Cultivating a Creative Culture
Two decades ago companies developed mission statements to show employees and clients/customers the values that they hold most true and to promote a strong office culture that ensures success for the company and its employees. But, without a core set of values and principles that ALL employees, from the ceo to the intern, believe and support, a mission statement is nothing more than a graphic decoration on the wall.
So how does a company create and grow a strong office culture to back a solid mission? While culture must be developed, fostered and encouraged within the workplace, we believe that one of the most important elements for cultural success comes from being OUT of the workplace.
Conventional logic states more work gets done when there is more time to work, and cultural success is achieved when the highest quality work teams are solid, communicative and work as one. To do this, people need to step away from their work, email, phone and grow together. One of the most effective team growth techniques we have employed is the “company retreat,” which allows us to get everyone away from their desks and out of the office to not only spend time together, but to also push their own boundaries, get to know each other better and celebrate a strong team with dynamic individuals.
For our latest retreat, our small band of rebels boarded a bus and drove about 30 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. to an adventure course. To ensure that EVERYONE would feel comfortable enough to participate, our selected adventure course was comprised of 13 separate trails of varying levels of difficulty. Each trail had zip lines but primarily consisted of “bridges” between tree platforms made of rope, cable and wood configurations creating more than 190 different challenges.
We ascended to a platform a story off of the forest floor that would serve as home base. From this platform, each of us could select our preferred path and begin our adventures in the sky. We soared along zip lines and climbed, slid, jumped and swung through the forest, pushing ourselves and each other. Cheers, laughs and applause were the sounds of the forest that day only briefly dampened by a bone-soaking downpour which only strengthened the comaradery. Following three hours of group challenges—including one freefall platform that scared the sh*t out of this author—we reboarded our bus and headed to the new Audi Field to watch our major league soccer team, DC United in action, followed by dinner where we laughed and regaled the events that day.
Rain, mud, physical challenges and exhaustion were no match for our team. In one afternoon, we took our strong culture and layered on solid coats of physical and emotional support, comaradery, laughter and friendship. The outcome will have an extended positive impact on our culture and how projects get done. We climbed, jumped and flew together; working through a set of construction documents doesn’t seem so difficult in comparison. Individually, each of us tried new things, pushing the proverbial envelope, with all of our teammates cheering us on. This support will continue in the office as we face daily challenge and seek greater inspiration. Whether it be during the design process, cranking on those last minute details or presenting the project to the clients, we have each other’s backs. We “lost” six hours of production time and we will absolutely do it again.
There is no fail-safe method to creating and growing a solid office culture. The path to success begins with conversation and communication across all levels. As the company changes, so can the culture; don’t be afraid to revisit it often. It is about building a strong team, not just words on a wall! A solid, happy team will produce incredible results and strive for excellence!
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