Axelle Tessandier is a content strategist, writer, curator, bold thinker and founder of Axl Agency. In 2009, she participated in the innovation program Palomar5 in Berlin and San Francisco where she explored the values and expectations of digital natives in the workplace. After being the Marketing Director of the US based startup Scoop.it she launched her own agency. She now works with brands, projects and institutions she believes will inspire their audience to take action to design a better world. Passionate about the future of work, the Generation Y and the digital shift, she explores these topics for The Huffington Post.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
The world needs a revolution because we know now that the majority of people are not engaged in what they are doing. A recent survey from The Centre For Economic Performance found that respondents ranked being sick in bed as the only activity more unpleasant than working! Work is such a huge part of our life, it needs to be meaningful for us. We talk a lot about the digital revolution, the biotech revolution and other disruptions related to technology. Designing a work revolution should be the basis, the starting point to imagine a future filled with progress and inspired communities. When you love what you do, it has a transformational effect on you as a person and on the impact you have on your community. Once engaged you can move mountains and truly create what you are meant to do and be.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
I created my own agency because I wanted to be sure who I am and what I do resonate perfectly together. I decided to embrace my biggest frustration (not being happy at work) to make it my mission and vision. I love imagining that my story helps represent a change in the mindset of many people in the workforce. We want to express ourselves in what we do.
I also work with clients to help them understand how they can engage their workforce better by aligning their mission and values with the aspirations of their team.
Why do you do what you do?
I do not even ask myself the question anymore. It’s stronger than me. I have to. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else than Axl Agency! It’s like a calling. But I love to keep my mind open. I do what I do because it feels right and aligns with who I am today, right now. Life is all about timing!
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
In one of my many professional experiences (I tried a lot of different areas as I was never really satisfied and I am a very curious person), I used to work in movie production. Cinema is an inspiring art for me and has been since I was a kid. Storytelling is now a buzzword but human beings have been moved by stories since the beginning of time. I love this quote from Plato: “Those who tell the stories, rule the world.”
We should all be able to tell ours. Our work has to be a big part of it.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
My company is me basically as I am the only employee of Axl Agency. So I hope I have a specific and unique vision to bring. All of us are unique and bring something different to our communities. I cultivate my uniqueness as much as I can in my life and work. My writing and talks about the digital hippies and the unreasonable generation are hopefully very related to who I am as a person but can find resonance with others. More a story is personal, more it becomes universal. Nurture your personality, always!
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Ashtanga yoga is a huge inspiration for me. I practice on a daily basis and it’s not a sport or physical activity. It is a discipline that impacts my creativity and my productivity. A lot of my “eureka moments” happen away from my screen. Yoga gives me space to breathe. More than a break, it gives the pulse and rhythm of my day. It also allows my mind to imagine and create ideas. It’s when you stop overthinking and worrying that they arise.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
The best technique I know is to let people be themselves, not only the mission described in the ten lines of the job offer. You will be surprised and they will grow in their job.
I also believe that the 9 AM to 5 PM behind a desk from Monday to Friday requirement rarely makes sense anymore in the world we live in. Who decided it was the only way to deliver and be productive? Are we sure that this is the best way to let ourselves be happy and fulfilled at work? It’s the biggest urban legend I know. Freedom is the biggest luxury for a human being, but also the most rewarding one. Schedule is not a detail, it’s key for happiness at work. All of us do not function in the same way. I am at my best between 8 AM and 1 PM. Between 2 PM and 5 PM, I never produce much. During the evenings or sometimes during the week-end I love to work because I decided it and I am in the mood right now. Work is also timing!
How do you stay productive throughout your day?
I take breaks between big moments of flow, where I am totally into what I am doing and don’t even think of checking email or the time. A break can be a walk, errands, watching a bad TV show, whatever allows me to push the “pause” button.
What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick?
There are so many people who inspired me. My blog is a collection of many links that make me tick to be honest. Some of the books I loved this past months were John Maeda’s book Redesigning Leadership and Give and Take from Adam Grant. I listen to NPR a lot as well, especially Fresh Air and This American Life. I am also of course very inspired by Steve Jobs on stage.
Movies have always been a huge inspiration for me. The list would be too long to include here!
What do you love to contribute to?
I would love to help my generation realize that a crisis is also an opportunity and that we can be bigger than our circumstances by reinventing ourselves and fixing the many flaws of our world. There is a crisis in leadership as we realize the system is not working and has created unbearable situations for many in the world. We are the leaders of tomorrow. Tomorrow is now.
What makes you feel happy?
Being meaningful, loved and loving.
Where in the world are you?
San Francisco, CA