them work. Some of these teams are Ford Motor Company, Wells Fargo, Sprint, the U.S. Army, the May O Clinic, Harley-Davison, the National Weather Service and Verizon Wireless. (Lundin, Paul, & Christensen, 2000)
An article about Verizon Wireless struck an interest to me. It tells about how the Fish! Philosophy has helped the Southfield Verizon Wireless’ office. Call centers can be tough. Upset and angry customers call with billing and service questions, even problems. They chew up whoever answers the phone and results can hurt the company. They could have loss of customers, revenue, and employees. In a Southfield Verizon office receiving approximately 5,000 calls a day, you would probably expect it to be a stressful and frustrating place to work but due to them applying the Fish! Philosophy they say no. Instead the cubicles are decorated with cartoon fish and lessons for employees are taped on construction paper, employees can look forward to special days such as Mardi Gras, Black History and many others. Not only are they just all around happy, out of 273 employees, most appear happy. Verizon started using Fish! in 2002 and reported results have been excellent. There was a significant decline in the call center’s complaints. The Southfield Verizon center that uses this philosophy ranks top amongst the company’s other 24 four call centers for solving customer problems on the first call. (Morath, 2005)

How amazing that a philosophy developed from watching quaky workers at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market have fun, interact with customers and become a tourist attraction even though very smelly and not the cleanest place, tends to inspire, motivate, and engage employees through a system that makes work fun by rewarding creativity empowering employees. Most of all they keep employees and even more important they work as a team. (Morath, 2005) These are just some of the many successful companies using the Fish! Principles and this philosophy continue to grow. Teamwork is a vital part of life and we apply it everyday. We use it all over the place, why not have fun while doing it. (Tucker, 2007)

Doing this research on Fish! not only interested me but has taught me a great deal. I have learned some very helpful tips in just this little time and if applied might truly help me not only in my job but with life and life’s struggles. Being part of a team is better than trying to accomplish tasks by oneself. I plan to keep learning and applying the Fish! Philosophy and the four principles; Be There, Play, Make Their Day, and Choose the right attitude to enhance my life and work.

Christensen, J. (2007). FISH! Philosophy: What is FISH!. Retrieved August 15, 2007, from
Lundin, S. C., Paul, H., & Christensen, J. (2000). FISH! New York, NY: Hyperion.
Morath, E. (2005). Fish Philosophy catches on. Michigan Live, 2005, Retrieved August 15, 2007, from
Morton, B. (2007, August 11, 2007). Team big concept in today’s workplace; (Final Edition). Star – Phoenix, Saskatoon, Sask, 2007, August, Pg. F.20. Retrieved August 13, 2007, from ProQuest database. (Document ID: 1319529891).
Tucker, C. (2007, March 21). Having fun at work …and play; Fish followers; Fish! Philosophy helps workers have fun. York Daily Record, p. 6. Retrieved September 5, 2007, from ProQuest database. (Document ID: 1240070001).