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Ideas on a Bike

Things have been a bit challenging at Rubber Cheese Towers recently, so we took some time out to reset and refresh on a London bike ride.

Written By:
Kelly Molson
Agency News
  • 17/11/2015
  • 8 Mins to Read
  • By: Kelly Molson
  • Share

Things are not always that easy at Cheese Towers.

Don’t get me wrong, we have great clients, great projects and we’re really busy. It’s just sometimes being a small agency can be a bit difficult. Let me explain.

We’ve been constantly busy all year, which is incredible. So busy that we’ve not found time to focus on “our stuff as we call it. No, scrap that – what we’ve actually not done is made time for “our stuff”. We’ve not prioritised it.

Improvements to our processes, products we’re developing, marketing, brand development – all get put to the side so we can concentrate on our clients projects. And that (no offence clients, you know we adore you), isn’t the right thing to do. Focusing time on improving Rubber Cheese, will only make our service and solutions even better for our clients, so why don’t we make time?

I’m not sure is the answer, but we know things need to change. We have a few challenges around recruitment and growth which have caused pressure and tension within the team, something that we’ve never had before and, we don’t want now.

So when our client and friend Richard Eason at CycleFox suggested we take a day out of the office to focus just on us, we thought it couldn’t have come at a better time. Well, actually that’s not quite true. My first thought was, where the hell are we going to find the time to take a whole day out to do this!

Richard’s new project is Ideas on a Bike – In his own words “It’s about more then just a fun day out, it’s about discussing opportunities & challenges and generating ideas”.

Before the day, Richard had asked me what our biggest challenge currently is so he could start to understand what we’d need to work through. I put forward Growth as our biggest challenge and within that Recruitment.

We met at Gabriels Wharf on the Southbank at 10am on Thursday 12th November, where we picked up our rides for the day from the London Bicycle Tour Company.

After a quick brief from Richard and a wobble round in a few circles, it was time to head off on our (thankfully flat) ride! Along the way, we’d be making a series of stops to enable group discussions around our focus for the day.

At the first stop outside the Tate Modern having dodged a few tourists as wobbled along, we split into pairs and discussed what we thought the day was about and what we wanted to work on, all whilst being serenaded by rather fabulous busker.

“We gather for one day. We switch our digital devices off. We get on bicycles. We experience parts of London that you've probably never seen before. And along the way, we share ideas on the opportunities and challenges that we're facing in our daily work”.

We collectively agreed to discuss three areas:

  • Recruitment
  • New products / your brand
  • Ways of working

The idea is, you cycle along for 20 minutes or so, taking in the sights, breathing in the fresh air and thinking/talking about the first item on your focus list, before stopping off somewhere to talk through your thoughts. You can ride with someone, in a group or hang back on your own if you want to just think – no right or wrong way to do it. No phones allowed! This is a complete switch off (apart from the odd photo of course).

We set off along the river and very quickly settled into our rides. Its funny, being back on a bike somehow makes you feel like a kid again and gives you an incredible sense of freedom. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to be speeding along on two wheels! It also clears your head, a bit like running always does for me, something I’d let slip recently which only occurred to me on this ride.

We rode and talked or just thought as we took in the river views, and soon it was time for our first stop, along with a perfectly timed cup of tea!

We took it in turns to discuss our ideas and were surprised at the amount of fresh new ideas we had, or different ways of approaching things. 7/8 new ideas in the bag of how we look at our recruitment block, which suddenly didn’t feel like a block anymore. Richard facilitated the discussion perfectly, with just the right level of interaction and questioning.

After a summary of what we discussed and a commitment to take some of these ideas forward, we set off again.

Lunch was at a great riverside pub where we talked about ourselves and relaxed into the day. I honestly felt no need to grab for my phone to check emails like I usually would, which was an unexpected bonus.

Two further stops and two more incredible sessions followed. Looking at new products we’re developing and how they effect the business and individuals, and how we can improve some of the way we work, processes, communication etc.

This took us back to Greenwich where we hopped on the ferry for the short ride along the river, using the time to write up notes from the day for the debrief.

At  the end of the day the bikes were given back (a little sadly to be honest) and we headed to the pub to discuss our learnings from the day and enjoy a well deserved pint.

Each of us shared our collective and individual learnings – summarised below.

  • The importance of the full team understanding the vision and direction of the company, even if they are not currently involved in detailed development of a particular element (easy for founders / leaders to be clear but others can be inadvertently be left unclear)
  • Not to underestimate how people need to understand how change may (or may not) effect them as individuals
  • Making time for “us” is equal and if not more important that continual client focus
  • Looking at these photos, I also learnt I pull a mean face or two

We each were given 3 cards to write on: one thing we’ve learnt, one thing the team could do, and one thing we would do individually after the day.

I honestly felt like a huge weight had been lifted. When the pressure is on we stop communicating in the right ways and I feel like this day kind of re-set us, helped us say things honestly and clearly, and taught us a lot about things we assume or take for granted.

The next day back at the studio we wrote up all our ideas and thoughts on the whiteboard and have allocated tasks to each of us to complete that will help us achieve what we need too.

Richard has set a date 6 weeks from now to check in on how our plans are going, so we’ll keep you posted too. In the mean time, if you feel like you need to clear your heads, work through a challenge or opportunity, or need a whole new set of eyes and ears to generate some new ideas, then you need to speak to Richard now. I really can’t express how much we got from our Ideas on a Bike day and how energised we’ve been since.

Ideas on a Bike is run by CycleFox, you can find them on Twitter @cyclefoxuk

I honestly felt like a huge weight had been lifted. When the pressure is on we stop communicating in the right ways and I feel like this day kind of re-set us, helped us say things honestly and clearly, and taught us a lot about things we assume or take for granted.