First of all, what is your objective of arranging a company retreat?
To have fun with your team?
To finish a tradition?
To plan for the upcoming year?
If your answer is the last one, I suggest that you better not organizing your company retreat in one day.
Last week, I helped a company finish a 3-Days retreat (actually just 2-hours in a day and total spends 6 hours) to develop new ideas in the coming year. It is common to organize a company retreat for year planning and engage with your team—however, most of them doing it in one day or half-day to save time. One day, they stopped their work and joined together to brainstorm something new. It sounds cool, and it looks like a reunion of the whole company. You may meet some old friends or someone working in another team, and you guys are not free to have a chat. A company retreat is a chance for you to meet someone again and have fun.
Yes, it is fun.
But not useful and efficient, if you want to plan for next year.
Why not do it in one day?
Because we are all human beings.
We take the time to absorb new information. We need to be prepared to generate something new. Also, the idea development process is energy-consuming. Changed from intuition thinking to more logical thinking, we consume colossal energy to make it. In the process, we need to put different hats to think about the same issue as well.
So, what should we do?
There is no model answer, but my suggestion is at least more than one day. It can be two half-day in a week, or it can be three days and two hours per day.
Here is how I work with that company for your reference.
It is a 3-Days workshop in a week, and each of them is a 2-hours duration.
Day 1: Reviewing customer and identify their needs.
Day 2: Brainstorming new ideas for a specific need.
Day 3: Validating and testing the proposed ideas.
Day 1: What is inside the box?
Before thinking out of the box, you should know what is inside the box first. It isn't easy to think without any foundation. Especially in a company retreat, it is excellent that you have done something in the past year and you are planning forward. You can find what you have and what you did.
“What you have” means your resources, such as your team and the network you built before. These are crucial for you to implement in future development as they are your benefit. If you can utilize your resources, you can be more effective and efficient in doing what you aimed for.
“What you did” means your previous product or service. When you aimed to develop something new, you have to know what means something old. Instead, if you don't remember your box, you will waste your time creating something similar to before.
Always remember, our brain is lazy and it will take the easy way, which is something you did before.
To activate your brain, you should be very careful and understand what is old and new. Also, the why.
Therefore, it is more about the review and revisits on day one, including internally and externally. It is essential to revisit your customer's understanding because we can refresh your memory and discover new values for your customer.
Day 2: What is outside the box?
After day one, you should have two things:
- A new target customer
- Problems to solve
What does it mean of an idea? It is not just a product or service; it is a way to solve your customer’s problem. So you can bring value to them.
Therefore, if your idea is an app, it should be “we help X to do Y by this app”. Not just a super fancy function app. Fancy is cool, but it is meaningless to your customer.
You are selling a solution, not an idea.
On day two, we will activate our creative confidence and brainstorm ideas for the specific target customer's specific problem. We are highlighting “specific” before it is the foundation for you to start brainstorming. It makes your brainstorming more meaningful and useful.
Everyone is creative. Yes. Everyone, it is not a skill or knowledge. Why do we think that we are not creative? Because of the social rules. Especially in Asian countries, we have many constraints on good and evil, right and wrong. When we are growing up, we are not losing creativeness; instead, we learn self-evaluation, and we screened out the crazy ideas before we speak up.
We are creative, just losing the confidence to show our creativity.
So this session is creating a space so that everyone don't afraid to speak up and don't afraid to introduce some crazy ideas. It is one of the key part of day two.
Day 3: Do A Experiment
Successful idea development is just like doing experiments, knowing what to test and how to test, and then execute your investigation. It sounds easy, but it is difficult for human beings.
We are afraid of failure.
Usually, we choose to avoid failure as a de-risking way. However, the experiment means embracing failure. It would help if you faced it but not avoiding it. It is a different mindset in our daily life.
In school, a low score is a shame, and the teachers usually value those who are talented and having high scores all the time. In the workplace, the boss doesn't like hard-working people, and they want someone who is perfect and doesn't bring trouble to them.
We love people who are always correct.
Then we intend to be correct all the time. Even we know that it may be wrong, we will find a reason or create a reason to explain it.
On day three, the core part is not whether the setting is the right fit. It is about the mindset. Can we accept failure?
Why we do it on three separate days?
As you see, it is a step by step process, and everything you learn from the previous, you will implement in the next session.
Also, it is a mindset change experience. You cannot change someone’s mindset in one day. It takes time to absorb and understand.
Last, it is a high energy-consuming process. Our brain is lazy because thinking logically and critically will consume a lot of energy. So we use intuition a lot.