What happens when members of an architecture firm use music lyrics to inspire an open-ended, two-hour group exercise?
Last week, Hennebery Eddy held its annual staff retreat, a day-long reprieve from our usual mix of meetings and designing. Led this year by our associate principals, we explored personality types, work style tendencies, generational characteristics and cultural references that define our personal experiences. We enjoyed a Pecha Kucha-style refresher of our firm’s history and milestones. And we vied for points during a decades-themed round of trivia, fueled by a healthy dose of competition. Winners got first pick of a selection of song lyrics from different decades, hanging, without explanation, on the wall.
In the afternoon, we scattered in groups across downtown Portland, directed only to use our lyric and to come back in two hours with a 10-minute-or-shorter presentation to share with the firm. What would we do?
One group created a music video covering Hanson’s “Mmmbop.”
Another team conducted street interviews, asking as Prince did, “Tell me, do u like what u see?”
A third asked Portlanders, “So tell me what you want, what you really, really want”… for the City of Roses.
Struck by the fact that they hadn’t worked together on a project, one group used its song lyrics to prompt exploration of small, low-to-the-ground architectural details around downtown, while walking, talking and getting to know each other better (“Hello, hello hello how low”).
Presenting Portland as an urban bohemia (“Is this the real life?”), one group went on a mini-tour of Hennebery Eddy projects in the downtown area while stopping to appreciate details along the way.
One group found literal examples of their lyric (“Did you think before you made the rules?”), documenting ways we blatantly or unintentionally break rules every day.
And one team took a trip down memory lane at Powell’s Books, sharing their favorite literature (“Take that and rewind it back”).
As individuals accustomed to a process, defined parameters and, usually, a longer lead time before presenting, the exercise could have been daunting. The actual results? Creative projects, team-building, thoughtful discussion and lots of fun.