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Creativity can ‘virtually’ happen anywhere – experiences of a remote workshop

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Creativity can ‘virtually’ happen anywhere – experiences of a remote workshop

We run creativity workshops with clients and comms teams, sharing how to make creative thinking your everyday thinking. This series of posts shares the thoughts and experiences of those who’ve attended.

We asked Amy Lilja, Internal Communications Manager for Hennepin Healthcare to share her insight into the session Alan delivered remotely, not long before the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of miles couldn’t stop Alan sharing his creativity tips and tricks and, in her own words, Amy explains how the session was received …


What gave you the idea to hold a creativity workshop for your team?

The idea came about as part of an effort to improve engagement on our marketing communications team by providing more opportunities for our team members to be creative and innovative at work. Although we already considered creativity a strength of our team, we felt that by developing, practicing, and sharing our creativity, our team members would feel a greater sense of accomplishment and pride in their work and the rest of the organization would recognize our team’s value and strength. As a first step, we wanted to ground the team in what creativity is and provide a safe setting to practice the creative process. That led us to the creativity experts at Alive with Ideas and their creativity workshops.


What did you think of the session?

Because thousands of miles and an ocean separate us from the Alive with Ideas offices, we did a virtual session through Zoom. At first we were worried about doing it virtually instead of in person, but it went so well! The team enjoyed the session not only because they learned a lot, but also because Alan made it so much fun and engaging. Alan also kept things very simple and approachable with lots of real-world examples and interactive exercises. Despite not being there with us in person, Alan managed to connect with the group and make us laugh, and his enthusiasm was palpable. It was a great team building event and everyone left feeling energized.


Which activities resonated most with you and why?

The exercises were so simple but so illustrative of the way the brain works. One activity that resonated with our team was using our imagination to translate what an object could be perceived as i.e. donut as wheels on a segway. We learned that while this skill comes quite naturally to children, it is not entirely a “dead skill” among adults (although likely less exercised). If we allow our inner child to come out, it can be illuminating and even fun to make a relationship between two seemingly unrelated things. This skill is a great exercise for generating ideas with no limitations. Another activity involved our team choosing two random words and combining them into a concept to solve a business challenge. It was a great way to understand how creativity works and demonstrate how easy it can be for anyone to be creative. It also highlighted the value each of us brings to the team through our own unique experiences and perspectives. When we share ourselves and our ideas with the rest of the team, it leads to more connections and ultimately more creativity.


What’s changed since you attended the workshop? How are you doing things differently? 

We started a creativity workshop series where we invite a variety of different experts to come talk to our team (although it’s currently on hold while we respond to COVID-19). The second expert we had come was a sketch artist who led us through a few exercises to practice observation and seeing the present moment. We hope to have more experts join us in the future so we can keep exploring and practicing creativity. We have also shared what we’ve learned with other work teams to help make our organization more creative. Members of our team have also expressed they are more likely to share and discuss ideas, as well as listen to and act on others’ ideas.


What learnings have you managed to apply to the current crisis situation? Are people managing to find a moment to be creative with their work at home?

I think the complications of COVID-19 have generated ideas that would not have come about otherwise. For instance, as we were generating ideas for our 2020 Nurses Week campaign, we were more creative because we had to work within the constraints presented by COVID-19, such as having to reach people virtually. Those constraints actually led to some amazing ideas that we wouldn’t have had without COVID-19. We have also been challenged to be creative with using video to communicate and connect with our audiences more than ever before.


What advice would you give to others who are thinking of organising a similar session for their team?

If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking. It is refreshing and eye-opening to be reminded that other organizations experience the same barriers – lack of funds, resources, a supportive environment for creative thinking – and that creativity at its most basic form, is optimism in the face of all that. Creative solutions are in us but are we ready and willing to share them? (We must!)


Read about some of our other workshop sessions:


A big thank you to Amy for your blog and her kind words. Creativity can ‘virtually’ happen anywhere and we are always happy to support a team near or far, just ping us a message to ask for more info


Help spark your creativity anywhere in the creative campaigns masterclass…

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“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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