Make Your Workplace a Forum for Ideas.
“Ideas Won’t Keep. Something Must Be Done About Them.”– Alfred North Whitehead
What can a chocolatier and a news anchor teach a bunch of creatives? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Over the past year, a talented group of PGAVers established a new program called PGAV Presents. The concept was straightforward enough: invite speakers with many types of expertise to come into our studio to enrich our collective dialogue with new ideas. Most importantly, we wanted our team to be challenged and to spark debate.
A year in, we’ve experienced lively dinner conversations, book signings and free-trade chocolate samplings. Most importantly, we’ve heard our team members ask speakers provocative and thoughtful questions. They read and discussed the books authored by our speakers. And we heard new debate at the lunch table, often continuing for days after a particular speaker’s visit. In all, many unexpected and delightful results came from PGAV Presents.
My favorite moment came with speaker Dan Abrams who, in his role as Chief Legal Affairs Anchor for ABC News, had to delay his talk so that he could comment live on network television about the breaking release of the Mueller report from one of our conference rooms.
Along with Dan, our 2019 lineup included Joe Pine, co-author of the Experience Economy and other books; Amber Case, technology entrepreneur and author; and Shawn Askinosie, author and CEO of Askinosie Chocolates. Collectively, this highly accomplished group sparked lively discussions around topics such as the transformative experiences, the evolving role of law in society, the challenges of personal technology, and social equity in business and the importance of vocations.
Our team is challenged every day to be more innovative and to create solutions that will influence our world. We want our studio to be a forum for ideas and new thinking. We have found PGAV Presents to be a powerful new way to bring a world of ideas to our team.
It’s a concept that could benefit virtually any office environment, but it can be understandably difficult to break out of comfort zones to seize new opportunities. Here’s how we went about that:
- Compliment your other programs: The committee started by taking stock of the many PGAV employee development programs already in existence. The list is pretty long, and ranges from community volunteering opportunities to PGAV GO!, an annual stipend of $2,100 given to each team member for self-directed enrichment. After five years, more than $750,000 in PGAV GO! funds have been used by PGAV’ers to travel abroad, obtain advanced degrees, and pursue new hobbies. PGAV GO! sent our people out into the world. And on the other side of the coin, PGAV Presents brings the world to our people.
- Curate your content: From the beginning it was clear that delivering PGAV Presents would be a new kind of challenge. The team developed an approach to curating this speaker series, identifying four content pillars: social equity, creativity, technology and self-improvement. Our goal was to use these pillars to ensure that we were recruiting speakers that would stimulate our broad audience of 130 team members.
- Learn from the process: With those guidelines in place, the team researched ideal speakers and reached out to book them. Along the way, we solved for a variety of challenges, such as faulty sound systems and a speaker cancellation. But ultimately, we ended up with a strong slate of speakers who successfully stimulated new ideas and big questions from our team. We will take these learnings into 2020 with a new slate of exciting speakers.
There are many ways to go about it, but I encourage anyone looking to inject fresh thinking into their offices to consider a similar approach. Outside perspectives can quickly lead to new approaches to day-to-day challenges and opportunities. Who knows, you might even get some chocolate out of the deal.