When you think of growth hacking, you probably think of startups that use clever strategies to get more customers. Big companies like Pinterest and smaller ones like Help Scout and Quicksprout have used growth strategies to gain hundreds of new users and subscribers, resulting in more adopters and advocates.

But what if you growth hacked your humans instead of your product?

If you've read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (a high school favorite), you know exactly what I mean. By carefully crafting to-do lists, routines, and goals, you can growth hack yourself to be a better business owner, marketer, parent, or dancer.

[caption id='attachment_14741' align='aligncenter' width='271']benfrank Ben Franklin's Daily Schedule[/caption]

You can't reach your goals just by reading blog posts about productivity apps. As Franklin so wisely said, '“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

The term 'growth hacking' is over-used (it feels kind of meaningless), but ultimately the term means 'a lot of growth in a short period of time.'

That's exactly what we want for our team members at Grasshopper.

Kung Fu = A Skill Achieved Through Hard Work

At Grasshopper, we teach and grow our team using Kung Fu, a quarterly program that encourages employees to try something new.

We want employees to learn new skills and try out ideas that they don't have time for in their daily workflow.

Our team divides into groups and gets a few months to come up with and research an idea. After that, we're given 24 hours to build what we've been dreaming, then give a 5 minute presentation to the rest of the company.


Our peeps have done stuff like:

Sweet sonar robot made by @lewisarch for @Grasshopper’s Kung Fu day! pic.twitter.com/JrXWOitVE0

— Nick Johnson (@nickux) April 4, 2014

Putting it in Practice (or What We Learned from Creating a Ridiculous Marketing Video)

You're a young woman who works for a cool SaaS company and runs a couple of side projects-- a freelance writing biz and an online dating consultancy. Your company has created a number of viral videos using contractors and freelancers, but you haven’t created many videos in house.

You love viral videos about entrepreneurship (like Sh*t Entrepreneurs Say) but you wish there were one created with YOU in mind (a.k.a. a 20-something female who likes pop music).

So, with your limited video editing abilities (circa 2004) and a coworker’s video camera, you make one.

You write lyrics to parody a popular song and ask a friend to sing and record it. You pay her $100 and round up two friends in the office to help you produce a video.

Now, replace you with me, and you'll get what me, Mary, and Laurel did for our Kung Fu project.


Before we started recording, we outlined our goals:

Here's what we created:

After we finished, we noted our takeaways:

So...Why Are You Telling Me About This?

A Growth Hacked Team is a Better Team

If you want your team to grow, you have to help. That might mean sending team members to conferences, helping them pay for education, or creating a program like Kung Fu.

I'm not sure where this conversation came from, but it's been posted all over Twitter and LinkedIn in the past few weeks. It embodies the need for a growing team perfectly:

CFO asks CEO: '[pullquote]What happens if we invest in developing our people & then they leave us?[/pullquote]' CEO: 'What happens if we don't, and they stay?'

Programs Like This Improve Your Product and Services

A program like Kung Fu is good for your products and services, not just your team members. By encouraging employees to think outside of their regular workflow, you can explore new avenues that haven't been touched before.

For example, Allison, our Customer Engagement Manager, Scott, our UI Engineer, and Dave, our Interaction Designer, worked together to create a display system that would show customers the current status of our network. The platform easily allows Allison and Mary, our Social Media & Community Specialist, to tell customers about any service interruptions. Ultimately, this will improve the Grasshopper experience for our customers.

Lessons Learned Not Only Help Your Team, But Also The Customers They Serve

Sure, we figured out that video creation is hard, but we also gained insight about video that we could relay to our customers.

I now know that:

This sort of information helps me (and the rest of the marketing team) figure out what tools to recommend and what types of content to create for our prospective and current customers.

Ultimately, Process is as Interesting as Product

Our silly video probably won't go viral-- and that's ok. The process of creating a video, presenting it to the rest of the team, and sharing this story is valuable.

Without undergoing these sorts of processes and learning experiences, we wouldn't understand how to create an awesome viral video, or how long it would take to do so.

Tell Us What You Do

What do you do to excite and grow your employees? We want to know! Please share in the comments below.