Why Accelerate with a Retreat?

One of the problems with going against the grain, and adding this innovative work to your already busy schedule, is that it’s hard to get the Team together frequently enough to push through the issues and keep momentum going for something that doesn’t necessarily have the strict deadlines of daily business. For this reason, we’ve found it’s incredibly useful to use what I’ll call an “Innovation Accelerator.”

What we mean is a mechanism to accelerate the middle phase of your innovation work – when you’ve settled on one idea and need to turn the corner toward full agreement and the planning of implementation. If this takes another six months of monthly meetings, it probably isn’t going to happen. Life will get in the way. Survival will push out the space for innovation.

Intensive Retreat

We recommend you try to create an intense multi-day Team Retreat, or “Intensive Retreat”, at which you make the crucial decisions to make the new strategy a reality, achieve real consensus on what to do next, and develop your approach to enrolling others in the project.

We’ve found that these intensive retreats prove transformational. Teams have been able to do six months of thinking in a week, and deal face-to-face and immediately with the conflicts that inevitably surface as change begins to look real. They achieve unstoppable momentum through this emerging clarity in a way they say would never have happened otherwise, and have therefore been able to construct a plan for implementation that maximizes their chances of success.

Case Study: The Wooster Group

The Wooster Group transformed its website into a blog of daily video shorts in their signature style to enable them to create artistic work in a new medium and engage audiences during their lengthy absences from New York.  In this video profile, the team talks about how crucial the time and space afforded by a retreat accelerated their process.


The retreat should be at least 3 days, but 5 days is optimal. You can do this locally with your organization’s Innovation Team – but we do recommend that it’s for more than two days, and that it’s residential. The downtime of being together can be as important as the sessions.

If this seems impossible, we promise, it’s worth it and can’t be replaced by months of regular meetings. You’ll finally be able to make those tough decisions that get put off from one meeting to the next.


Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.