Impactful Offsite Series
Hollie Kirk,
Innovation in the Wilds
A fan of business innovation and surfing, Hollie shares her thoughts...
Quick biography:

I support academics at the University of Exeter to work with external partners, particularly SMEs based in Cornwall. One of my main themes is Innovation in the Wilds, which supports Prof. Allen Alexander to take businesses outside of their normal working environment, and use the outdoors to help think of new products and processes in the business.

The Big Picture

How do you perceive the role and value of offsites changing pre-and post-pandemic?
I think they give local independent hospitality businesses an opportunity to extend the season, explore new customer base and capitalise on the ‘adventure tourism’ movement. Employees don’t want the same ‘away day’ experience of beige food and death by powerpoint, they want to have a more natural engagement with colleagues, doing something they won’t usually get to do. I am concerned with the rising costs in Qtr4 of 2022, value for money will be assessed for offsites, looking at packages closer to home or how to create your own may be a business opportunity.

You work with a diverse ecosystem of suppliers involved in "innovation in the wilds: venues, experience providers, academics, and coaches. What have you learnt from this amazing group?
The value for the client is in the overnight stays rather than 3 hours out of the office, an overnight allows you to immerse in the environment and switch off. Never underestimate people's comfort zones, for some a walk can create its own obstacles – kit, fitness and fears. You can never over plan an offsite!

How do you cater for diverse team needs and varying levels of adventurousness? What’s your approach to large teams, do you go “all-hands” or break down into smaller teams? Any advice for companies considering this in their planning phase?
Different options during an offsite can help break down people's barriers to an activity, but for our academic research, it is about pushing people outside of their comfort zones to enable them to think about doing things in the business differently. The satisfaction of doing something new can aid the innovation process.
There are always going to be different levels of ability and we want to make our events as inclusive as possible, but sometimes we then end up taking the innovative nature out of the event for some.

What have been your favourite breakthrough offsite moments?
When I was chased by a goose on our Dartmoor trip during the networking session in the evening, this really pushed me out of my comfort zone, whilst trying to be professional and not act scared. This acted as an icebreaker for the group and a good conversation piece. The challenges in an outdoor and offsite environment can come from anywhere!

Are there any favourite venues, coaches, facilitators, speakers, or experiences you want to give a shout-out to?
Ian from Vertical Blue – such a storyteller on all the groups he has taken out over the years. Steve from Explore in Cornwall – manages every few minutes to find something interesting to share with the group.

Are there any people, projects, podcasts, books or resources you’d like to give a shout-out to who have helped shape your thinking in this space?
The Radical Innovation Playbook: A Practical Guide for Harnessing New, Novel or Game-Changing Breakthroughs eBook : Kokshagina, Olga, Alexander, Allen: Books

Who else should we get in conversation for our Impactful Offsites Series?
PAs – they are the ones who organise it all, I think their insights are invaluable in organising and also they are the ones who present the options to the decision maker!

Thank you Hollie.

Note from Ed: Don't miss the Innovation in the Wilds + WorkTripp event

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