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Going “on retreat” might conjure up images of tie-dye, tree hugging, vegan diets and chanting. But when it’s backed by science and aimed at leadership professionals, consultants, HR managers and creatives, you know you’re in for something a little different.
The aim of the 2016 was to deepen the understanding of our grey matter in order to enhance ‘brain friendly cultures’ in the workplace. Optimising performance, communication, imagination, intuition and interpersonal connections; learning new techniques and tools for our clients; connecting with like-minded people from a cross-section of industries; and recharging, playing and having fun. But what does all this actually mean?
Set on an isolated property in the beautiful NSW southern highlands, industry professionals – almost all complete strangers – spent four days together exploring the intricacies of what makes us tick.
Chaired by Silvia Damiano, we were presented with a smorgasbord of high profile speakers, all experts in their fields. The central theme was the brain: as neuroscience techniques become ever-more sophisticated, we are awakening new levels of awareness about our little grey cells – and this can be translated directly into the workplace.
We were here to lap up these learnings, take them back to our companies and build our businesses. We were here to create change.
To clarify, there was no tie-dye, no chanting, and the food was exquisite (and not vegan, although dietary needs were catered for brilliantly by our on-site chef). And tree hugging? Well, I’ll come to that later.
Over the course of the retreat we were lead through sessions ranging from sparking up creativity to gut health and wellbeing; from the power of positivity to the neuroscience of sleep; from brain, movement and neurofeedback to strategic thinking for effective leadership and the .
It was enlightening and it was fun.
Everything related back to leadership and the workplace: in this era of fast-paced lifestyles, chronic stress, sleep deprivation and technology overload, employees are struggling. Learning how to create brain friendly cultures will benefit everyone in an organisation – from CEO to receptionist to the P&L sheet.
Often a challenge for participants is to let go of inhibitions and routine, but the professional nature of the i4 Live Retreat provided a safe space to explore new ideas.
Even when learning to move our bodies in different ways and investigate the value of intrinsic learning for upskilling; when being open and honest about challenges in the workplace and devising possible solutions; and even when hugging a tree to connect back to nature and reignite innate curiosity – essential for innovation in business.
After four days of immersion, our brains were jam-packed with information and ideas. Each speaker individually providing a wealth of knowledge relevant to everyone’s professional circumstances. Yet the true value of the i4 Live Retreat doesn’t become apparent until you’re back in the ‘real world’.
Each component doesn’t just work as a stand-alone entity but also as part of a greater whole. Back in the office, the words of multiple speakers resonate at once when tackling tricky situations, teamwork obstacles, creative challenges and management styles. You feel the benefits on a personal level and witness the knock-on positive effects with your colleagues.
And it doesn’t stop there. Out of work we’ve seen the benefits of better sleep, improved nutrition, strategic exercise, positive psychology techniques and changing thought-processes.
And finally, we’ve formed a strong, supportive community: a collection of like-minded people from across the globe. It may have just been four days together but it’s opened up a whole host of professional opportunities for the future.
It had been a really fabulous experience of doing it well; a spectacular venue, delicious food, content to satisfy any thirst, variety (pace, people, music, weather!), emotional connection, creative expression, cognitive challenges, genuine service and heart-felt discussions.LISA GORMAN
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