Olympics-style events can be used to carry out a variety of learning and workforce development activities. Here’s an example of how an Innovation Olympics can be used to drive change practices in large organization.
To help managers and other support groups (a total of about 85 people) see change as something desirable and possible, the executive team of a large company worked with an outside partner to deliver a Creative Change Course, one part of an Innovation Olympics.
In a large hotel ballroom, facilitators created a mini-amusement park. The initial goal was not to provide serious, comprehensive training on change, but to have people get out of the office, team build, have fun and play while still experiencing the important basics of change in a memorable way. The objective was to set the stage for the more extensive change-management work to follow.
Before the event started, a trainer/consultant gave a three-hour presentation to a group of 85 on the more detailed aspects of organizational change, including leadership, teamwork, barriers to change, strategies for success and other key topics and how they related directly to the activities they would experience. Each participant received a reference booklet with condensed but important information about the change process and real-world case studies to add further substance and meaning to the training.
Organizers put together a network of giant G-gauge electric trains, large, detailed model buildings, bridges and other structures to create a navigation/obstacle course in the hotel ballroom. Multicolored, carpet-adhesive tape and hundreds of plastic pylons defined the roadways. The course represented a simple but powerful metaphor for an organizational-change process.
Each team had six people, including a team leader, who assigned specific tasks for others to do in navigating the course. Three team members were selected to drive a professional model remote-control truck through a winding course. Along the way, they had to knock down scale-model dinosaurs, push aside barriers, break through brick (paper) walls, go over bridges and avoid knocking down pylons placed along the route.
The other three team members had to operate motorized toy cranes and run a large-scale train to move resources needed for change, pick up and align robots, move knights and superhero action figures into place to counter villains and other adversaries of change and do other activities symbolically associated with a real-world change.
Three teams of six entered the room at one time to participate. While one team ran the course — which averaged about 12 minutes — the other two teams were having fun observing and playfully laughing at the performance of the working team. When each set of three teams first came in the room, a facilitator described how the course related to an organizational change process and then reviewed the scoring method and how to best navigate the course. The team that effectively completed all the tasks and the entire course most accurately in the least amount of time won.
After the event, teams were debriefed on the learning experience. The executive team gave out several awards to the winning team, most creative team, worst remote-control truck driver and other worthy or amusing awards.
The trainer created a DVD containing the television segment, a three-minute custom slide show and a video version of the event as a giveaway for each person. People went back to the office understanding the core basics of change and were sensitized to their feeling that they were in no way a “dinosaur,” “robot” or other adversary of change.
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