Five or six years ago, while working as a Head of Risk of one of the sovereign funds, I was walking through the office and saw a table tennis table sitting idly in the corner of the Head of Strategy office. I remembered how I loved table tennis when I was young. I wasn’t particularly good at it but loved it nevertheless.
A wild idea was born. I talked to the internal auditors, my team and the strategy team, who kindly allowed me to borrow the tennis table and play on Friday evenings.
Just playing with risk and internal audit team wasn’t fun enough, so I and the Head of Internal Audit created an underground table tennis tournament. Every Friday after hours we would challenge and invite one business unit to battle it out. Our MD brought rackets and balls from home, we already had the table, I and the Head of Internal Audit would buy pizzas and beer each Friday. We had a rule, whoever losses pays for the beer.
So our underground table tennis tournament was born.
A few months later we played most of the departments, including some who openly despised risk and internal audit. We got demolished a couple of times but did pretty well otherwise. I remember once our strategy department came in and they all had own personal rackets in special table tennis racket holders. I thought to my self, oh cr@p.
At the same time, the table tennis fever was spreading. We started playing more often, two other business units chipped in an bought they own tables and started their own leagues. This was amazing.
Fast forward couple of years, table tennis is now of a few official corporate sports at the sovereign fund, the company purchased more tables and equipment, paid for the training, employees now play in the open space during breaks and the company is participating in the State level corporate table tennis leagues and is actually doing really well.
All because many years ago risk and internal audit wanted to create a format where we can talk to people and have fun without the usual stigma of risk.
How do you encourage risk culture in your organization?