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Key to a successful offsite? Post-it® Notes!

The Odigo Team Brainstorming At Their Offsite in Shiga Prefecture -- Photo by Nathan Hosken
In a world of lifehacks and productivity apps, an increase in corporate offsites was inevitable. Upon recollection, I counted no fewer than a dozen offsites, spanning everything from boondoggles to BYO on-site offsites. The effectiveness of these events varied (and not just in direct correlation to the bar tab). After all, the follow-up and implementation is the most important part of any strategy. Planning without implementation is almost a proverb.

For my latest offsite, however, I held great hopes as this was my first with a small technology startup that I joined only several weeks ago. Accompanied with the trendiest buzzwords (ecosystems, prototyping, wireframing, etc.) I was excited to see what my new colleagues would offer in the collective invasion of privacy that took place over two days in the lake-town of Seta in Shiga Prefecture.
Look up “offsite” or “retreat” on the Internet and you will find reams of “how to’s” for guaranteeing success. A massive treasure trove of what to do/not to do, who to invite/not to invite, where to have the retreat, etc awaits!
The organizers of our retreat had done their homework:
  • the detailed agenda sent ahead of time,
  • a list of questions to consider before the event,
  • reminders at every possible interval to consider said questions and agenda, so they were at least pondered if not recorded,
  • rules for procedure (limit sidetracking, no judging, no dictating, etc.,) and
  • a steady supply of coffee.
To which we participants also abided:
  • setting timers,
  • respecting the rights of the speaker, and
  • having a dedicated note taker to keep us honest.
The result was an efficient, fun, team-building experience, and we had some amazing sessions.
The Odigo Team Working Out New Ideas -- Photo by Nathan Hosken
The last session, however, brought it all together. In this, we were tasked with brainstorming a vision for our startup baby in 2020. The topic did not so much inspire great passion, but what caught my attention, was the critical role of the Post-it® Note! Fifteen minutes of pondering our future, and 50+ notes later, we had a primordial stew of ideas strewn across the whiteboard. Everyone was working together to take what each other had written to classify and concentrate. Applying what we had learned from an earlier module about analyzing and clustering data, we began to digest the information and organized them into smaller categories. With each duplicate idea, a sense of commonality began to take shape. And with a series of horizontal swipes of the pen, we drew virtual timelines for accomplishing these feats.
Of course, management pushed up the deadline for completion of the projects with sardonic groans from each responsible team. But the result was compelling and obvious: We all felt a sense of accomplishment and common direction, both in general and within our individual spheres of interest and expertise. We had many near, medium and long-term goals, and some stretch goals (land first Odigo passenger on Mars?!).
The Odigo Team After A Successful Retreat -- Photo by Nathan Hosken

This offsite was a great start, now let’s execute. SHIGOTOSHIRO!

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