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?”

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