Getting into the labs… and out of your comfort zone

c2 lab

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” – John le Carré. 

Sometimes we hit the wall. It’s normal. Creativity doesn’t dance on command, and unless your last name is Edison or da Vinci, or maybe Branson or Musk, genuinely innovative ideas aren’t always easy to come by. That’s why it’s important to get in the habit of stretching yourself creatively by putting yourself in new situations that can spark the right connections. Unfortunately, the places where we spend most of our waking – or at least working – life aren’t always the most inspiring when it comes to kicking down the walls in our thought process. Enter C2 labs.

Labs are where we experiment
Where do you get your best ideas? At the office? Probably not. In the shower? Possibly. How about in a net suspended 18 feet above the ground?

Over the past six years, the C2 team has been researching and testing ways to take us outside our usual frame of reference in the belief that experimentation leads to a culture of innovation. We’ve been designing and fine-tuning experiences that encourage participants to think differently about a problem, shifting their mindset in a way that will help them find new solutions to their business challenges.

A core element of that experience are atypical brainstorming experiences called labs.

c2 workshop

Labs are about experiential learning
At C2 Melbourne, Nov. 30–Dec. 1, expect to take a meditative garden tour, wade around in a pool filled with balls, build a model city with bricks, brainstorm with strangers while suspended over a net or in a thick fog, and even beat a few eggs to make a giant cake.

Why, you ask?

“Unexpected environments lead to unexpected ideas,” says Antoine Roy-Larouche, who leads the team in charge of labs and other collaborative experiences. “By putting their bodies in unusual situations, participants get out of their heads.”

Specifically, we believe the best learning happens:

  • when we step outside of our comfort zone
  • when we collaborate
  • when all senses are stimulated

c2 walk

Mixing content and context
C2 labs are, first and foremost, a learning experience. And a fun one at that. They’re a way for leaders and their teams to indulge in risk-taking, in exploration, with the freedom to try and fail.

Each lab experience is designed as a metaphor for a business challenge (risk, uncertainty, talent, etc.). Participants are inspired to generate creative ideas by playing and experimenting with the analogy, and then applying what they come up with to various real-world challenges.

“When designing a lab, we ask ourselves: How can we lead participants to step outside their usual ways of thinking and find answers that might not yet have occurred to them?” explains Joëlle Sarrailh, one of the core designers on Antoine’s team. “Then we set out to find the best metaphor. For example: pondering blind spots in business decision-making in a completely dark room.”

Building on these metaphors, which help participants “live” the content of the subjects at hand, the facilitator guides the conversation so that they connect with learnings on a deeper level.

If you want to get nerdy about it… 

There are two different kinds of labs

A) Direct brainstorming
Participants discuss a theme and subject while in the experience. The unexpected context provides outside stimuli for ideas.
Why? Because external stimulus triggers new ideas to form in your brain.

B) Indirect brainstorming
Participants discuss a theme and subject after the experience. The unexpected experience provides the stimuli for ideas.
Why? Because we learn through reflection on doing.

What to expect at C2 Melbourne
So how will these ideas live at C2 Melbourne? Between talks, workshops and braindates, participants will be invited to answer specific questions and challenges stemming from the conference’s core themes while going through the following unusual brainstorming experiences:

While sitting on chairs suspended over a net high above the ground, discover new perspectives on a burning question. Not for the faint-hearted.

c2 chairInnovation and creativity involve a fair bit of risk-taking. So does the net – literally.

In these changing times, many unknowns cloud our decision-making. We must learn to embrace the chaos and face it head on. In the Cloud, participants engage in a discussion while in a zero-visibility environment: a room filled with dense fog.

c2 showOn our to-do list: learn to navigate uncertainty.

Faced with a specific business or design challenge, participants are invited to ask themselves: What would city visionary Jane Jacobs do? In Blueprint, we learn to see the world through the eyes of a renowned urban thinker, tackling complex systems one small brick at a time.

c2 legoCan city planning guide us through the maze that is the modern business world?

Whip, whisk and stir – all the while discussing, listening, researching – ultimately taking an active part in building something that everyone will share and enjoy. Over the course of two days, teams will participate in making a giant cake, which will be shared by all attendees at the end of the event.

c2 cakeBusy hands liberate the mind.

Find a peaceful place amidst the chaos of C2 Melbourne by donning earphones and following a thought-provoking path through the event space, all the way to a verdant garden maze. This will be the perfect way to hit pause, take a step back and explore how mindfulness will have an impact on our fast-paced way of working and doing business.

c2 flowerIt takes a bit of wandering to come to our senses.

Have you ever had a meeting while lying with colleagues in a pool filled with thousands of plastic balls? You should try it. Other than being really fun, it levels the playing field, letting the best ideas naturally bubble to the surface. Once they’ve finished reverting back into their four-year-old selves, a small group of participants playfully explore some burning questions with the help of an expert facilitator.

c2 bullesTake off your shoes and dive in.

At the end of your experience, you’ll be invited to share your ideas with those others who have gone through the same experience and see the unique observations and reflections that resulted from this change in perspective. You might also leave inspired to try new brainstorming approaches to stimulate creative thinking in your own teams.

“In everything we do, we are guided by the idea of ‘Monday morning,’” adds Joëlle. “On that Monday morning return from C2 Melbourne, we want participants to be able to share, with their colleagues, both learnings and fresh ways of arriving at new ideas.”

How to participate

The labs run all day and they are first-come, first-served. To participate, drop in at the labs counter at C2 Melbourne and register for a specific time.

Until then, what will you be doing to get out of your comfort zone?