I Can’t Believe I Liked Camping

Despite getting an ear infection.

Not being an outdoors person, I was a little taken aback when I was told that two co-workers and I were being sent to camp for a few days. My biggest concerns were about whether or not Wi-Fi and central A/C would be available and what the nature-to-manmade-structure ratio was.

Digiday—a highly-recommended media publication focused on the next and best in media and marketing—hosts an annual Agency Innovation Camp that pulls in some of the brightest and most excited 20-30-something-year olds in the industry. They split all 80 of us nerdlings into teams of ten for two-and-a-half days (which is about eight days in agency life) and … made us work. Talk about flashbacks to my first internship.

Digiday-Agency-Innovation-Camp-Challenge

Rise and Grind

The Big Brand Hack Camp challenge started before teams could even learn each other’s names or get over jetlag. We were all given a one-page brief about an unnamed brand that was facing serious challenges in its product category. The goal: at the end of Day 3, each team had to pitch their ideas to a panel of ridiculously smart judges, showing they understood the heart of the brand and its customers while presenting solutions that stayed within budget.

While three full days would be barely enough time to pull this pitch together in a perfect agency world, each day of camp also included additional team challenges for points. Because of course. Not only that, teams could only meet in between industry leaders’ presentations or “after hours.” My team was quick to calculate that given the camp’s schedule, there were only eight sanctioned team hours—usually during feeding times—to get the work done.

In the end, my team (Shout out to Team Blue! Love you guys!) claimed absolute victory. We won the overall pitch after giving a captivating delivery that was full of confidence and well-thought-out approaches, backed by a creative idea that tied everything together. Oh, and of course we managed to win the overall camp challenge to boot. (If there were an award for best dressed, we would have won that too, I just know it.)

All I Do Is Win

I won’t go into the details of the brief and pitch—that information is sacred to those who were able to attend the camp, seeing as you are only able to attend once and people are serious about researching tips and tricks. However, what we were able to do within eight working hours was remarkable. Without knowing anyone on the team beforehand, true brainstorming and green light thinking was able to happen organically. No one approached an idea or piece of data with prejudice. We pulled from our personal backgrounds and experiences and laid ideas on the table for other team members to evaluate and use. We shared ownership, quickly adjusted to how we each individually worked, and focused on next actionable steps rather than being distracted by hiccups or disagreements.

So, no, this wasn’t really a “camp.” What happened in those few short days was a high-powered crash course in networking and getting stuff done. My team was a mashup of digital marketers, creatives, media buyers and account managers from NYC to LA . Besides job experiences and job titles, my teammates were individuals who were: resourceful, able to apply their individual learning and processing styles to an entirely new team, flexible when needed but firm when it mattered most, insanely supportive of every other team member, and, quite frankly, a good looking bunch with the brains to back it up.

The most inspiring thing that I personally appreciated is something I am fortunate enough to see within my team at MMI Agency. That is, when presented with a challenge that seems like it is almost too much, too fast, they rise up and meet it. Just give them the opportunity and amazing things happen. While my camp team was brilliant in their own right, I am fortunate enough to work with the same kind of people every day at MMI.

Original article appeared on MMIAgency.com, September 2015.