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Building an Enthusiastic, Positive Workplace with the FISH! Video and FISH! Philosophy

Most Americans working today have heard of Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, and the line of “FISH!” training videos it inspired. Originally released in 1998, the FISH! video has been a worldwide training phenomenon. It is not an overstatement to say that millions of people have seen some or all of it.

FishGuysOrganizations train with the FISH! video because it shows how employees in a workplace that most would consider undesirable (a smelly fish market) not only survive, but thrive—choosing to find meaning and joy in their work and aspiring to “make the day” of every customer. After watching the video, employees are challenged to apply the FISH! Philosophy to their own work environment.

So, How Did This All Begin?

Years ago, a documentary filmmaker named John Christensen was visiting Seattle when he came across a group of energetic fishmongers at the Pike Place Fish Market who were throwing fish to one another, entertaining the crowds, and selling a lot of fish, to boot. He stood and watched the scene for over half an hour, wishing he had that kind of energy and fun culture at HIS place of work. It inspired him to create the video FISH! “I wanted to inspire people to work wholeheartedly, with purpose, while having fun, ” Christensen said. “I saw how this passion leads to excellence.” This one video eventually led to a whole line of programs and products that teach and reinforce the FISH! Philosophy.

What Can I Learn From a Fishmonger?

You’d be surprised. It’s a messy, smelly job, so why do the employees at Pike Place Fish Market have so much FUN? Well, that began in 1965 when Pike Place Fish employee John Yokoyama purchased the market from his boss. As he and his employees were deciding what kind of company they wanted to become, someone suggested they become “world famous.” Everyone embraced that vision, they added “World Famous” to their logo, and began discussing how they could make that vision a reality.

Customers experience being known and appreciated whether they buy fish or not.

According to the World Famous Pike Place Fish website, Yokoyama and his employees created their own definition of “world famous.” “For us,” they said, “it means going beyond just providing outstanding service to people. It means really being present with people and relating to them as human beings…intentionally being with them right now, in the present moment, person to person. We take all our attention off ourselves to be only with them…looking for ways to serve them.” The crew sets out to make the day of each and every customer. They share an “unrelenting commitment” to ensuring that customers are known and appreciated whether they buy fish or not. “To us,” the crew says, “…’World Famous’ is a way of being.”

What is the FISH! Philosophy?

The FISH! Philosophy revolves around four basic principles: Play, Make Their Day, Be There, and Choose Your Attitude. It’s about building an organizational culture that encourages engagement, trust, communication, and stellar service to others.

How does this apply if I’m not in customer service?

Adopting the FISH! Philosophy sounds amazing for people who work on the front lines of customer service, but what if you work in any other field? Fortunately, the philosophy can make a difference in any department or organization, no matter what your job title, or what type of team you’d like to inspire. We all serve someone at our jobs – whether it’s an internal customer (co-workers) or an external one, so everyone can benefit from the teamwork, positive attitudes and enthusiasm that training with the FISH! program can bring. And even more important than just having fun, the program’s four skills bring about personal excellence, which leads to increases in team and organizational performance!

What does this philosophy look like when applied to, say, a roofing company?

fish_roofingA roofing and construction company in Washington decided to use FISH! when teamwork and safety began suffering. When the employees viewed FISH!, they related immediately to the fishmongers in the video, whose work was also exhausting, dirty and sometimes dangerous. The roofing employees realized that they, too, could choose their attitudes and decided to use the FISH! Philosophy and the lessons from the Pike Place Fish Market in all areas of their business – in company meetings (reading customer feedback aloud), in customer care (like picking tile chips out of a customer’s garden), in their interactions with each other (they learned to coach each other in order to connect with one another, not correct one another), and in their commitment to safety (using cadences to shout out safety hazards, and consistently reviewing their safety ratings at company meetings). The feedback from customers was positive, and those employees who were “nose-to-the-grindstone” really loosened up and realized how healthy “play” at work can be. The company also managed to improve their safety scores significantly over a two year period.

How can a video help my employees become better at their jobs?

Video is a powerful teaching medium, with the ability to engage viewers’ eyes, ears and hearts, all at the same time. And once people become emotionally engaged in the story being told, they’re more open to learning and changing.

FISH! draws viewers in with its entertaining real-life story, captures their attention with humor, then shares 4 transformational principles for creating a new work environment and quality of life improvements. By discussing what these principles would look like in your organization, and then everyone committing to that new vision fresh, every day, “world famous” changes can occur in your company, as well. As one Pike Place Fish market employee states in the video, “Anybody can do this. You don’t have to throw fish. You just have to have the energy, you have to have the commitment.”

The line of video-based FISH! products includes: The original FISH! video, FISH! Sticks, FISH! Culture, FISH! Trainer Tools, FISH! for Leaders, and 4 FISH! Tales case studies videos. For more information on training with the FiSH Philosophy, contact Charthouse Learning.


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