Get in loser, we’re going agritouring

Operating a business transparently can sometimes feel like you’ve got too many cooks in the kitchen — and design by committee rarely results in quality. There’s a big difference between being interested in something and being involved in something — and walking that line can result in openness without a loss in focus.

I’ve long felt that there’s an appalling disconnect between the lifespan of disposable food packages and the lifespan of the food within them. Fruit is pretty good at this — a rind or a peel lasts about as long as the flesh within it — but human-designed packages often are not.

Why does milk spoil after a month or so, but it often comes in a plastic bottle that takes 70 years or more to break down?

When I lived in Kansas City, there was only one milk distributor that used reusable glass bottles — Shatto Milk Company. They caught my eye because of my distaste for long-lasting disposable packages — and because the bottles were predominantly labeled “MOOOO” (the Shatto brand was secondary).

After purchasing their milk for a few months and getting into the habit of returning milk bottles to the store, I decided to look into their company a bit. Why were they doing business so differently than the other milk distributors in Kansas City?

Open to the public

One thing that struck me about the company is that it’s very open — intentionally. Reading into their business model, they stated that offering tours and keeping the cows front and center was key to their business — not because many people would actually come and visit the cows, but because it kept them honest and proud as a company. Cows are why they’re in business, after all.

They believe that their product speaks for itself — and if the source of their product (cows) aren’t publicly front and center, they might be able to get away with sub-standard care for their farm. However, if they’re forced to show all of their cows to random millennials who face swap them on Snapchat, they’re held to a different standard.

Interest without involvement

The most interesting part of this story to me is how it’s stuck with me (well, and that I just got the joke about shat + chateau like ten years later).

I never visited their farm. It was on my list of things to do, but honestly, I don’t really care that much about milk processing.

There’s a big difference between interest and involvement. Am I interested in how my milk is produced? Absolutely! I’m fortunate enough to have choices at the grocery store, and I’d rather choose milk from cows that aren’t treated poorly. I’m not incredibly involved in that process, however.

I think of interest without involvement as Peeking. Sometimes it’s best to be able to peek into something, see what’s up, and decide if you’re going to get involved or not.

Knife, not knife?

What does the concept of Peeking look like within a company, say, within my employer, Harvest?

Have you ever considered what is a knife, and what is not a knife? I haven’t, until I poked around our Slack. See, Slack does a great job at enabling Peeking — they call it “viewing” instead of “joining.” You can view any channel, say one called #knifenotknife without joining it — and nobody knows you were even there.

I’d like to argue that supporting Peeking — interest without involvement, in all of the tools that are used to run a business — builds greater trust among our organization, allows teams to make better choices independently, and fosters greater personal development.

Peek on, friends! (but not in the creepy way).