from the MGT Website Archives:

Using a Buddy System in DesignShop® Events to Foster Creativity and Reduce Stress

Jolynn Steffan

January 15, 1997

Editor's Note: For the KreW members of a DesignShop event, days can be very long; up to 18 hours or more in some cases. One of the rules of engagement for participants in a DesignShop process encourages them to remain on site and engaged during all hours of the event. For participants these hours begin at 7:30 or so in the morning and end at 6:00 or 8:00 in the evening, after which, they are free to pursue whatever interests they have time or energy for! The rules for the KreW are different. The KreW assembles most mornings at 6:00 or 6:30 and usually remain until 11:00 or later in the evening to process information from the just-concluded day, and to design and prepare for the day to come.

Most of us who have served as KreW have fallen into the trap of remaining "on station" for all hours without a break. In some cases there is a machismo associated with "toughing it out" but more commonly the volume of the work simply seems to prohibit any diversion. It's true that there are times that require KreW members to work without a break, but it's also true that the "walk on the beach" is an important part of the Insight stage of the Creative Process. But you can't FAKE a walk on the beach in some sort of deliberate hunt for the mental release and lateral movement that reveals formerly hidden patterns. In the following article, Jolynn describes the point of this shift when she and Angie began to discuss anything BUT the DesignShop event on a walk to a restaurant during a short break during the event.

This raises an important question: what is the motivation behind the successful "walk on the beach?" Escape, release, letting go, giving in giving up?

As we enter the first two months of what will be a busy 1997, I just want to relay a story that dates back to a large DesignShop event that was held in Chicago in November.

The DesignShop event was stressful for many individuals and unfortunately the stress was contagious to those of us who were pretty mellow before arriving in the space. I have been Krewing since July (Im such a veteran!) and at each event we are reminded to take care of ourselves, get out of the space each day, eat healthy foods, and above all to "let it go" at the end of the day. Great advice, but how many of us say to ourselves or to a fellow Knowledge Worker, "I just realized that it's Friday and I have only left this building to go home at night!"

During the DesignShop event, Angie D. and I worked on the buddy system. The event began on Monday and I insisted that we take a lunch at Heartwise (a wonderful restaurant to which Michael K. introduced me, of course). Reluctantly, Angie tore herself away from her computer and we were on our way. At first, it was so easy to talk about the event and the positive and negative energies in the space, but then we reminded each other that we were out of the space and taking a much needed break from all of that. We talked about everything BUT the DesignShop event---home, family, fun, etc. It was great! It was refreshing and reenergizing for us, and each day we brought back nasty treats like chocolate and munchie foods for the rest of the staff and so it became a daily treat for them as well! On Tuesday, Angie had to drag me away from the computer to go out for lunch, but the daily sabbatical became much appreciated, and we had the other person to be our motivation.

I think the documentation team was much more pleasant as a result of these daily "time outs" It takes discipline (and perhaps a bud and your fellow Knowledge Workers. Don't forget that--make it a New Year's resolution!

Happy 1997!

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