In July, every year, the entire a2z team comes together in Columbia, MD for an ‘a2zweek’ full of intensive training, brainstorming, and group learning. Each a2zWeek has its own specific agenda or theme that the team explores in considerable depth not just during that week but also through the subsequent months.
This year’s theme being “Innovation and the future of Events”, we kicked off the week with a day-long workshop with Dr. Oliver Schlake, Clinical Full Professor at Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. During the workshop, through a series of interesting, interactive exercises, we explored a number of creative techniques to generate innovative ideas to meet numerous challenges and opportunities for the events industry in the near future.
The next day, we broke up into smaller groups and participated in a team-building scavenger hunt in the Historic Ellicott City area. Organized by cityHUNTTM and facilitated through a custom smartphone app, the scavenger hunt included a series of fun, creative challenges that each group had to complete. This gamification experience encouraged open communication, out-of-the-box thinking and collaborative problem-solving. Though it took many of us out of our comfort zones, the day was a productive one since it brought forth many hidden talents within our team, and was full of innumerable aha moments!
Over the next two days, a series of sessions enabled various functional teams to have one-to-one conversations with each other, while exploring process improvement and new product ideas. Not that it was all work! Individual functional teams also participated in several smaller, breakout activities including a mindfulness meditation session, a cooking demo, and an escape room challenge.
In addition, eight separate cross-functional teams encompassing everyone at a2z worked through the week on a project to come up with ‘their take’ on what the future holds for tradeshows and conferences. To let the creative juices flow and not impede unconventional reasoning, the scope of this exercise was purposefully not narrowed down with pre-specified conditions and guidelines. On the last working day of the week, each presented its vision on where face-to-face events are headed in the near as well as distant future. The high level of imaginative thinking and original conceptualization that each team revealed in its presentation wowed all of us and led to further brainstorming on where human ingenuity coupled with machine-based learning can take events in the future.
In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing the learnings and ideas that emerged from this year’s a2zWeek in a series of articles on this blog. Watch this space!
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