Jennifer and I were honoured to have been asked to participate in the BizBash 2015 Plan-a-thon last week. It was a unique experience to be in a room of other event professionals from planners to audio visual gurus to venue specialists and marketing strategists and more all looking to learn and work together.
This experience was built to encourage group collaboration and free thinking to create a brand new event or a solution to a current event problem with people you most likely have never met and with whom you will freely brainstorm and innovate. And that is exactly what happened. The ideas and creative lengths groups went to was outstanding – creating never before seen events, like the Toronto Maple Leaf’s Stanley Cup Party, to revitalizing the celebration of Canada’s Flag and brilliantly raising money through a giant game of musical chairs. We were all given permission to be different, to think outside of the box without fear of rejection and under extreme time restraints. Without knowing who we were working with we all let our own strengths show and the group relied on each person for their skill set and expertise.
This exercise reminded me once again on the value of group collaboration to generate innovative ideas. Too often we find brainstorming sessions don’t happen, let alone happen in groups due to limited time. No one ever has time. This needs to change – brainstorming is the key to innovation.
Here are some tips for inspiring brainstorming and innovation with your corporate teams or committee volunteers:
1. Start with an ice breaker – even if the group does know each other this type of activity can set a comfortable tone to the session so all participants feel free to add value and speak openly. We had fun at the plan-a-thon telling the whole group our favourite and least favourite meals as a child. We all felt we knew a bit about each other and had a chance to quickly revisit our childlike minds!
2. Set a time limit – we had a 30 minute time limit to create an entire event and our 2 minute pitch. When you have to work fast you challenge your brain to focus rather than get distracted with idle chatter.
3. Find a starting point – many groups had one objective or one word that inspired them – from that one point they generated their ideas, let the conversation naturally flow and worked as a team in their brainstorming.
4. Mix up the group – don’t always include the usual suspects – invite event attendees, sponsors, industry partners who can act as subject matter experts to mix up the dynamic. Keep the number manageable – 8 – 10 participants per group is ideal – it is enough to generate ideas and small enough that everyone still feels able to participate.
5. Pay attention to your environment - be in an environment that is conducive to creativity. If you don’t want flat, grey ideas don’t hold a brainstorming session in a windowless board office! If you want to inspire creativity you need to strategically set the session with some stimulus. If possible go somewhere offsite, with windows, comfortable furniture, snacks, refreshments and even some colour!
Our industry is limitless with possible event ideas, partners and participants. It is exciting to be a part of an industry which gets to create, move and inspire people with our work. We just need to ensure we make the time to be creative and to be creative with other people. Innovation is the key to staying relevant in this field!
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