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A little Wu-Wei goes a long way.

by | Jul 13, 2015

Last week we did something a little bit different. We took 63 people from our client, Hanover Communications to the streets of Lisbon on a Creative Safari.

Every year Hanover take the entire company away somewhere special to say thank you and celebrate. This year it was Lisbon. They also wanted to kick-start a new era of creativity in the agency, so they asked us to facilitate a business session on that. So, we thought well, rather than have them stuck in what could be any hotel, anywhere for the afternoon – how about using the environment to facilitate a Creative Safari?

You might be wondering exactly what is a Creative Safari? Well, it’s actually a bit like giving your busy conscious mind a holiday from thinking hard. Instead you wander, dilly-dally and daydream whilst allowing your environment to inspire your sub-conscious brain to make connections. Sound far-fetched? If you think about it, that is actually what is happening to us a lot of the time when we have fresh ideas.

Ever wondered why often your best ideas come when you are NOT thinking about them? Flashes of inspiration when you’re driving, walking the dog, in the shower or bath – basically doing anything but thinking hard about your challenge. That’s your subconscious at work (which is massively talented at creative thinking) making connections from all it has absorbed and doing all the heavy lifting whilst your conscious mind (which can only be aware of 7-10 things max at one time anyway) is kept busy just focusing on something simple – like the road or the dog, or the water.

It’s in those moments, when we are settled down enough inside ourselves to hear the quiet voice of our intuitive creative wisdom speaking, where we could be said to be in a state of Wu-Wei – which comes from the Chinese Taoist tradition and means busy doing nothing or going with the flow. And it’s a great state to create from.

Creativity is fundamentally the art of making new connections that allow you to see and do something new. So how did we achieve that with 63 people? We set up 9 teams of seven people and each team had a simple challenge to address. The challenges were all something to do with: How do we attract more tourists to Lisbon? Our instructions were simple.

  1. Choose a buddy
  2. Wander in Lisbon for 30 mins
  3. Gather some random stimuli
  4. Meet your team at X marks the spot on your map (café’s dotted around Lisbon)
  5. Come back as a team to the hotel with some fledgeling ideas

When the teams came back to the hotel, they were brimming with seedling ideas that had come from nothing more than a walk in the sun and a chat under a tree. They then had more time to nurture, develop and critique their ideas, culminating in Big Idea elevator pitches presented as magazine covers. The pithy presentations were all fun, clever and different.

And what did they think? From what I saw – 63 people: tired (most got up at 5am that morning) and excited (all we want to do it is get to the party bit) – were totally immersed, energised and had a ball. They loved the experience of using Lisbon as creative stimulus, and they came up with some brilliant and hilarious ideas – including rebranding Lisbon as Lisbon sur la mer to show off it’s water creds and Sportugal (establishing Lisbon as an alternative sports go-to location). We think the Lisbon tourist board should hire them!

They were also impressed when we revealed at the end that the Lisbon challenges they had solved, had a relevance to their own business and so back at the ranch, they will be using the whole Creative Safari experience as rich stimulus for resolving their real business challenges. But more than anything, each person discovered something insightful from their own direct experience, which was what we had asked them to believe at the beginning of the session and what we at NowGoCreate know to be true: Everyone is creative. And with the help of a little Lisbon Wu-Wei – now they all know it too.

Written by Elizabeth Lovius, our leadership expert. Please contact Lucy if you’re interested in running a Creative Safari for your team

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