Five Ways To Use FISH! In Your Company

n Pike Place Fish Market, where the FISH! philosophy originates, they throw fish. A common response is: „But at work, I can’t throw fish!“ But as FISH! Facilitator Jacqueline Eeken says: “If Pike Place can create experiences with dead fish, everybody can!”


A few examples: Le Pain Quotidien sells bread and not fish, but they surprise their guests with smileys on everything from nougats to boiled eggs. Villa XL and KLM throw neither fish nor guests, but use FISH! to empower employees to be themselves. KLM, Villa XL and Le Pain Quotidien were our guests at the FISH!y Friday Dutch Edition on February 6 (here are the photos), where we got to ask them all our burning questions. Here are their five tips on how make your company FISH!y.

1. Be There

Arne Altmann, managing partner at the Dutch Le Pain Quotidien, explains: “What struck me immediately in FISH! philosophy is the pillar ‘be there’. My wife does yoga on Mondays, and she always wants to tell me how it was when she gets home. Before, I’d be reading my email, watching TV, and listened to her with only half an ear… Now, I look at her, and listen. Within five minutes, I’m back to my email and TV! It’s a game changer. In hospitality too: If your waiter looks at you and smiles, it makes all the difference.”

2. Work Incredibly Hard to Let People Be Themselves

Sandra van den Tol, project manager and facilitator at KLM Cabin Crew, elaborates: “What does a typical KLM stewardess look like? Blue suit, blond hair, and blue eyes: they are uniform. We even took their nametags away. We’ve done this for 95 years, but now we’re trying to turn them into individuals again. And that’s hard, after nearly a century! We work incredibly hard to create a culture where people can be themselves. We try to identify the people who bring something unique to work, and let them brainstorm together. For example, one stewardess always brought an extra trolley on board full of stuff for kids, because traveling with KLM as a child wasn’t that much fun. Now, we’re rolling out a kids program.”

3. Select the People Who Already Fit Your Company Culture

Companies as citizenM Hotels and Le Pain Quotidien select their employees based not on relevant experience, but on their fit with the company culture. Arne: “We hire people through speed dating. When we’re in doubt, we don’t hire.” Japke Eyck, purchasing manager at Villa XL, says: “Team spirit is very important. Our FISH! training has changed a lot. We now make jokes, and give each other compliments. We want this team spirit to extend to our customer experience, coming from our employees themselves. We don’t want this to be implemented from above.”

4. Stop Making People Do Things They Can’t Do

Focus on what they’re good at instead. Think about how you can empower your employees to the best they can be. What can you do to make your people shine? As Jacqueline says: “What do managers usually say they do? They control, check, make schedules, have meetings. But your only goal is to be an example to your staff, and to inspire them to make your customers happy!”

5. Put Empathy over Policy

“At KLM, our policies are as thick as you are tall,” says Sandra, “and being late is about the worst thing that you can do. The airplane is waiting, and every minute is really, really expensive. When our people were late, they were sent upstairs, and yelled at. Not too long ago, the weather was bad, and one of our stewardesses was late. Instead of following policy, we looked in her file. It was the first time she’d ever been late. We didn’t send her upstairs, but bought her flowers. ‘You must feel horrible for being late,’ we said to her. She cried.”


If KLM, Villa XL and Le Pain Quotidien can be FISH!y, so can you. Think of the smallest thing you can do right now to be a more caring leader or inspiring colleague and do it!

For inspiration, here are 20 things we should say more often: [iframe id=“″]

Do you have an idea of how you could use FISH! in your company?

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