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Chicago Ideas and Your Team Culture

By Kevin Beerman / August 8, 2019

At Chicago Ideas, we’re all about building meaningful connections. The way we see it, the more deeply people can get to know each other, the more fruitfully they can collaborate. It’s why we devote a little time at every program for everyone in the audience to meet someone new, to make themselves known, to maybe even form a bond that wasn’t there before.

Curiosity and connection: they’re the foundation of our culture here at Chicago Ideas. And as we geared up for our flagship program—Chicago Ideas Week (Oct. 12-17)—with these principles guiding us forward, it got us thinking. How do these values overlap with the cultures of other organizations that make up our community of curiosity? How is the Chicago Ideas platform reflected in the values of our partners, particularly our Corporate partners who might also be thinking about matters of connection, curiosity, and culture among their colleagues?

So, in typical Chicago Ideas fashion, we asked. We reached out to a few of our Corporate partners to see how their Chicago Ideas partnerships enlivened and extended their own cultures. Here’s what we found out:

“A global workforce in a global city.”

Rio Tinto and Making Local Connections

Chicago Ideas (CI): What effect does such a global workforce coming in and out of your base here in Chicago have on your culture?

Paramita Das & Waed Qablany—Rio Tinto (RT): It’s less of a challenge and more an opportunity to showcase a global workforce in a global city like Chicago. Yet, employees and their families move across countries and cities to come in and out of Chicago. Acclimation, putting roots down, and familiarizing themselves with what Chicago has to offer is a part of this journey.

(CI): How does your Chicago Ideas Corporate partnership help your employees become more familiar with Chicago and Chicago more familiar with Rio Tinto?

(RT): Partnership with Chicago Ideas allows our employees to follow the undercurrents of Chicago, meet new people, and add a social element. It also brings awareness of our organization as well as other corporations that are in the area. We have a great global Rio Tinto story and we like to showcase it through this partnership.

(CI): In what ways has your CI Corporate partnership influenced the culture in your Chicago office?

(RT): When people go to Chicago Ideas events, it brings our employees closer together. Individuals may end up going with someone they wouldn’t normally work with during the typical course of their day. It’s a great way to also make friends in the office based on similar interests, to spark up conversations with people you don’t necessarily interact with. It also brings new ideas into the office—in the fields of technology, diversity, and disruptive thinking.

Sharing Personal Passions and Professional Expertise

Slalom and community engagement

Chicago Ideas (CI): How important are community service and volunteerism to Slalom?

Dana Anderson, Community Engagement Lead (DA): Community engagement is key to Slalom’s culture and really important to our people. Most of us live and work fully in Chicago, so we want to have a positive impact on our community. Slalom emphasizes volunteer opportunities where our people can share their professional expertise as well as their time and financial support. We focus on understanding what’s right for the non-profit and building a true partnership with them.

CI: How does your Chicago Ideas partnership support you in your efforts to be more engaged with the community?

DA: We enjoy the opportunity to look beyond the norm, be creative and innovative in our community engagements to support our partners, and maximize our impact. The partnership between Slalom and Chicago Ideas has enabled us to do all of this – and to share our personal passions and professional expertise in a unique way. In addition to our Lab for Chicago Ideas Week, incorporating the Chicago Ideas Youth program this year has been an exciting and natural addition to our partnership. One of our core values is to “build and shape a better future,” and supporting our partners’ youth programs is an amazing way to do so!

Lara Wagner, Content Strategist (LW): There are few things that feel more “Chicago” than Chicago Ideas. Your programming really draws our whole city together with an important emphasis on curiosity, connection, and not shying away from challenges. Knowing that audience, we can build events with Chicago Ideas that center on our most compelling, “big picture” ideas—the ideas that really inspire and energize us. It’s a great opportunity to connect our experts with other passionate and whip-smart people from across the city, then work together to imagine creative solutions.

CI: In what ways has your Chicago Ideas partnership resonated with your office culture?

LW: Partnering with Chicago Ideas feels like a natural extension of our culture. For most of our people, Chicago is home, and so it doesn’t surprise me that so many of our team members find Chicago Ideas programming powerful. We are the kind of folks who love big ideas and we can’t see a challenge without wanting to work towards a creative solution. With Chicago Ideas, we can collaborate with the whole Chicago community and put those solutions into action.

Disruptive Thinking

EnergyBBDO and the Innervation of Ideas

Chicago Ideas (CI): Why is exposure to new ideas and thinking important to the work Energy BBDO does?

EnergyBBDO (Energy): Seeking out new ideas and thinking is a part of Energy’s DNA which enables us to best serve our clients as the leading edge creative organization energizing people and brands. It is imperative for us to stay on top of trends and innovation within our industry and beyond. In a world where consumer attention is hard to come by, it is our job to find new and relevant ways for our clients’ brands to reach audiences and make a meaningful impact. We do this through evocative storytelling and by creating innovative brand experiences, fueled by unique cultural insights and new ways of thinking.

CI: How does your Chicago Ideas Corporate partnership give your employees exposure to new ideas and different approaches?

Energy: Every year our Chicago Ideas Corporate partnership allows us to send 25+ Energy employees to various events during Ideas Week and throughout the year, and every time we do, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. The CI programs provide our people with access to innovative thinkers in a convenient and cost efficient way. Being exposed, first-hand, to culture-makers and entrepreneurs outside of our industry inspires creative thinking in our employees and pushes us outside of our comfort zones. CI events often inspire both personal and professional development—something we always strive to give our employees. The events are also great networking opportunities across various Chicago industries.


Make the most out of your company culture. Join our community of curiosity and give your team access to the best Chicago has to offer—from bright ideas to connections that matter. Learn more today!