It's hard to imagine a bigger waste of time and money than the typical corporate retreat. Some weasel with an IQ of 110 dreams up an idea which sounds good, and which makes him sound like a go-getter, and everyone else has to go along with it or risk looking like a foot dragger.
The department at the investment bank where I used to work had such retreats now and then. One was a workshop on communications -- because, "hey, we're in the communications business." (What business isn't, at one level or another?) But even though we all knew perfectly well that nothing would come of it, anybody who questioned the value of such a conference would have looked like less than an enthusiastic team player, the kiss of death for anyone's career.
So, we had a weekend workshop on improving information flow. Yes, the department would have run more efficiently had every player access to every piece of information every minute. But that, by its nature, is impossible. This, of course, didn't stop people from paying lip service to the concept all weekend long.
For the next couple weeks at work I scrutinized everyone's behavior to see if anyone was making an effort to communicate better. I couldn't see one change in behavior from a single person on the trading floor. (You'd think that people would have at least made some pro forma attempt, but I could see none.)
It reminded me of all the times the partners would pontificate about how we had to have better cooperation, and teamwork, and less interdepartmental infighting -- as if that was going to change anybody's behavior. Or as if backbiting and taking all of the credit but none of the blame was not how they had risen to the top.
One of the problems with these retreats is, they are almost always led by people who speak in cliches. And the problem with that is, people who speak in cliches tend to think in them too. Which means that they are unable to think for themselves, and thus have nothing original to add. Does it really do anybody any good to hear that we've got to be proactive, not reactive? That we can't fall asleep at the wheel? That we've got to learn to multitask? That we have to leverage our strengths? That there's no "I" in team? That we've got to be self starters? That we're a value added company? That we have to think outside the box?
And it always seems to be the people who are most guilty of falling asleep at the wheel, etc, who are most vociferous about others not doing so.
The worst movie I've ever seen was probably Uptown Girls. My daughter wanted to see it when she was six, so I dutifully took her, despite its one star rating. Even at that age, my daughter sensed that it wasn't a very good movie (and this was an age at which she loved Baby Geniuses).
I would rather sit through five consecutive showings of Uptown Girls than have to attend another corporate retreat.