This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Is Utah too homogenous?
I'm a native Utahn and love the state and its unique culture. However, during my 11 years of living and working in Seattle and the Washington D.C. area, I recognized that the more groups were the "same," the more the propensity for calcified thinking existed. And let's face it; Utah can have a bit of "sameness" in our work environments. Our business is all about using creative thinking to solve marketing challenges. We absolutely require people with malleable brains. Creativity demands an openness of thinking and a willingness to explore problems from a variety of directions and perspectives.
What did you do to sharpen critical thinking skills?
One of our favorite training programs is TSG (The Summit Group) Think Tank, which is a monthly two-hour session that includes food, questioning, opinions and, occasionally, outrageous discussion. It centers on homework ranging from watching a movie, to reading a book, to writing a letter to President Obama, to creating a play list that represents you, to simply answering a basic question like "Good vs. Good Enough." TSG supplies the place, buys the food, the books, movies, etc. used for Think Tank homework. Each TSG team member supplies the curiosity, energy, brainpower and opinions. The result is a symbolic and visible premium placed on thinking deeply and critically while having the courage to share your opinion. It has been a fabulous mechanism for creating warmth, diversity, understanding and teamwork inside of our company.
What are the rules?
The rules to Think Tank are simple:
• If you say you'll be there, then be there.
• Do the homework.
• And be noisy with your opinion whatever that opinion may be.
What has been the outcome?
Over the years, the program has been one of our most successful voluntary training initiatives. On average, we have nearly 70 percent of all of our Utah employees participate in Think Tank monthly. And although we always offer free food, I'd like to believe that some of the draw exists because of the fascinating conversations taking place. I refer to Think Tank as a TSG training program because it has helped fuel curiosity in the agency, which is one of the elements we consider makes up "TSG DNA" (also includes competitiveness, client obsession, accountability and fun). That DNA is what we hire for, and it's also what we fire for in our company. In fact, our commitment to our DNA shows our employees we value not only what they think but how they think, and that it is an actual requirement to think openly and creatively to be a successful member of the TSG team.
Dawn House Todd Wolfenbarger, executive