How often do you get to flex your creativity muscles in the office? In most professions, the answer is “not nearly often enough”. There is a common misconception that confines creativity to the skill-set of the so-called “creative jobs”, thereby implying that anyone who does not make direct use of their creativity in their profession has no need for it. We take a rather different view: creative thinking has been widely proved to be a force for good in most professional environments and creative team-building activities have turned out to be particularly beneficial to people who usually have little or no opportunities for creative expression at work. This is why we developed a whole range of activities specifically designed to unleash the creative being that is lying dormant in most employees and executives. In this instance, we teamed up with the amazing people at Formula CPI to plan a team building project for Telecom Italia and CISCO.
Team-building planning: why, where and when
Where do you start planning a team-building day or weekend? How do you pick the right activity for each team? When approaching a new project, we always start by listening. This is a crucial part of the whole endeavour: learning what the goals of the team-building activity are and what values and vision the client wishes to convey. This is the key to a thoroughly customised team-building experience. In this instance, the briefing required a two-hour team-building activity, to be carried out within the course of the second day of a corporate meeting in Rome. The teams were required to stay indoors and the two operative words for the whole project were to be creativity and teamwork.
Boundaries that help creativity thrive
Team building works because it taps into processes that take place mostly on an unconscious level and influence the ways in which we react to our surroundings and interact with each other. This means that it is harder to influence such processes within the space of two hours than two days: the shorter the span, the more intense and effective the chosen activity needs to be. Our proposal featured a simple and yet extremely engaging activity, designed to prompt quick commitment and enthusiastic responses: the final goal of the whole team-building experience was to make all participants contribute to a collective work of art, that could only be created with coordination and effective teamwork. Creating art, however, tends to be a solitary effort and it does not necessarily yield the desired result when the team involved is too large. All of these limitations and boundaries might sound exasperating, but they are blessings in disguise when creativity is needed. As it happens, our own creative muscles were put to the test, as we needed to meet the client’s goals while staying within the boundaries of time, space and philosophy that we had been set.
Unleashing your inner artist
We started by dividing the participants into nine teams. We had an artist draw a circle of holding hands on a 3x3m panel, which e then cut into 9 pieces, one for each team. Teams were allowed to look at their own panel, but forbidden from looking at any of the others. This meant that nobody had a real idea of what the complete artwork looked like. We provided each team with acrylic paint, glue and other plain stationary material, as well as other, less obvious materials that were meant to be symbolic of different ideas. There were ribbons and pieces of string to represent the idea of connection and fluidity, various types of candy to represent mind power, Lego bricks to symbolize growth, printed cardboard eyes to symbolize vision, stars to symbolize a bright future and twigs to create a small Christmas tree. The participants’ brief was to offer a representation of the concept of “team“, which meant they had to discuss individual visions of it, before being able to come up with a shared one. As a result, each team was responsible for the creation of one work of art, which eventually went to form a larger, collective and rather impressive piece.