Iota Delta Alpha: The evolving concept of teamwork as we know it

“None of us knows as much as all of us.”

It’s something I’ve heard regularly from Ideahaus’ captain, Kevin Popović (KP), during my four-year stint with the company.

From day one, KP spoke of this cohesiveness, this idea that, together, we could accomplish more than any one of us could alone.  As the Founder, CEO, Communications Director, Group Leader, Lead Salesperson, All-Around Wizard, etc., at Ideahaus, KP could assume a strict, managerial role if he felt so compelled.

It’d be tough to protest, after all. He built this company from the ground up in 1990, and he’s maintained a steady hold on the wheel for the 26 years since, serving clients of all shapes, sizes, and motivations in the process. That’s not easy.

But even when engaging KP about the company’s history and his “started from the bottom” storyline, he’s quick to include those who strapped in for the ride, speaking to the bigger picture in the process.

“I think of Ideahaus as a fraternity or a family,” KP says. “Even when or if you move on to other projects, you never really leave. You’re a part of the journey. And I always want you to feel the same appreciation that I feel when you invest your time and energy here.”

As KP indicates, the culture of Ideahaus fosters a sense of equality. In business, there’s a prevalent discussion here regarding the difference between a “team” and a “collaboration.”

A team, according to Harvard Business Review’s Andrew Campbell, is “created when managers need to work closely together to achieve a joint outcome.” Think of a team in the context that you commonly hear the term—sports. You have individual positions (managers of their specialty) working together to achieve an end result (win the game). A first baseman counts on the pitcher to throw a strike. The two do not overlap in their duties.

A collaboration, however, involves some crossover. Campbell explains:

“They [those involved in a collaboration] will have some shared goals, but they often also have competing goals. Also, the shared goal is usually only a small part of their responsibilities. Unlike a team, collaborators cannot rely on a leader to resolve differences. Unlike a customer-supplier relationship, collaborators cannot walk away from each other, when they disagree.”

This is more akin to an improv comedy sketch. The goal is to make the audience laugh, but nobody has a defined role. Everybody needs to work together, seamlessly, for the skit to work.

In my career, I’ve worked in a variety of work settings,” says Ideahaus Studio Manager Susan Matthews. “In some, I’ve sat at my desk surrounded by people, but felt like I was in a silo, alone amongst my co-workers. But at Ideahaus, the sense of teamwork is strong, even with people I only work with via video conference. We are in this together—even when we’re not in the same room. It’s a great feeling to have about one’s co-workers.”

So when it comes to “team” vs. “collaboration,” what’s Ideahaus? It’s neither—and it’s both.

  • “It’s been a rare pleasure to create smart work and to grow professionally while having so much fun. I never thought I would laugh so much at work.”

    Jeff Wood, Creative Director, Ideahaus

  • “The lessons we’ve learned at Ideahaus can be applied to all aspects of life. This brings a family aspect to our day-to-day ‘work’ lives.”

    John Rambo, Multimedia Producer, Ideahaus

  • “Although some of us are on opposite sides of the country, we work more closely than some who may sit in the cubicle next door.”

    Colby Vagley, Client Support Specialist, Ideahaus

  • “At the helm of the ship, captain KP mentored my development as a creative professional, ensuring I was challenged with legitimate responsibility.”

    Riley Keating, Intern, Ideahaus

As KP notes, it’s more of a fraternity, bobbing in and out of a “team” and a “collaboration,” using strict leadership and absolute freedoms together to generate a positive end result.

To embody this mentality, KP recently developed “IDA” swag for the Ideahaus cast—”Iota, Delta, Alpha.” On the surface, the clothing showcases “IDA,” a play on “Idea,” across the front and the year we began working with the company on the sleeve.

Whether you’re the longtime veteran or the shiny new intern, the IDA gear lets you know you’re family.

“I’ve worked with Kevin and been a part of Ideahaus for 15 years now. Unlike other traditional agencies where I’ve toiled in the past, Ideahaus fosters a camaraderie and a sense of purpose where we all have an equal voice in the process—regardless of titles. We are all in this together. We win together or we fail together. Although we’ve never actually failed, of course. Kevin’s open environment allows us to collaborate and to cross disciplines constantly. I learn something new every day that makes not just the work better, but me better. It’s been a rare pleasure to create smart work and to grow professionally while having so much fun. I never thought I would laugh so much at work.”

– Jeff Wood, Creative Director since 2000

“Accountability, integrity, fidelity, and the pursuit of excellence are qualities that are expected on a daily basis at Ideahaus.  These qualities parallel greatly with the spirit of a fraternity.  Because of our devotion to Ideahaus, KP would give the shirt off his back to any one of us, and we would do the same for him.  The lessons we’ve learned at Ideahaus can be applied to all aspects of life.  This brings a family aspect to our day-to-day ‘work’ lives.”  

– John Rambo, Multimedia Producer since September 2013

“I recently joined Ideahaus and immediately felt the unique culture that KP brings to his team. Although some of us are on opposite sides of the country, we work more closely than some who may sit in the cubicle next door. It is rare to find an environment where you’re more like part of a family. We are a small but mighty team and collectively, we produce some really great content.”

– Colby Vagley, Client Support Specialist since 2015

Ideahaus was my formal introduction into agency life. The team welcomed me as an old friend once again joining the gang, essentially making me feel like family. At the helm of the ship, captain KP mentored my development as a creative professional, ensuring I was challenged with legitimate responsibility while honing new skills.”

– Riley Keating, Intern since 2015

Read between the letters of IDA, and this bigger picture—that community KP began to form in a modest studio in Pittsburgh’s South Side some 26 years ago—materializes.

Hunter HomistekAll sporting the gear at once, we immediately read as a singular unit. We work together. We succeed together, and we fail together (or not, if you listen to Jeff).

None of us knows as much as all of us.

What good is a fraternity of one?

  – Hunter Homistek, Creative, Ideahaus®

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