Outsider Retreat 2018 - Cultivating Creativity

Outsiders Jeff Boyum, Lilian Kao, and Kent Mendenhall sit with Jim Garland of Fluidity Design. All photos by Arlen Kennedy.

Outsiders Jeff Boyum, Lilian Kao, and Kent Mendenhall sit with Jim Garland of Fluidity Design. All photos by Arlen Kennedy.

Every year Studio Outside facilitates an office-wide retreat with the goal of engaging Outsiders at every experience level. A collaborative internal team addresses the retreat by creating a theme that relates to the office-wide culture, mission, and vision. For the past six months, Matt Nicolette, Kent Mendenhall, Jessica Clements, Amy Bartell, Jamie Monzo, Josh Emerson, Charlie Pruitt, and myself met and brainstormed on how to approach this year’s retreat and what would be the major goals.  We started by creating an online survey to gauge how Outsiders are solving problems, what barriers exist to problem solving, and who we are engaging to address our challenges.

A theme of ‘creativity’ emerged from these early conversations. Our goals aimed to explore ways that all of us from design, project management, and administration can approach each day feeling empowered to use our individual creativity to solve problems. We centered the retreat around three core goals: empowering ourselves to remove barriers in creativity and innovation, build a paradigm shift around solving daily work problems, and to engage each other as a resource to support our creative problem-solving. Outsider Kent Mendenhall framed the essence of the retreat by saying that working creatively inherently implies risk. Getting out of our respective comfort zones and exploring the unknown takes humility and courage.

One of the most impactful parts of the retreat was a series of short presentations in which Outsiders, who represented a diverse cross-section of the firm, shared how they had worked creatively on a project or within their personal lives. From preservation of design intent from concept to construction to how our origins have shaped our creative personalities, we all felt more connected to each other through this deeper understanding of how each of us are creative every day. We invited Jim Garland, founder of Fluidity Design, to share his insights with us as our keynote. For him, creativity is an iterative and somewhat unpredictable collaboration, where ideas are stronger as they are inspired from life with simplicity and clarity.

As the day came to a close, we conducted a self-exploration workshop. Each of us was tasked to create a sketch that represented who we are or what we love about landscape architecture. We roamed individually around the grounds of the Dallas Museum of Art and sketched, where the retreat was located. Afterward, we presented our sketches to our respective groups and learned more about ourselves and each other. Our takeaway: personal growth and reflection influences creativity. We closed with a company photo on the front steps of the museum in the Eagle Family Plaza, an award-winning project designed through a creative partnership between Studio Outside and Hocker Design Group. As we stood together, we laughed and reflected on our experiences in the day. Here’s to another great retreat with continued growth as a firm and as a family, enhancing creativity in our daily lives.