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We’re Agents of Necessity. Communication strategy is our lifeblood.

COMMUNICATION STRATEGY IS AT THE CENTRE OF REINVENTION ACROSS MARKETING AND ADVERTISING.

That’s our opinion – and with senior strategists who have worked on nearly every category, across over 25 global markets, studying countless consumer groups – it’s an opinion informed not only by evidence, but by a clear view of where brands and agencies need to move next.

Dive into our products and services, meet our team. We’ve got lots of thinking for you to enjoy. This year, we’ve performed a record number of workshops, with agencies and brands, to determine creative territories, nail process, harmonize teams, refresh ways of thinking. Curious about how workshops really work? Read on:


The Deeper Benefits of Workshops

This summer, I had the most amazing experience. I was asked to mentor a group of very smart strategists in a series of workshops. Now, at this point in my career the workshops I’ve run number in the hundreds, but this was a unique experience — where I got to “workshop the workshoppers.”

To be frank, it was equal parts terrifying and fabulous, and like most experiences of that kind, it took me a while to fully appreciate what was achieved. With this extremely articulate group of participants, I really saw how workshops work on many levels.

On the surface, workshops are straightforward. We embark upon workshops mostly to Get Stuff Done. To Team Build. To Work it Out. Workshops have outcomes and we achieve them.

But there’s a whole lot more going on below the surface. Not all the benefits are obvious. Not all the work that gets done happens in the workshop itself. However, when managed well, workshops can be an experience that can transform not just teams or people, but the work you create together.

Let’s call this the Deep Benefits of Workshops (DBOWs for short):

DBOW #1: GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

One of the most frequent comments I hear in workshops goes something like this: “God, we should do this more often, work together, collaborate — Sarah, how do we do this more regularly?”

What’s really stopping us from workshops, brainstorms, and collaboration of any kind? The truth is that most of the time we’re stuck in our own heads (present company included). Being stuck in your head can be in the form of sticking to our daily routine. Sometimes it’s the crushing workloads that we take on. Sometimes it’s the back to back meetings and calls that we put into our diaries. Did any of you notice the pronoun choices there? Not very subtly, I’m making the point that we don’t collaborate and workshop because we forget how important it is and we don’t make time for it because there are so many things that seem more important.

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The simple act of getting in a workshop breaks those coded routines, rational, emotional, often physical. We’re so used to the Blue Pill we forget what the Red Pill tastes like. Those breaks in coded routine blow fresh air into our crowded heads and that leads to better creativity, more motivation, hell, maybe we’ll sleep better at night, who knows?

That’s why I find myself dispensing facetious but useful advice: take a different route to work, talk to your Uber driver, etc. Will we slide back into our routines, back into our heads? Probably, because it’s comfortable and it works. But we’ll be reminded every time we workshop how fun it is to get out once in a while.

DBOW #2: WORKSHOPS ARE AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK ON YOURSELF.

Wait. Isn’t workshopping supposed to be about other people, team building, more than the sum of our parts, etc. etc.?

Yes, yes and yes.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming) the reason why workshops build synergy is that, by the simple act of being there, you are suddenly comparing yourself to other people and being aware and present at all times.

Building on my previous point, being in our heads means that most of the time we’re profoundly unaware of our effect on other people. In a workshop, you are in the spotlight — or at least you think you are. For those few hours that a workshop takes, you are more hyper-aware of yourself and how you interact with people than you have been in weeks. Being present and conscious of your place in the world makes you a better contributor, enables you to bring more out of the people around you, and makes the work you create, you guessed it, better.

This benefit I believe to be of the most lasting effects of workshopping, because usually people apply that simple subtle learning from the workshop at their very next meeting. They’re aware of people’s perception of them because, simply, they have changed their perception of themselves.

Meta, I know. But it’s a very real outcome.

DBOW #3: PEACE, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING IS OVERRATED.

As a career-long avoider of conflict, this was a tough lesson for me. I come from a family of teachers who are all really good at getting a group of people to a certain outcome together in (mostly) perfect harmony. Family dinners are a SHINING example.

One thing I’ve begun to see in the last few years is that workshops, when they get sticky, expose conflict. I had a particularly memorable experience where a branding exercise revealed that the founders of the company were NEVER going to agree with each other about what their company would become.

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Was that experience uncomfortable? Oh yes, it was completely horrible. But, in a way, that workshop exposed a fundamental challenge that could have stalled the company’s progress for months, if not years, and bringing that conflict to the light accelerated their transformation.

Now, that’s an extreme example, but to pretend that we don’t encounter conflict and disagreement at work is disingenuous. Workshops expose conflicts faster than other experiences because we are out of our heads. We are paying attention to how we affect other people. Frankly, workshops are one of the unsung places for working conflict out and MOVING ON. I see it practically every time we gather in a room: whether it’s someone winning back the respect of their colleagues, or agreeing to disagree on how to manage someone, or to finally see how a personality so utterly different than them could produce good work.

Workshops are a glassblower’s furnace. Some beautiful stuff comes out, but you might singe your eyebrows along the way.

At this point in my journey, one would think there isn’t much more to learn about workshops. I’m SO glad to be continually proved wrong.

Sarah Ivey is the CEO and Founder of Agents of Necessity Inc., a global strategy agency that specializes in insight, planning, and you guessed it, team training and workshopping.