It wasn’t so long ago, coming into the office and seeing all your friends / colleagues for meetings, coffee, work and idle banter was an everyday occurrence for most of us.
Then 2020 happened.
Despite the difficulties and sadness brought about by the pandemic, some good materialized. One was our expansion to a more global team.
We realized that – as we’re working from home, we could look for even more talented folk who aren’t local to us.
And so it was; post pandemic Sweden became a multi-national agency – almost overnight.
So as we eased into 2022 it quickly became apparent that – some of us had never even met in person – which meant only one thing. A Sweden global gathering. Or, The Sweden Summit as we named it. We were fairly serious about it – there was even a T-Shirt….
Arriving in the Big Apple
So on April 27th, 14 people traveled into NYC from all over the USA, France and England to gather for 3 days of meeting, greeting, some spirit lifting team games and just possibly, the odd drink.
The first day kicked off with some of the team making ‘IRL’ acquaintances at Sweden HQ, which of course, some had never seen and had an opportunity to admire Richard, Leja and Alex’s vast collection of curiosities and beautiful “objet d’art”…
Then it was early to bed as we prepared ourselves for the next two days of challenges, chatting, eating and drinking.
To give the office dwellers a break from the office, the team decamped to a beautiful rented house in Greenpoint used previously by the likes of Ghostface Killah and Dolly Parton for recording sessions.
Sweden – as an electro rock band gigging around New York in the 90’s which eventually evolved into a creative agency.
This was to be our home for two days for some good old fashioned team building sessions. Clearly, we were walking in the footsteps of greatness. No pressure then for extraordinary ideas…
We began the day with a wonderfully detailed (and often hilarious) presentation by the Sweden founders as they took us back to where it all began: Sweden – as an electro rock band gigging around New York in the 90’s which eventually evolved into a creative agency. Like you do.
We adjourned outside for lunch and exchanged stories of our best and worst agency experiences. Too many to mention, but rest assured, if you’re a client reading this, don’t ask Kate to coordinate your photoshoot. (ask her).
After lunch we proceeded headlong into the first team challenge : The Marshmallow Challenge.
The team was divided into 3 groups and each was given several boxes of spaghetti (uncooked), sticky tape, a ball of string and 45 mins. The goal was simple, build the tallest structure you can and balance the marshmallow on top.
TLDR; Designers : yes, structural engineers: no.
A betting man (or woman) would place their money on the team with more of the creatives to win, but it turned out the winning team was the one led by the more pragmatic folk (although they did have one designer in their team – which, I’ll argue is why they won). The heroes of the hour built a simple structure based on stacked squares fixed together with tape; Unconventional, but you can’t argue with results.
The other teams? The less said about them the better. Despite careful drawings and concepts that appeared to adhere to traditional building structures, their attempts were thwarted by our old friend gravity. I believe team 2 took the award for the most sticky tape used though. Every cloud…
The evening soon rolled around and we packed up and headed off to a local grill-style restaurant a short walk from the house for cocktails and burnt eggplant. (more delicious than it sounds).
The next challenge for the team was a Conflation Pitch: a two part affair designed to test our limits of creativity, decision making prowess and teamwork. The first part was an all-hands (heads?) brainstorm session. The team were asked to shout out random things to add to a two column list on a whiteboard . The two columns were titled:
- Platform / Technology / Action
- Household Items
What began as a sensible exercise with the sort of suggestions one might expect from a modern creative agency (NFTs, Banking, Blockchain and Remote control) swiftly descended into all out joviality as minds began to think outside of the box (Birthing, self-medicating, and pooping).
a breathtaking concept which, quite frankly – astounded everyone as to why nobody has created something as critical for humanity.
Once the board was complete, we broke for lunch and awaited Part two where we were to discover what possible challenges lay in store for us.
With our list of technologies, platforms, actions and household items complete, we were briefed on the main objective; take one (or more) items from each list and combine them to create a (as far as we knew) new business idea. Divided back into our previous teams, in one hour we had to present our idea in whatever format took our fancy.
The three ideas were equal in merit with the first being a breathtaking concept which, quite frankly – astounded everyone as to why nobody has created something as critical for humanity.
Designed by our predominantly female team, the ingeniously titled ‘SOFIT’ was a simple concept – a sofa and gym combined. What’s not to like? Simply pick the sofa style you like and then bolt on the gym equipment in a kind of ‘lego’ format. Weights, rowing machine and even a fan to keep you cool were optional extras. Strategy had been considered, and to encourage early adoption the product could be purchased on a subscription basis. Touche Peloton, let’s see if you can eat chips and watch Netflix while cycling…
The second idea, from our Round 1 champions, delivered an extraordinarily forward thinking idea combining aerial drones and household plants in order to solve your watering conundrums. “BotBot” (The Botany Robot) is a friendly looking ‘flying gardener’ you control via your phone. Simply fill BotBot with water and plant nutrients and he does the rest. With a built-in ability to detect when a plant needs refreshing, it’ll fly to it and deliver just the right dose ensuring healthy, happy botanicals. Special mention goes to the brand strategist in the team who not only created a wonderfully apt name, but managed to shoehorn in an extremely stylish look to the whole package.
Our final pitch was team 3 with a revolutionary concept based around communicating with people that have passed. That’s right. Talking to the dead. In the Metaverse. The aptly named “Ouija”, isn’t half as creepy as it sounds when you start to think of the infinite potential. Picture this; you’re unable to solve a space rocket-based physics equation. Elon seems rather busy, but what about a chat with Albert Einstein?. To be frank, a lot of the tech behind it went over my head, but how powerful an idea. Learning to play guitar? Ask Jimi. Need guidance on living well in our modern age? Drop by Socrates’s for a coffee.
Whether they were listening in or not remains to be seen, but it appears Microsoft have actually patented a similar concept which they plan to introduce in the future. Which isn’t at all concerning.
The important thing about this challenge was that there were no winners (our team won). It was a rare opportunity to see how we all came together, shared ideas and enjoyed the process of taking part in a group exercise (our team definitely won).
There was but one final act in store for the team as we edged towards the final evening.
After a glorious dinner in a restaurant atop a hotel with stunning views of Manhattan, we took taxis to a karaoke bar in town. There we were treated to an eclectic mix of heartfelt renditions of Adele, Liam Lynch, New Order, Oasis and Lou Reed to name a few, along with an ongoing Eminem rap battle between Leja & Marina. Talent swung between beautifully sublime and – let’s be honest, outright terrible, but with the help of cocktails, energy, spirits and confidence was high.
It’s safe to say, the goal of building bonds between the team was successfully accomplished. After all, once you’ve performed a duet of Aqua’s Barbie Girl with a teammate, what is there you can’t handle together?
Roll on Sweden Summit Part two.