It’s a windy cold February afternoon, looking out of the floor to ceiling windows of the skyscraper the day looks like night has already taken over. The darkness is perpetuated by the tinted windows, its 4:30pm in Chicago and the sun has indeed set. It’s been a long week but the team is looking forward to this evenings Team Building session. It’s not a cooking class nor is it trust exercises, this group is going to become movie moguls and create movies as preparation for their Strategy Workshop scheduled over the next 2 days. The client is the Foreign Exchange (FX) Traders and Sales team from a major Financial Institute. The objective of the strategy session is to find new markets and clients for a traditionally reactive division of the bank. Combining the fun and comradely of making a movie with the ‘heavy lifting’ of strategy creation may seem odd companions but there are several reasons why having these two disparate activities on the menu makes sense.

Research tells us that when we’re playing in a group we learn more effectively. The research literature is structured around four themes: Play as progress, play as fantasy, play as self, and play as power [Pellegrini, 1995]. Play as progress is the view that play is an activity leading to other outcomes, such as learning or team building. Play as fantasy describes the process of accessing an individual’s creative potential. Play as self recognizes that play itself is to be valued without regard to secondary outcomes, play to enhance or extend a person’s quality of life. Play as power concerns competition in which winners and losers are acknowledged and is very much apparent in a hockey arena or soccer pitch. It’s also worth mentioning that the opposite of play is non-play not work.

We add creative, challenging, and fun Team Building events (Movie Game, Go Game, Improv, Jam Band Karaoke, more) to the beginning of a ‘serious learning’ workshop like Strategy Creation or Leadership to encourage participants to step away from their usual ways of looking at things. Explore, laugh and have some fun out of context to your usual relationship with the members of your team. We add Team Building events to the end of workshops or conferences to reinforce the key learning principals in a fun atmosphere. As an example; we often play a Go Game after a Sales Training Workshop, teams find themselves fighting a Ninja or saving a Runaway Bride one mission and the next negotiating for shelf space or over coming buying objections from a ‘Client’. It helps participants to focus on the key points while in a safe practise environment. We add a competitive aspect and the participants add their own pressure. It combines all of the play themes: Play as progress, play as fantasy, play as self, and play as power.

In some very interesting research conducted in 1995 Sarah Maxwell, Gary Reed, Jim Saker, and Vicky Story set out to find out if being ‘playful and fun loving’ was an advantage in sales. The study shows that sales people who consider themselves as playful and fun loving consistently represent the substantial portion of top producers across several market places.  They created The Playful Sales model to better understand the results. Play “broadens an individual’s thought-action repertoire”. It “loosens” information-processing strategies and increases creativity.  They found that people who take a more playful approach learn more. The Playful Sales model consequently depicts a direct and positive effect of fun-loving on learning orientation.

We do hear objections to mixing fun into programs. ‘Let people have fun on their own time’, or ‘we don’t want to waste time on the soft skills stuff’, or my favourite, ‘with all the budget cuts morale is very low, we need to focus on the numbers’. Not all of us our engagements contain fun teambuilding activities nor should they. It’s important to keep in mind that the application of fun can be strategically employed to help facilitate looking at challenges in a new way, solving problems, bringing teams together or driving revenue.

We’re all enjoying dinner together in a private room at one of the better restaurants in Chicago. The last two days of hard work has brought the team closer together as well as creating some solid strategies and implementation tactics. There is anticipation in the air as the Movie Game Academy Awards begin. Each team created a six to eight minute movie in their assigned genre, using costumes, props and all their creativity. We’ll watch each movie and vote for best movie, best actor and actress and witness the talents in the group. Even after so many years of working with organizations around the world I am still amazed with the creativity I observe at these workshops. I’m laughing out loud along with everyone else in the room at the final battle scene of the horror movie. It’s very cold outside and tomorrow it will still get dark at 4:30pm but this group of people will start executing a strategy to grow their business that they created together and had a lot of fun doing it.

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
–Arthur Ashe

One Response to “Creating Corporate Strategy & Making Movies – Together?”

  • Jeremy Wills:

    Great idea, our strategy sessions usually just come up with more of the same. We should just do our jobs better. We could really use this to come up with something fresh and innovative.

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