The days away

3 min read

The sun was out, the journey wasn’t long, and the people were ready for play…. Last week we went to Huddersfield for our Common Good Away Days and yes it didn’t stop raining… but no, that didn’t stop us.

When I first joined Common Good, one of the first things I did was to ask the founders about the reasons they started the company and what their expectations were for themselves and the business (I was completing a thesis at the time and so luckily I have their exact quotes still to hand!)

Charlie, Common Good’s Design Lead explained, “It’s all about value — value for everyone. Value for the client, value for you, value for me.” Which John, our Strategic Lead agreed with, “Yes, values and a collective understanding of what they are, and holding everybody accountable to them, including us — most importantly us.”

Culture is an important factor for anyone designing and running a business. To attract people and keep them you need to build a healthy organisational culture and lay a strong foundation as that company grows. No-one wants to be in a culture by default. The dictionary describes culture as the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society: and/or the attitudes and behaviour characteristic of a particular social group. So organisational culture can be seen as the behaviours of people within an organisation and of course these behaviours can be both good and bad, that’s for your team to establish.

For the next 2 days we're in this lovely old building for our annual Common Good away days…

A photo posted by Common Good (@commgoodco) on

One of the first activities we did (after playing The Simpsons Cluedo Board Game) was an exercise in understanding what we felt were helpful and hindering behaviours for us as a group. This was great to set the tone.

“I want to understand the world from your point of view. I want to know what you know in the way you know it. I want to understand the meaning of your experience.”

From behaviours we moved to values using Hyper Island’s Explore Your Values tool to explore the values that are most important for each person in the team.

It wasn’t about having a right or wrong set but to start a conversation around everyone’s personal values. I think one of our biggest insights around this exercise was the similarities everyone had. Lots of learnings.

“I believe that no creative company should ever stop evolving, and this would be our latest attention to avoid stagnation.” — Creativity Inc.

At Common Good, we’re use a number of tools to design and disrupt business models. For the Away Days we wanted to test a tool we hadn’t used previously called the Team Canvas to help us align as a team.

The canvas proved super useful. We mapped key roles and activities, personal and company goals, our clear purpose, as well as our strengths and weaknesses. This helped create healthy debate around change and elevated our core shared vision.

The canvas also laid the foundation for opportunities and strategies moving forward, including new business objectives and team needs.

Ed Catmull said in Creativity Inc. that openness is only possible in a culture whereby managers understand that others see problems they don’t, their blind spots, and that others also see solutions; Daniel Pink in his book Drive stated that by giving individuals a sense of autonomy, it can have a powerful effect on individual performance and attitude. It seems that healthy organisations need to create flow-friendly environments that help people move toward mastery and so by understanding each individual’s needs, we are better equipped at moving forward together.

We ended with a feedback exercise building on good insights into each other’s strengths. It was fun and insightful!

Why did we go? Why was it important? It might of been the array of cooking skills the team secretly possessed…

…but I think this quote by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline sums it up pretty well,

“When you ask people about what it is like being part of a great team, what is most striking is the meaningfulness of the experience.”

We’ll definitely be doing more days away… but our big learning for next time… Go somewhere hot!

Although we need to find somewhere that has just as good bed sheets…