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Igniting Innovation with an Off-Site Strategy Session

By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

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Ever get the feeling that the team you manage is in a creative rut? Perhaps getting them to think outside of the cubicle would help.

Done right, off-site meetings can ignite innovation and initiate cultural transformation, says Howard Tiersky, CEO of Innovation Loft, a state-of-the-art workshop facility in midtown Manhattan that employs a team of facilitators who help employers host strategic powwows, ideation events, and other types of collaborative conferences.

“Our specialty is events where participants generate big ideas, instigate critical decisions, gain team alignment, and develop actionable success plans,” Tiersky says. Though past Innovation Loft clients include giant organizations such as The NFL, Avis, ClearChannel, Visa, NBC, and Unilever, Tiersky says small employers can also benefit from off-site gatherings.

In this first part of a two-part interview, Yahoo Small Business spoke with him about the keys to hosting—and outcomes to expect from—a successful strategic meeting.

YSB: What kinds of companies benefit from taking the time and making the investment to take employees off-site for a strategy meeting?

Tiersky: The typical scenario is a company that has some really important initiative that they’d like to be successful and that requires a combination of brainstorming and ideation, prioritization and decision-making, and action. We tend to work best for companies and individuals who have been tasked with driving organizational change, are responsible for creating team alliance, are looking for proven methods of ideation and innovation, or are tasked with engaging large numbers of people for any of the above.

YSB: What are these companies hoping to get out of an off-site retreat?

Tiersky: They’re seeking team alignment—if you’re trying to do something within an organization and some people don’t feel on board it’s hard. Or, they say, “We have 100 ideas already, but we need to narrow it down to ones to execute on.” Or, most often, they’re saying, “We need to create a new product line or strategy to drive growth in the new year or to improve our operating efficiency and figure out where the opportunities are. We need to figure out the ways we could do it, how we will proceed, and how we will get it done.”

Those are the kinds of clients that can get at objectives they might not be getting at back at the office and end up with actionable plans that they can hold themselves accountable to and execute on.

YSB: Do groups ever walk away from these workshops feeling like they accomplished nothing?

Tiersky: Most of these businesses are already successful at some level, so they’re good at getting things done. But they find that they can get more done in an off-site environment. They’ll leave saying, “In three days we got done here what would have taken us three months back at work.” Getting all the right people together and removing distractions–that’s powerful.

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