FIVE LESSONS FROM SPENDING THREE DAYS IN A WINDOWLESS ROOM
BY CHRIS KING
This month, me (Chris, Creative) and Emily (Planner) took part in Engine Garage - an intense innovation training course, where we worked in cross-Engine teams on spec client briefs.
As well as being totally brilliant, it was gruelling. It was testing. And it involved spending three days, hard at work in a windowless room (albeit one with a minibar, couches and catering).
But, you know, no pain, no gain – and in just 72 hours, each team had gone from rough client brief to finished pitch presentation. Now that we’ve emerged back into the daylight, we thought we’d share the top five things we learned from the experience. So:
Death to the silo! – Our teams were made up of planners, PR people, digital natives, consultants and traditional ad-landers, with a mix of junior to senior. But instead of separating out into our silos, we all just got stuck in. The result wasn’t an unfocused, rag-tag bunch of jack-of-all-traders. No. We were an inclusive, cohesive team that cross-pollinated our skills, knuckled down and did what, as it turns out, we all do best: solve problems.
Pretend it’s 1982 – It’s hard, but forget you ever had a phone and pretend email hasn’t been invented. Just switch off and focus. Sure, it sounds a bit hippy – perhaps, if you’re client-facing, a tiny bit unprofessional. But when we took away those distractions, we packed about two weeks’ worth of work into just three days. Which, in anyone’s book, is just plain smart.
Don’t compete, collaborate – Every day, all the different groups came together to share their thinking. But instead of trying to outdo each other, we helped one another instead. Competition, winning and being the best are the markers of success in our industry though, so that didn’t come easy. But when you’re surrounded by people wanting you to succeed (instead of secretly hoping you’ll fall on your face), guess what? You succeed! And it’s fun!
It’s good to share – No matter how brilliant an idea is, if you stare at it long enough, you’ll convince yourself it’s a bad one. This is especially true in windowless rooms. So if you love an idea, then shortly afterwards find yourself making mental lists of why it’ll never work, stop. Now! And go show it to someone else.
Get over yourself – On our first day, we were greeted by a set of laminated ‘idea generation’ cards. You know the ones - how a problem is like minestrone soup, and how the brand is like a comfy sofa. Which we instantly thought were totally lame, but we had a go with them anyway. And you know what, they really, really worked. They took us to places we’d never have got to otherwise, and they made brainstorming easy too. So next time you see a laminated card, look past the clip art and go for it!
So that’s our top five – and you didn’t have to set foot in a windowless room to learn them. The proof is in the pudding though, and we’ll be doing the client presentations in the next couple of weeks. So fingers crossed!