Finding the right place for your team

A recent WSJ article has me thinking about which settings or places are most advantageous for various team activities. The article points to the growing trend for organizations to conduct business at company events traditionally devoted to social interaction – the company picnic. The main rationales for adding “work” activities to the social agenda appear to be to defend against charges of corporate excess and to maximize value considering the high costs, in dollars and time, of bringing everyone together.

It strikes me that organizations may also be able to achieve better results by undertaking certain activities in social settings than might be achieved in traditional business settings. Some of the most creative and innovative ideas are generated when teams are in more relaxed settings, outside of normal workplaces. That makes brainstorming, in particular, a good candidate for settings with a high social component. Another good activity is early project planning, which often requires creative thinking about the current and future needs of a project and exploration of alternatives for meeting those needs.

To add another angle, I have already discussed Troy Worman’s great post about teamwork and synergy. Here is what Troy says about the role of “place”.

[Synergy] is not the product of conference rooms or sterile laboratories. Rather, it is the stuff of garages and coffee houses, places where individuality and diversity of thought flourish…

Combining thoughts from the company picnic article and synergy post, consider this hypothesis: By performing certain activities in social settings, teams can experience greater synergy and achieve better results. Although I am not aware of definitive research testing this hypothesis, anecdotal experience suggests that teams can often achieve positive outcomes on both goals.

What have been your experiences? How important do you see place when it comes to building teamwork and synergy and producing results in creative thinking, strategic planning, and other non-routine team activities?

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