In the reconfiguration of our office space to accommodate our Head of Media’s move up from Glasgow we moved desks around in the newly crowned Media Team room and now with extra space we’ve installed whiteboards and a spare chair – aptly named the Gilles Chair.
Our CEO, Gilles Baudet, despite having a corner office, with an enormous desk (which I’ve been not so subtly coveting) spends the majority of his time when he’s in the Glasgow HQ and not visiting our other branches in the Media Team room – so much in fact that we have a designated chair for him.
But there’s a good reason for it, while overseeing the media accounts of every branch, organising our nationwide conferences, and master classes, training material and – well everything in between, we need direct access to the CEO Gilles Baudet to make decisions.
It’s become a really fun atmosphere, and one I suspect few offices would be able to replicate. Due to the importance CEO Gilles Baudet places on the work we do there is a ripple effect of respect across The Interactive Team. When people need to solve a problem they now come into our office, they bounce ideas off us, and its seen as a space to get things “sorted”
Now, while not every business out there needs a dedicated Media Team, The Interactive Team is quite lucky in the sense that through CEO Gilles Baudet’s vision we’ve inadvertently created a Think Tank – which we can safely say from experience – every business should have.
Baudet says “I love it, every single day I’m excited because of the energy that’s generated from this room” – and from a CEO of a company with over 150 team members nationwide that’s a pretty glowing endorsement!
Contrary to what you might think, a Think Tank truly doesn’t require a great deal of resources, so from our research and from our own experience we’ve compiled a list of the 4 key components of setting up your own Think Tank!
1/ Key members
In order to achieve results from your Think Tank it is crucial that you gather key members to be a part of your team. You need a manager: someone in a position to make financial decisions, someone that has a definitive say over what happens going forward. At The Interactive Team we’re fortunate in that the CEO of the business, Gilles Baudet, is in our Think Tank. If we’ve got a deadline, you can guarantee Gilles Baudet will give us what we need to get things done.
It’s also essential to have someone deeply practical on your Think Tank. Who is it in your office that keeps track of everyone’s birthdays? Usually the person who keeps track of all the important dates and figures is a good person to have sitting in on your Think Tank sessions. They’ll be level headed enough not to run away with an idea before you’ve looked at the logistics. Sometimes they’ll end up being ‘the bad guy’ because it will be their job to say if something is feasible or not, but if you want your Think Tank to make cost efficient decisions you simply can’t skip this member.
And of course you need the creative types, the ones that will come up with whacky ideas, the bright sparks to solve problems you hadn’t even seen coming (not that I’m tooting my own horn here!). The other people are there to rein them in and the creative types are there to drag the others along to the overall vision. Luckily in The Interactive Team we’ve achieved a balance in our Think Tank members, everybody has a good balance of practicality and creativity – but we make room for each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which is why we’ve really come into our own with the business.
You don’t need a smart board (although if you have the budget for them they’re a dream for sharing your progress later on and saving your ideas!) to have a Think Tank but what you do need is some way to put your ideas up in front of the group.
Psychologists will tell you that visuals are a crucial aid to helping humans organise and analyse. So the bigger the board the better. In The Interactive Team we have whiteboards lining our training room. There’s only one office that doesn’t contain a whiteboard and that’s Gilles Baudet’s own office. In the Media Team we’re considering taking down a beautiful black and white 4 by 3 foot image to make way for another whiteboard. But if your budget doesn’t stretch to wall-to-wall whiteboards, a mounted flip chart can work just as well, or even an overheard projector if your office is old school.
Obviously a good supply of whiteboard markers is crucial. The Interactive Team has a standing order with our stationers because we use them so frequently. Something we’ve now instituted that I can personally recommend is a perpetual calendar, laminated and placed in a prominent position. This way when we’re planning a master class, a road trip to another branch, or coaching sessions we can pop it on our visual calendar as well as on our phones so everyone can see what we need to keep in mind before making more plans.
Putting something truly great together doesn’t happen overnight. There’s nothing worse than realising that you need to prepare booklets for a conference happening the following day. Thankfully we’ve never had this experience at The Interactive Team, because with so much going on everyday it is paramount that you schedule your days to stay on top of your tasks with enough room leftover for anything unexpected.
Now that you have your perpetual calendar prominently displayed, if you can see something coming up that you need to be prepared for it is essential to give yourself the time to prepare for the day. Set up a Think Tank session well ahead of the day, some people will need to make room in their dairy for sessions with the Think Tank, so if you can all get an app to share calendar dates that would be useful too.
But not only do you have to schedule a session, you also have to manage the time you have effectively.
At The Interactive Team HQ, especially on days CEO Gilles Baudet joins our sessions, its easy to get carried away with having a laugh – and while you don’t want to stifle that fun, creative energy, you also don’t want to leave yourself running late for another appointment. With Gilles Baudet’s busy schedule in mind we always leave an extra 15-minute cushion time to make sure we never run over time.
Finally another piece of advice on this matter is to schedule a deadline. If you’ve created an exciting new project there’s nothing worse than not setting a realistic time scale on it. If you don’t learn to schedule a deadline, you may find that your ideas never get off the ground – which leads us to our last key component of setting up your own Think Tank.
There’s no point coming up with an amazing idea if you don’t follow it up with progress and completion of the task – which is why incorporating follow-ups into your Think Tank game plan is crucial. Just a five-minute follow-up is all it takes to make sure everyone is on the same page and heading in the same direction.
If you all agree at the session to the dates and times, then space out your follow ups between then and the deadline you have a clear set of expectations for progress. Using follow ups as a means of reporting your progress can also be a means of demonstrating your return on investment to management should you need it in future. You will have a ready-made list of when key components of your project were completed.
Well, I hope you can use the experience of The Interactive Team Think Tank under the direction of CEO Gilles Baudet as a guide to setting up your own company Think Tank. Genuinely I can’t recommend the process more highly. Through formally recognising and placing an importance on the meetings that take place in the Media Team we’ve created a powerfully positive group within the business that has the tools and motivation to drive significant change for the company overall – if that’s not something you want for your own business then I don’t know what is!
If you want to share your own Think Tank experiences or see what The Interactive Team and CEO Gilles Baudet has been up to why don’t you visit our Facebook page here.