How a Company Retreat can be Your New Source for Innovation

posted on March 9th 2017 in Innovation & Productivity & Remote work & Retreat with 0 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

There are a variety of offers for the individual “digital nomad” such as co-working and living spaces, cruises, and trips (find an overview here). Although there are many options, retreats for corporations are on the fast lane. This emerging trend is a result of distributed teams spread all over the globe and companies having the ongoing need for attracting and holding talented staff. However, largely overlooked is the fact that company retreats can actually lead to innovative breakthroughs. Before we learn how retreats spark innovation, let’s have a look at some of their more well-known benefits.


Benefit N° 1: Team Building & Talent Acquisition

One of the most obvious benefits of company retreats is team bonding. Having people talk face to face, and giving them the opportunity to get to know their coworkers at a deeper level, creates stronger teams that can work together more efficiently. However, trips can help not just to improve relationships with people already part of your team, but they can also help you acquire new talent. As entrepreneur John Rampton explains, “Inviting a prospective hire to your company’s retreat can quickly integrate her or him into your corporate culture, show off your company’s assets in an environment that highlights company strengths and make choosing your company the natural decision.”

Team retreat @ Surfoffice® (photo taken from their facebook page)

Team retreat @ Surfoffice® (photo taken from their facebook page)

Companies like Outsite, Yonderwork, Surfoffice, Swiss Escape and Remote Year for Business are on the forefront of offering retreats. They boast having worked with star companies including Google, Linkedin, Upwork, Shopify and Buffer. One of the secrets of their success is the blend of work, team-bonding, and outdoor activities in breathtaking nature. Let’s have a look at the latter.


Benefit N°2: Health & Productivity

Another great benefit of retreats is your ability to regain physical and mental health, wellbeing, and reduce stress. They can also help your team gain a better perspective of your company. Rather than focusing on your day-to-day work, they allow you to broaden your focus to the bigger picture and get inspiration. Being surrounded by nature plays a crucial part. “Just being in contact with nature can improve an employee’s sense of well-being and productivity in the office,” states Stanford Professor Katie Curhan.


The best benefit of them all: Innovation!

Team retreat @ Swiss Escape® (photo taken from their facebook page)

However, being surrounded by nature and being away from the office can do much more than bonding teams, increasing health, and improving overall staff performance. It can boost innovative thinking. Surprisingly enough, the majority of the retreat providers don’t have innovation trainings or workshops included in their portfolio. Let me explain the effects that retreats at beautiful destinations force on your brain.


What happens in your brain while on a retreat

In my last blog on remote working and innovation I showed that innovation is a cognitive performance. A creative insight is the result of new connections in your neural network between the field of your expertise and seemingly unrelated content.

Team retreat @® (photo taken from their facebook page)

What is part of most innovation workshops is the relentless focus on the problem to be solved. This thinking pattern is helpful for getting into the details of a problem, having a solution-focus, and addressing the spotlight on customer needs, value propositions, market opportunities and so on. The left hemisphere of your brain becomes activated. But this brings your brain into a clenched state where creative thinking becomes difficult. Trying to force innovation can actually prevent it. For epiphanies and creative insights, a relaxed state of mind is crucial. When not thinking analytically, the right hemisphere is activated. This means that remote associations and new connections can be built up, which can lead to innovative breakthroughs.

The reason why epiphanies happen during warm showers is simply because there is no phone or laptop at hand and our mind and body is in a state of complete relaxation. We don’t have to think of anything. The same happens during the dizzy state of just waking up, while sleeping, or with outdoor activities that have a relaxing effect like hiking or water sports. This is why retreats can have such a positive effect on creativity!


How to use a retreat to foster innovation

But placing your team close to a beach and booking a design thinking workshop won’t get you that far. The innovation processes you get taught stay at the surface of how innovation works and you’re unlikely to apply them in your daily work. There will be little long-term impact. However, learning to use the brain as a tool for innovation will enable your team to take new ways of thinking from the retreat back to the office. Knowing where insights come from makes it easier to generate them in the first place. In a second step, learning to mentally balance focus and relaxation and to adjust and calculate your own creative thinking processes will make your team able to generate a systematic and methodical innovative outcome.

Curious to learn more about this topic or to tackle a new innovation process in your business?

Let me help! Have a look on my page “work” on and start a conversation!