Five ways to inspire creative collaboration
1. New setting, different views
Leave the everyday meeting room, and go somewhere different. Find somewhere beautiful, or at least somewhere with windows!
Use space differently. Do away with a boardroom table, and possibly with every table. Move between different spaces.
If you are operating virtually you can still change the view – ask people to start the meeting with a backdrop chosen to highlight a key opportunity; or ask everyone to wear themed clothing; if you have budget and time, send them team sweatshirts.
2. Play with time
Traditional agendas tend towards rigidity. You need a clear plan but participants don’t need to know everything in advance.
Vary your speed. Incorporate some rapid-fire questions and answers, as well as opportunities for thoughtful reflection.
3. Become more T-shaped
Invite a guest speaker with an alternate perspective to shake up the conversation.
Provide interesting pre-reading.
4. Spark imagination with your questions and approaches
Phrase your questions differently. For example, asking “what are your team’s strengths?” often prompts a laundry list of people’s ideals of strengths (eg innovative, friendly, motivated, problem-solving). Asking a more specific question can elicit more useful responses – “Compared to the last place you worked what is one way in which this organisation/team is better than the last?
Encourage out-there thinking before you narrow things down.
What would it look like if we could succeed beyond our wildest dreams?
What are the worst things that could happen?
5. Help people let their guard down
There is a time for responsible, rational decision-making but it is not at the start of a strategy session. Walk the group through an opening series of visualisation discussions without prescribed results and you may be surprised by the ideas that can bloom during open-ended discussions.
Ask people to draw an image (using no more than 3 words) of the organisation’s best future and then describe what they’ve drawn.
Use imagery or objects to prompt responses. Show a series of photos and ask “Which of these photos best reflects our organisation’s current lifecycle stage and why?”