Monday, May 23, 2011

Accidentally innovating with purpose.

At our creative meeting, I issued a team-brainsqualling challenge. The task had absolutely nothing to do with anything we were working on. It wasn't supposed to. We had no reason to get hung up on preconceived notions or restrictive details.

Everyone split up into three teams. No one HAD to do anything, but they knew the other teams might be presenting their ideas the following week. Implied group competition, strengthening team camaraderie.

Once the first email started, the ideas kept building. Team member's strengths enhanced each new revelation. Programmers, designers, and writers all equally participating. Before long, no one knew who's idea it really was. It became the entire team's idea. And everyone involved felt passionate about it. People lit up as they walked through details. It wasn't about winning, there was genuine excitement in hearing each team's thoughts.

The exercise was from Caffeine for the Creative Team. The challenge: to conceptualize a piece of playground equipment for today's kids – incorporating relevant technology.

Teams tapped into their own nostalgia, their kid's passions, and their technological prowess. One idea harnessed energy. Another focused on atmosphere and environment – for the kids and adults. And another team created an elaborate maze, laid out with a new mind-mapping program they found.

How we work together can make or break a team. Everyone works differently, but the team has to come together at various points in the process. Building excitement and expanding on thoughts. It should never be individual against individual. Ideas should evolve in a back-and-forth manner. You face your inner critic, refine as needed, and then throw it out into the group. Repeat as necessary.

Before the team's presentations, I asked a couple of questions with some interesting outcomes. First of all, there was no budget and ridiculousness was encouraged. Even without parameters – everyone imagined something that was safe for kids to use, could "probably" be built, met a business or health objective, and solved a problem. In fact, some of the thinking could be the seed of an idea for some of our client's companies.

Creative teams should take time to play every now and then. It reminds us why we love what we do and that there are always unexplored possibilities. Who knows, it could accidentally be innovative.

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