06 Sep Recharging Creativity: How To Plan an Inspiration Field Trip
Inspiration field trips can take many forms, but at their core, they’re an experiential way to cultivate team culture while learning and recharging your creative battery packs. Getting out of the office, learning something new, and creating a shared experience together, as colleagues, is also one of the fastest ways to establish greater trust and empathy amongst teammates.
As a company that’s focused on delivering amazing educational experiences, inspiration field trips are essential to our creative process and keeping our brains and workshops fresh. Over the years, running these for our own team, guiding our clients through them, and hearing stories from other organizations, here are some of the most common field trips and how to bring them to your team.
If your team is about to tackle a new challenge it can be helpful to hear from other companies and practitioners who have already solved something similar. You’re not looking to copy or steal, but rather to seek out trends, understand the ecosystem, and to see how other organizations approach problem solving. As a team, it’s your choice on how you integrate the inspiration into your existing culture and work style.
We recently wrapped up an 8-week design thinking sprint with a team from New York Life and we kicked-off the project with an entire day of inspiration hunting. The teams were looking to amplify their own culture of curiosity, so we brought them to a handful of companies who have their own innovative approach to learning and development. We closed out the day with a short panel discussion and tableside Q+A with three digital and education industry vets here in the TDG office.
Looking towards companies, products, and services that are tangential to your core industry can often times be a new source of inspiration. Work in sales or retail? Try going to a restaurant that is known for great customer service. We recently did this with the team at Kiehl’s and dropped by a Danny Meyer’s restaurant for lunch to learn from the masters of hospitality. And to keep ourselves up to speed on emerging technology, we swung by the new Samsung 837 lifestyle store for a taste of virtual reality. Who knew that a virtual roller coaster ride after eating ice cream feels just like if you were on the real thing!?
— The Design Gym (@TheDesignGym) April 29, 2016
In our workshops we emphasize the importance of getting into alpha brainwave state (Open and Explore mindsets) to foster creativity, which is a different headspace than being in beta brainwave mode (Close mindset, or what I like to call “get shit done mode”). Literally getting out into a field (or on a boat) might be exactly what your team needs in order to collectively experience a more open and free mindset together.
Our recent surfing trip was scheduled right after what had been a crazy couple of weeks, so it was really important to us to plan the day around an activity that got us reconnected to our bodies in order to free our minds. We’ll often go for walks, take a bike ride, or work from home to change up our physical spaces, but the ocean is literally a sea of creative potential. Pun 100% intended.
How to Run Your Own Inspiration Field Trip
Leading an off-site adventure requires just as much planning and facilitation as any other gathering of people. If you’re taking on that role, here are some tips on how to guide your team without glitches or needing chaperones.
Set the Intention
Having a clear objective for your field trip is important for setting expectations with those attending, as well as your leadership team. Ideally, leaders within your organization will join. However, whether or not they’re able to join, you’ll need to get them on board—it’s really important that they not only sign off on the field trip, but make clear to all employees that they can attend it without having to worry about what the boss thinks of their afternoon away from their desk.
If possible, your intention for the field trip day should also reflect your company’s mission and core values. For us, we value experiential learning so a day at the beach taking surf lessons actual ticks that box! We also believe in the power of a shared meal together, so we hit the Rockaway Beach Club afterwards for tacos and tequila-infused drinks. This time was incredibly valuable for us to be able to catch-up on our personal lives and share fun-fact style stories in a more relaxed environment than our office or any other lunch spot in NoMad.
Set the Date
Find a time during business hours that works for everyone on your team—perhaps the biggest challenge, but totally worth it. You’ll have the most success if all teammates can join. These outings shouldn’t feel like extra work or cut into personal time, they are part of the job and should be viewed as such. You can get a lot of of value out of two dedicated hours if planned properly, so even if you can only get your team together for a short period of time, still do it!
We usually schedule these on Fridays, year round. Sometimes a full day, but we’ll also do a half day: meeting for lunch, going to 1-2 inspiration spots, and then closing out the day by grabbing a beer(s).
Commit to Guidelines
No emails allowed! Instagramming is OK 🙂 In all seriousness though, taking calls or answering emails during the activity can cause anxiety amongst your teammates. Be sure to lead by example on this one. We will put fun out of office auto-responders on our emails for the days that we’re out with our team. It’s a reinforcement of the culture we are creating for our team and for our client partners and community members. And from what we’ve seen, people look forward to what we have to share when we get back to them the following week.
You can also build in a reflective component to the day. Arm your team with pocket sized notebooks to capture sparks and ideas along the way (we love our pocket-sized Scoutbooks!). A follow-up debrief meeting can be scheduled for the next week to share out what everyone learned and found most impactful. As the leading facilitator, you should capture themes from the debrief to share back with your leadership team, colleagues who weren’t able to join, or other teams who are curious about that awesome inspiration field trip that they heard about through the grapevine.
The Why Behind Inspiration Field Trips
Depending on your current team culture, asking your boss for a small budget to take the team offsite for a day of discovery might be met with several “but why?” questions. Here are a couple of final takeaways from our experience trying out many forms of inspiration field trips that you can use to make the case for why they are effective and valuable.
We’ve learned over the years that creating shared experiences to establish common reference points is important in building and maintaining a tight knit team culture. You can empathize with others all day long, but having been through the same experience alongside one another builds camaraderie and builds a well of “remember that time when” moments your team can draw upon.
These trips also allow your team to learn something new, which adds to the overall skills and reference points your team can draw upon when approaching any project challenge. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and the various strengths present within your teammates by getting outside your comfort zone.
Ready to try one out on your own? Let us know what you’ve got planned and how it goes! Better yet, invite us along if you can 🙂