by Sarah Park
November 10th, 2014

Interpublic Group of Companies, in which Weber Shandwick is part of, boasts a wide range of subsidiary agencies in event, PR, marketing, branding, and more. One of the prerequisites of working in a company with a strong global network is that there are a lot of opportunities to take part in global programs that the company offers.

One of the training programs that are well known in Asia Pacific region is an employee training program called Hothouse.

Hothouse_1Hothouse, celebrating its sixth year, is hosted in Bali, Indonesia every spring. Twenty colleagues across Interpublic Group of Companies’ Asia Pacific offices spend three days taking rigorous program consists of discussion, seminars, and presentations. This year, I was fortunate enough to represent Weber Shandwick Korea office to participate in the program.

Every year, Hothouse selects one theme and organizes the program around the theme. Following last year’s theme ‘Inspiration’, this year’s theme was ‘Purpose’.

Selection process for Hothouse is rather challenging, but it encourages the applicants to really think about their true passion and thoughts. The application format is free, but every applicant had to submit reason why they want to take part in this year’s Hothouse, along with a short report on case study on companies that successfully appealed their ‘purpose’. Later when I had a chance to see other colleagues’ applications, I was impressed at how creative they were in terms of both contents and format of their application.

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After surviving through the selection, Hothouse really begins weeks before arriving in Bali. Along with the acceptance notice, participants were formed into groups of five and then were given a topic for a presentation on the very first day of the actual Hothouse program. Of course, as Hothouse is Asia-Pacific regional program, group members are from different countries, hundreds of miles apart. We had to prepare for our first presentation only by conference calls and e-mail, sharing thoughts online. The topic for the first presentation was ‘Can a company fabricate its purpose?’ Teams were divided into pros and cons, preparing for cases that support their own propositions. Preparing for the presentation was not easy as the preparation was done simultaneously with day-to-day workload, but listening to some great ideas and information shared with group members who I haven’t even met yet was truly inspiring and fascinating.

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Upon arrival in Bali, I got to finally meet other colleagues at Hothouse. One of my favorite experiences about Hothouse was in fact the people. Although everyone was seeing each other for the first time, the bonding was phenomenal.

The Hothouse program in Bali consists of a series of seminars led by some of the directors in Interpublic Group of Companies’ agencies in Asia Pacific. This year, directors from Jack Morton, FutureBrand, Golin Harris came to share their insights. At the seminar, we shared our experiences and engaged in thought-provoking discussions around ‘Purpose’.

Hothouse_4After the seminars were over, we had to prepare for our last presentation. The topic for the last presentation was to select one company that is perceived to be lacking in concrete purpose, implement a new purpose, and show ways to amplify the purpose. My team selected global convenience store Seven-eleven, and we all gathered around swimming pool to discuss Seven-eleven’s current purpose and its current marketing activities. It was especially productive since one of the members from our team was a graphic designer from Jack Morton, and we were able to create both visually appealing and creative presentation. The preparation went on for the entire afternoon, and the directors who led seminars roamed around and shared their insights with each team.

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Last day of the program was presentation day. My team defined Seven-eleven’s new purpose as ‘we solve your little problems so that you can go focus on bigger ones’, and we also created a short animation to demonstrate its meaning. The animation showed a couple separately stopping by Seven-eleven to purchase deodorants and gum on their way to date. Not only that the animation was fun to make, it was also fun to watch for everybody and we received great feedback.

After the program was over, everyone formed a special bond. Before it was time for flight, everyone finally had a chance to relax, swim, and build closer relationship. Through the Hothouse, I met colleagues who I can contact any time when I need insights on other Asian markets, and I also learned about other agencies across Interpublic Group of Companies.

When working in an agency where day-to-day workload can be overwhelming, it is sometimes hard to sit back and think about what my true career and personal purpose is. In that sense, Hothouse was a great opportunity for me to look back and examine what my true purpose is in life.

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