I walked past my local pub this morning after dropping the car off for an MOT. Outside the pub was a board advertising an “icons & innovations beer festival”. When I got home, some tickets had arrived for next month’s Hay Literature Festival. I then booked a hotel for a quick few days at the Cheltenham Science Festival and while I was doing that I had an email about this year’s Just So Festival – a wonderful weekend of creativity for children in August. We really are becoming a nation of festival goers. And I haven’t even mentioned the hundreds of music and food festivals you could pick and choose from this summer. Anyone for the East Anglian Guitar Festival? Or the Cornwall Asparagus Festival? Or the Settle Storytelling Festival?
So this got me thinking. Why don’t we have festivals at work? Why don’t we have the “Company X Festival of Collaboration” or the “ACME Innovation Festival”? There’s something about the immersive experience of festivals that make them so popular. Maybe it’s about hanging around with like-minded people. I imagine everyone at the Cornwall Asparagus Festival has a particular fondness for, or interest in, asparagus. Even spring vegetables can provide a common bond. People go to music festivals not just to see their favourite band but to learn about and explore other groups and styles. One of the highlights of our year as a family is going to Hay – five or six days of intelligent conversation, mind-expanding education and relaxation. I learn more at the Hay Festival in one week than I do in the other 51. And the ideas I get are endless. When I’m at Hay, or Cheltenham, or Just-So, or a music festival, I’m 100% engaged. So, again, why don’t we have festivals at work?
A festival is different from a one-off event or conference. A festival provides an over-arching ‘reason why’ for a number of activities to take place. It connects different events through a common theme and provides an ‘experience’ for attendees and participants. A festival creates a buzz, a bond and a sense of collaboration. Isn’t this exactly what we try to do to engage people in the workplace? Don’t we want to provide an environment for learning, collaboration, interaction, discussion, engagement and innovation? A work festival doesn’t have to interfere with business. It doesn’t have to be ‘Glastonbury in Accounts’. It could be a week-long series of lunchtime knowledge-sharing events, or a fortnight of after-work talks on relevant topics. It could be a period of competitions, idea jams or innovation sessions. It could be a festival of learning, with new subjects unveiled every day. It could be a ‘CommsFest’ with daily features and presentations. People like festivals. They like the atmosphere, the belonging, the social interaction and the excitement. Festivals are perfect for internal comms – imagine the concept of the settle Storytelling Festival brought in-house. I’m a big believer in being inspired by ‘other worlds’ to bring difference and freshness to our really rather sanitised corporate environment. That, to me, is creative communication. I’m glad I took that walk today. And the car passed its MOT too. Yay!