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The Offsite Day and the Importance of Novelty

Here at Tada, we try and do a few offsite days per year, be it at a golf course, a barbecue at mine, brasserie or a scavenger hunt around the city. Last week was the first of this year with the Tada team spending a day in an ancient Belgian Abbey called Orval. Spiritual enlightenment you ask? Well, not as such, but rather enlightenment of a different kind and a clear demonstration in the power of novelty.

The morning kicked off with a bus arriving full of a bright eyed, Tada swag wearing team members. Most of them had never been to Orval, so this in itself was a novel experience. The team stood in awe as they looked over to a massive old Abbey, that is not only famous for it’s architecture, but also for the fact that it makes exceptional (globally recognised) beer and cheese - hey I had to get the team to there some how! As much as I could rave on about how awesome the beer and cheese are and how even I could become a monk if I got to work here (see below) I want to use this post to emphasise the importance of taking teams to new environments and providing them with novel situations.

From a neuroscience perspective, novelty is probably one of the most powerful signals in determining what we pay attention to in the world. In fact, researchers have found that novelty causes a number of brain systems to become activated; in particular the dopamine system. This system, residing deep within the brain stem, sends the neurotransmitter dopamine to locations across the brain. Traditionally researchers believed dopamine’s role to be that of a “feel-good” neurotransmitter (because drugs that create euphoria, such as cocaine or meth cause an increase of dopamine in particular parts of the brain). However, researchers are now understanding that the dopamine system is likely to be more like that of a “gimme more” neurotransmitter. Focus and drive - what more could you ask for in preparation for a comprehensive quarterly update right?

Because after all, as our company grows and grows team leader presentations are becoming ever more important. The days of each member of the team standing up for a few minutes each morning and explaining what they are working on are becoming a thing the past. As flat as we attempt to be I believe there is a place for group leaders to keep the teams on track and act as glue between the different teams. Once the excited bunch settled down into a fully equipped conference room you could sense a fresh energy in the air. The team were absolutely buzzing and for me as a founder, I couldn’t be more excited in fact I was truly inspired by our team.

As the morning went on, I sat down and watched in awe as each of my team leaders stood up and proudly presented how far their projects had evolved since the beginning, what they were currently working on and where they were going, each with their own amazing touch of humor and personalisation. The team was engrossed in each presentation and the only thing I can compare the situation to was a bustling, passionate football locker room where the coach was explaining a strategy to an enthusiastic, tight knit team. It was clear that the novel setting and change of status quo was a significant facilitator in driving the team in the same direction. Once the presentations had finished and we all had an amazing overview of where we were as a company and where we were going it was time to try some of that amazing beer and cheese… oh and then visit the abbey to see these clever monks in action.

By taking the team out of their day-to-day context when discussing and presenting on important aspects of company strategy, it was clear to see that team were significantly motivated to learn, share and pay attention. The promise of reward in the form the form of amazing lunch and visit of the Abbey (where they could buy beer and cheese) also conveyed a strong “thank you” message, contributing to camaraderie and loyalty within the team. So next time an important time arises in your company, be it an annual or quarterly update, a strategy announcement of a just an event to say “thanks” - think about doing it in a place that no one has experienced before. As a founder or team member in general, novelty (and dopamine) is your friend, just try to avoid the use of crack to stimulate it…

**and thanks to the Tada team for the photos, I hope you don’t mind the fact I stole them for this post.



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