Beyond Location: Factor 4

Favor Fun

Factors that keep your offsite on-target
By: OCAD U CO
If you’re in charge of planning your team’s offsite, then I’ve got news for you: you work in experience design. Selecting the right space for your team’s offsite is step one in designing the optimal experience to get to the best outcomes for your organization. Here we offer four critical factors to think about—Focus, Flow, Fresh & Fun—to design an offsite experience that will help ensure success.

In this article we’ll look at how we can favor fun when designing an optimal offsite experience.

Factor 4:

Favor Fun

A mentor of mine used to say, “if you’re not learning and having fun, then it’s time to do something new.” She didn’t mean “have fun” in a weekend-in-Vegas way, she meant have fun in a “serious” sense: inspire new-eyed awareness, playfully question assumptions, build confidence by provoking the status quo, role play, and look to discover possible impossibilities. In short, bring a child-like disposition to learn and explore to work that demands rigour, discipline and thoroughness. You’ll surprise yourself every time you do.

To be child-like in our mindset and to use fun productively is a serious goal for teams that are creating the future through their innovation and strategy work. After all, the future doesn’t exist: we have to imagine it. Being imaginative is fun, so make sure you factor in some serious fun at your next offsite.

To access the powers of your imagination use a space that inspires you to have fun in a least two ways: one, have fun in being confident: suspend what’s known or what’s “possible” (there are no bad ideas), at least for blocks of time dedicated to divergent thinking. Second, have fun stretching, elaborating and iterating ideas: take the time and create the space to play through iteration, prototyping and reworking your best ideas.

“Like play, prototyping can be exhausting work, but when you add fun to the mix your learning accelerates…”

Like play, prototyping can be exhausting work, but when you add fun to the mix your learning accelerates: stretching becomes more natural, elaboration more deeply felt, iterations come more quickly, and the outcomes become more powerful in that you’re in a better space to learn from these cycles rather than be fussed about getting things perfect.

The perfectionists among us sometimes see prototyping as a silly way to envision the complex ideas in your head but it’s much useful than that: it presents your teams with opportunity to see ideas in time and space, to discover points-of-difference in individual approaches to an idea so you can then build alignment, as well as to surface critical and often unrealized assumptions and, most importantly, to learn quickly and cheaply from low-fidelity, low-cost tests while applying those learnings with the next prototype-cycle to accelerate learning and execution. Prototyping is all about learning to derisk your efforts and bring the future a few steps closer to the present faster and cost-effectively. It may seem silly because it’s fun, but the fun of prototyping has serious value when done well.

OCAD U CO - Innovation Studio 1

If you’re up for serious fun, one simple tool to use is a well-equipped prototyping station. Are you tired of being tasked to prototype with a half-stack of private-label sticky notes and some pipe cleaners? Or are you working with a purpose-built prototyping station that will help you realize (and share) a more robust and meaningful version of your best ideas?

We believe that short-changing your prototyping efforts robs your work of fun. It also reduces the likelihood that your teams will take the “fun” seriously: they’ll be less engaged with pushing their thinking, less likely to explore the possible impossibilities and generally more likely to allow the friction that can accrue late in the day or late in a workshop from a lack of fun stop the flow and disrupt the focus. Simply put, it can undo all the hard work and heavy lifting that’s gone on up to this point. If you want to create the future, we suggest you take fun seriously.

What Fun looks like in action:

A client confessed to me, “I need to tell you that your workshop was great but it wasn’t our first: we’ve done other design-led innovation workshops before. What’s really different here is that in the other workshop we’d spend four minutes ‘prototyping’ which really meant sketching our an idea out on a flip chart. It was okay, but it was one-and-done: the team didn’t get that much out of it and we didn’t do anything with those ideas. This is different. This was really fun. More importantly, the team was inspired to keep going, to make prototyping an ongoing habit and to challenge ourselves, but playfully. We’re seeing real progress in the work, in getting aligned, understanding our assumptions, empathizing with our customers and ultimately in the ways to use prototyping to boost learning, reduce risk and accelerate faster—all while enjoying what we’re doing.” Fun is a serious advantage. Use it. Choosing a great space for your next offsite can be the first great step or the first mistake that organizations make in creating their next strategy, building new capabilities or innovating to create new products, services and business models. Consider how well the choice you make provides the opportunity to succeed with these four factors—focus, flow, fresh and fun.

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