As a part of my job, I have the absolute privilege of guiding and coaching executives and their teams to solve their own challenges. Part of our focus at Bulldog Drummond is to design and facilitate learning experiences for many of our clients. Our main focus includes helping internal teams work together in new ways that will entice them to solve major challenges, identify opportunities for change, and create new products.
Oftentimes when an organization comes to us, they feel they are rigid, monotonous, or static and need outside perspective, an injection of energy, insights, and new ways to move an initiative forward or to solve a significant problem. One universal truth that I've discovered across every major corporation we've worked with is there is no shortage of amazing talent, powerful thinking, or passion and capability to develop new ideas. However, almost every one of them lacks the appropriate amount of time to develop and mold these ideas. Not everyone is dealing with a burning platform, but getting teams to spend quality time together on significant issues seems to be a challenge for most. However, when the time is deligated, significant problems are solved and value is created. Unfortunately, most companies do not create the space to do so until it's almost too late.
What's Your Problem?
No matter what industry you're in, or what position you hold in your company, it's very likely that you are under a siege of challenges every day you step into the office. Whether it's not having enough time, the right resources, an exhausted team, an executive team that is out of touch with the realities of your day-to-day, or mixed messages, challenges can compound quickly. The good news is you're not alone. Most companies face this challenge daily, and while there's no comfort in that knowledge, the first step in solving your challenge is to acknowledge you have one, and then to define what the problem is so you can determine how to solve it.
Why Don't You Spend More Time Working Together?
We often find that culture is in the way of the solution, that the right people (from the same company) are not in the same room together, and there is rarely enough time to focus on the issue at hand. If this sounds elementary and obvious, it is. It's a disease that is affecting corporate health every day. Look at your day today, your team, your priorities, and your schedule, and I'd bet one of the biggest challenges you have is the lack of time you have to think about tomorrow. Everyone needs more time to think and when the time is allocated, when people work together to think about tomorrow and strive to solve big challenges, amazing things will happen.
Starbucks Got Laser-Focused
We were fortunate to work with the Starbucks executive team and a number of their trusted outside partners. Their incredible turnaround story  is now a well-read case study that will inspire many innovative business leaders for years to come. From our vantage point, Starbucks created the time and the space to understand their challenges and designed a process to focus on rebuilding their brand with an appropriate sense of urgency and focus. Along with the single-mindedness of a leader with a vision, they put the right people where they needed to be and allocated their resources appropriately to do the job properly.
When we're framing a project to help a team solve a significant challenge or attack a big opportunity, we always take the following steps:
Step 1: What's the problem? Frame the challenge clearly.
While it sounds obvious, framing the challenge clearly is the first step to take. Use the power of “Why?” to ensure the challenge is clearly stated and that everyone on your team understands the problem or the opportunity. Frame the challenge as a question. For example, when working with Mattel, we asked “What does the future of toy shopping look like?”
Step 2: Unleash cross-functional teams.
Brilliant minds inside companies are often under-utilized because there isn't a venue to bring them together. These minds don't get enough time with their peers and are rarely put into environments designed to produce them with enough time to attack a single issue. When solving a challenge, don't just have marketing or product development teams attack the problem. Instead, unleash the power of cross-functional teams and, if possible, more than one. Pick at least five people from different functions who have a perspective on the challenge you're trying to solve and utilize their brilliant minds to their maximum potential.
Step 3: Put the consumer (and key insights) into the middle of the challenge.
PowerPoints, charts, and graphs send the smartest people to sleep fast. Millions of dollars are flushed down the drain because people aren't paying attention to the data and the knowledge it contains is not organized in a manner that tells a compelling story. Bringing the consumer to life as people, not just as data, places the consumer and key scenarios into the middle of the challenge in an organized and insightful approach.
Step 4: Design and facilitate an amazing project experience.
When attacking a challenge, envision the entire experience from beginning to end so that the teams can focus on solving the challenge. At Bulldog Drummond, we begin by defining success with the project leaders and then choose an inspiring offsite venue and bring 5 to 10 cross-functional teams together. We make sure there is homework completed in advance preparing the teams for their time together, including gathered research, trends, and suggested work in the field. Next, we design the experience--from music and food, to a range of carefully facilitated exercises--and we model a passionate curiosity to solve the problem. At the end of the one or two days we always have amazing, actionable outcomes. If energy, fun and a healthy dose of competition are included throughout a 1 to 2 day summit, it will always unlock the power of your people and/or your teams.
Step 5: Act quickly on the outcomes.
There is never a shortage of actionable ideas that come out of our working summits. The key to success is to ensure that the ideas are not lost because they haven't been framed correctly, or they don't get the time and attention due to the day-to-day activities. Make sure that post the summit, the learnings and outcomes are synthesized in a compelling way, and that a project champion is chosen to lead the ideas into development.
Don't think time or resources are an excuse not to bring your best people together. A designed learning experience for your team will solve the biggest challenges and uncover amazing, innovative opportunities for change.
Shawn Parr is the The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond , an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND .
[Image: Flickr User Jo Christian Oterhals ]