Improve Corporate Workshops by Using Science and Psychology

April 7, 2017

Improve Corporate Workshops by Using Science and Psychology

As technology advances and marketplaces grow and change, many organizations face adaptive challengesbusiness circumstances that require clear and consistent leadership through a period of uncertainty and change. Generally, these challenges cannot effectively be addressed through traditional approaches. Therefore, organizations are beginning to rethink their approaches toward achieving successful alignmenta collective understanding reached among leadership that answers three questions:

  • Where are we going?
  • How will we get there?
  • And how will we work together to execute?

Businesses often face such adaptive challenges during large-scale shifts. Leaders facing an adaptive challenge may ask themselves, “How prepared is our organization for an insider threat?” or “How do we transform in order to retain the workforce of the future?” Adaptive challenges can be industry-specific as well. For example, in the automotive industry, executives are likely addressing questions like: “How might disruptions like autonomous vehicles and automotive sharing platforms shape the future of the industry?” Traditional learning and executive education exercises, while helpful and offered by a growing number of companies, do not always have the right strategic approach to handle these more complex situations.  

By moving from a one-size-fits-allor in many cases, a “one-size-fits-none”workshop approach to a more conscious design objective, leaders are now being introduced to the science of group dynamics, environmental psychology, and even design thinking. These immersive experiences are simulated and facilitated in an effort for management to become empowered, think big and work with their colleagues on deciding upon the most advantageous course of action during critical times.

Here are five tips to enable companies and leaders obtain more ROI from workshops and executive education experiences:

  1. Take the focus off  the solution. In workshops, the tendency is to run toward a solution as quickly as possible; but often there isn’t a shared understanding of what the problem is at the outset. Take the time to achieve alignment. Without a shared understanding, it’s virtually impossible to reach a solution.
  2. Quit trying to save the world in one day. Companies can be hyper-focused on productivity, and this spills over into meetings. But some solutions favor shorter meetings that may span a few days. Teams should throw out the full-day, crammed meeting agenda and zero in on a three-pronged approach in a timeline that fosters creative thinking:
    1. Achieve shared understanding
    2. Shape choices around addressing the problem
    3. Reach a decision.
  3. Your workforce can’t read your mind. Strategies most commonly stall because the responsible functions don’t understand what they are trying to achieve. Many supporting management teams and direct reports are open to having a neutral party help identify the strategy and pinpoint what executional tasks can provide the most impact.
  4. Respect your colleagues. Your colleagues are only human, so don’t bore them to death. Understand that the physical meeting space matters. People need stimulation and movement to function more efficiently. Don’t make them sit for eight hours straight; instead design a meeting space that allows them to move freely and be creative. Additionally, demonstrate that you are aware that there are different personality types in the room, and take the time to personalize your delivery to the audience. This will likely keep people more engaged.
  5. Balance the planning investment. People remember the beginning and ending of a meeting, and in many situations leaders spend the majority of their time planning the middle. Do something out of the ordinary that allows you to start and finish with a bang…and not a whimper, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot.


Effective meetings are not what they used to be. They require a customized approach built on more than just technique. Science and extensive research are becoming more critical to professional development and, in turn, the future success of the business. Exercises should be immersive and reveal unexpected, creative solutions to ambiguous mandates. And participants should be able to walk away from time spent in a workshop knowing the precise actions required to attain results.

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This blog contains general information only and Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries ("Deloitte") are not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication. Copyright © 2017 Deloitte Development LLC. Posted with permission.


The Authors: 

Saagar Thakkar leads Deloitte’s D.C. Greenhouse, a non-traditional environment designed to spark business breakthroughs, helping Fortune 1000 and government agencies navigate their most pressing adaptive challenges through a multi-disciplinary approach, including design thinking, behavioral economics, psychology, neuroscience, strategy, analytics, and innovation theory.

Comments (1)

Very astute, Saagar!