The Retreat #1 – As It Happened

Thanks for your continued interest in The Retreat. Here is an update, on some things of interest, looking back to the 1st edition of The Retreat.


On Nov 27 a group of people from Germany and Scotland (!) started the approach to Val Senales. The aim was Bella Vista hut right beside the Hochferner Gletscher.

Some went by train, others had to use a mix of plane and train, while a group from Berlin went by car.

We arrived in Schnalstal valley and had out first get together there in a nice restaurant in Karthaus to spend the night there. Next morning around 9am, we started getting up the glacier by cable car. From there it was another two lifts of journey and an uphill walk to the hut.

Bella Vista

Once we arrived at Belly Vista we were greeted by stunning views, landscape and a terrific team that took great care of us for the remaining days, leaving no wish unheard.

It has to mentioned that the extreme height of 2.800m needed some getting used to. The max temperature outside was around -15 deg C, but the hut was well heated.


Right after getting used to the new environment, we sorted out topics we’d like to work on in a group setting

We started each day by sorting summarising the last day, sorting topics and creating the setting for each topic.

The isolation of the hut leads to intense forms of discussion and interaction. We had a work room of our own in the hut, so that we were not distracted by daily tourism.

A day’s agenda roughly looked like this:

  • 7:30 breakfast
  • 8:30/9:00 start working/discussing/finalizing
  • 12:00 lunch
  • until 14:30/15:00 outside activity
  • 14:30/15:00 restart working/discussing/finalizing
  • 18:00 dinner
  • 19:00 restart working/discussing/finalizing
  • 22:00 bed time (enforced ny hut 😉


There was additional free time and wellness in the form of sauna and a little pool on top of it.

At the end of the days, we decided to document our learnings. It will take a while, but stay tuned for results if you are interested.


Some of us used the nearby slopes and off piste opportunities for some Skiing/Snowboarding.

Also, of course, the discussions were on and off and combined with coffee breaks and what have you.


Here an overview of some of the topics we discussed:

  • All sorts of discussions on 3 Horizons, Pioneers -Settlers – Townplanners
  • Integration (or not) of innovation and delivery
  • Design and definition of experiments in the field of product development
  • Organisation design, e.g. hyper dynamic teams vs stable teams, the tension of discovery teams in a delivery organisation
  • People development (e.g. how it turns everything around if you assert your company will exist for a long time and you need to hire more people than the “market” will offer.)

Summary and conclusions

The design of The Retreat worked. We were a group of highly interested people. The constraints given by the environment enforced deep discussion on topics relevant to the participants needs and we could choose the depth in which to discuss the topics of our choice.

The experience was on all levels, intellectually, socially and as a holistic experience (work, free time, food, environment, landscape and so on)absolutely rewarding.

This means: The Retreat will be back next year with two new time slots. The first will probably take place end of May, beginning of June, the second end of November again.

Also: the format absolutely fits companies for strategy retreats, teams that will be setup for new directions, doing research. Anything that needs depth and little distraction fits this format. Regarding the location, we will find the ideal mix of remoteness to ensure depth and distance and reachability of the location.

If you have a topic to think on, please simply contact me and we will find the right spot and setting!

If you have any question towards The Retreat, please contact me!

Retreats: Providing time, depth and distance

Remore locations


A weekly meeting, Wednesdays from 9-11 to define that new market approach? Working on the new business model next Wednesday all day? A new strategy facing the new speed and some new opponents on the market at that posh business hotel next Friday/Saturday, some sailing included? Planning on embracing a new opportunity that just occurs in no time at a due offsite? It never really works. Why? Because these approaches lack time, depth and distance for the complex problems at hand. You’ve been there and you’ve been disappointed.

I (and certainly not just me) discovered that time, depth and distance are incredibly important but also incredibly unmanaged aspects in work.

A few years ago, I met Claudia Kotchka. She was responsible for introducing Design Thinking at Procter & Gamble. The two sentences I can remember even when waking up at 3am are:

  1. „When introducing a new approach, go where the suction is.“
  2. „Basically, what I did was buying time for the teams to think.“

That made me aware that a large part of my job is buying time from companies to enable them to think deep.

When a company thinks about the next operational improvement, a small review meeting of 90 minutes may just be fine.

When a product team thinks of a nifty feature to increase customer engagement in a specific corner of their product, that may just be fine.

When we think about the concept of a new app, we need more time and depth and distance.

When we think about a news strategy or business case, we need even more time, depth and distance.

When we think about the next step in org design and the demands it needs to fulfil on all kinds of vectors, this is a very demanding, complex and deep problem – that needs time and depth.

Do you remember the effect when you last had a long walk or run, where you thought up something great, with immense clarity? Depth (undisturbed time).

Do you remember the last time when you had a challenging thought and had think it over for 28 times over the course of a few months? Depth (time, distance and repetition).

We need different levels of time, depth and distance for different levels of wickedness in the problems we solve:


We need little time for solving simple problems. Small, tiny features, can be invented in no time. They are obvious. The problems with obvious are: a) Although we need to build many obvious features, they are not attractive to work on. Standard work. Still they might be required.

The harder the problem gets, the more time we need. coming up with a new business model or strategy, simply takes more time.


But time is not enough. Time is required, but not sufficient. I can spend all the time in the world on a hard problem, but it does not help when an environment does not support depth.

Some signs of depth: A calm environment, long time periods of uninterrupted work, long time periods without being asked if there is already a solution.

Time alone does not help. We need uninterrupted time to save harder problems.


But there is another dimension: Time and depth alone are not enough for the hardest problems: For these we need distance as well.

Distance is needed, when we need to be able to see what we are doing from a different angle. Most innovation on the market happens because teams can look at the market from outside of the company, with great distance to the companies’ everyday life.

One of the biggest risks is not to be able to step away from everyday work and not being able to get an outside, distant view on what we do.

If we look at how work is organised in companies, let’s look how these ways of organising work serve for different levels of time, depth and distance.

Sitting at our desk, doing pre-defined work

Most of the time, when we do this, the work is already broken down, the task is )or should be) clear. Most of the time there is little depth available, distance can’t happen. This is an ideal setting for simply cutting through simple tasks.


Regular or ad hoc meetings provide for a little more time and depth, but still no distance. Meeting every Wednesday at 11am is a good way to stay synchronized and it serves a little depth, as it gives us the chance to repeatedly think about the same things. But the small amount of time (mostly one hour) does not cater for enough depth and time to do groundbreaking things. This is why meetings are a bad way to plan great news things.


Workshops (even better series of workshops) help much better in understanding, dissecting and solving more complicated problems. We have much more undisturbed time, which allows for more friction, diversity of views and a more exploratory character of our work.


Offsites enter the element of distance to workshops. The added spacial distance really helps getting away from everyday issues. That can be amplified by not looking into emails, leaving the smartphones switched off and so on. If you really organise your workshops this way and understand that the added value of distance only plays out when the „no everyday work“ rules are applied, you can pull off amazing things at offsites. Take care that no one feels important by being needed for calls or email.


If the problem you want to find or address is really deep or something really new (as in: a new business model, strategy, product etc.) you should really think of sending people outside of your company. Physically. Just the small talk at lunch with the colleges can be quite discouraging (for both parties: „the lunatics“, „the holiday project“ vs. „IT is the place wehere good things go to die“).

Give those people, dealing with hard, deep, complex problems the time, depth AND distance to deal with it.

Send them to a remote location, live together for a couple of days, be a team committed to a deep understanding of the problem and destined to come up with a solution, based on your trust in them.

I am convinced that the time, depth and distance provided by The Retreat will be the next competitive advantage for businesses. We know how to be faster, but now we also need to how to go deep again.

And that does not only count for companies, it is also true for individuals.

The Retreat Website Site – a place to refer to

I was busy as hell to get The Retreat website up and running! I’ll publish every information as soon as I have news.

This website needed to come up as soon as possible so that we all can have a reference point to share. The retreat is quite pinpointed and to make it happen, I need you to spread and share the news to people you care for and think they might enjoy The Retreat!

Please refer people to this website and – really – as important to the newsletter. Candidates might be your friends, peers, boss and finally your HR department.

News from my preferred location

The location I hinted to all the time is high up in the alps, next to glacier. It means we can go for great Retreats in early winter and summer. I will try to arrange a first retreat for mid – end November this year.

It seems that my preferred location wants to collaborate. I get good signals from the nice people there. A good time for a first retreat would be the 2nd half November this year.

If you are interested, please already send me a message so I can start planning.

Please still help share the news!

I need you to do some things for me:

  1. Send people to this page! Tweet it, instagram it, Facebook it, snap it: everything helps.
  2. Make people sign up to my newsletter. It will remain my main channel of direct two way communication.
  3. If you read about The Retreat for the first time, please sign up yourself for my newsletter. The first news you will get will give you a general introduction to the concept.

Every bit of sharing this will bring us closer to our first experience of The Retreat together in an awesome place with awesome people!

Thank you for your collaboration! It is highly appreciated!

If you have any questions, feedback or ideas, please just contact me!