Utilize Your City For Inspiration
One could suspect that the chaos inherent in cities would decrease productivity; a preponderance of distractions, increased stress levels, and traffic to just name a few. This research shows that when a city doubles in population every indicator of economic growth increases by 15%. Aggregating various industries in the same area helps increase collaboration, purchasing power, and a myriad of other reasons as to why a larger population in a city can be beneficial. But of paramount importance is the innovation that cities tend to drive.
City planners are aware of this, and many cities are designed with this in mind or were incidentally built this way and left intact. Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, wrote, “By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange.” Part of what helps inspire the denizens of a city are the various sights, eccentricities, and the many places that people can congregate. Even though these are some of the reasons people are drawn to cities in the first place, many are unfamiliar with the very place they spend most of their time in.
Each city has its own attractions ranging from the commonly known places like theaters, libraries, and museums; to the lesser known like a restaurant that serves the spiciest peppers in town or the regular watering hole of the local political movers and shakers. Even with the varied individual tastes and preferences inherent in a metropolis, there is something within that can kindle the creative spark in anyone. If you’re a team leader it seems like a mistake to let all that effort from the city planners go to waste.
The idea of being a tourist in your own city is fairly well known, but isn’t often applied in team building activities despite the obvious benefits. This might be due to concerns about engaging all team members who may have varied hobbies; however an important part of being a tourist is to search out and find the things that pique a group’s interests. Taking several hours out of the day to explore the sights in the city might seem like a waste, but there are many opportunities for facilitating stronger bonds within a team. This can also lead to a flash of insight from a new experience.
Most are familiar with the many famous flashes of inspiration that came from unlikely sources, like Newton and the apple; Crick discovered the system for DNA replication from sculpture replication. Imagine wandering into a local bookstore, briefly browsing through a book on Egyptian mythology and finding an insight to that question currently facing you in the workplace; August Kekulé realized what the structure of the benzene ring was after a daydream of the Ouroboros. Many professional conferences are partially used to acquire inspiration from how others operate. These can be beneficial, but learning more about your team’s home base can also help improve connections within the city itself.
People move to cities not to increase their productivity but to be with people. One of the researchers who discovered the connection between increased city population and production per capita pointed to the chance encounters that could spark inspiration and collaboration as a primary source for cities’ success. A previous post  brought up the benefits that exploring outside the team can bring, and this concept can be applied to a whole team engaging with other professionals in a local restaurant or cafe. These types of establishments have long been sources of inspiration, helping foster conversation between intellectuals for centuries at the least. Spending time exploring the city can give the team an opportunity to bond over a shared meal, or even lead to a chance encounter with a new client at a famed local steakhouse.
It might feel somewhat ridiculous to be a tourist in the place that you live or work, but the advantages are manifold and worth the investment. Spending a day out strolling the town can help get the blood flowing, eating a meal with your team can increase positivity, and exploring new locations can lead to flashes of inspiration or insight. A small historical placard might remind a team member of forgotten code that allows a project to move forward. Strange architecture could give an engineer an idea for a product design. And the team might find a restaurant where professionals in a similar field frequently gather for lunch breaks. These benefits, as well as many others, make it crucial to get your team out and exploring its city.
To get moving with your team on a fun team building activity that works, take a Scavenger Hunt with Strayboots. The author, Tom Porcella, is a young professional who writes for various blogs and publications. Inquiries can be made to [email protected]