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Wingspread Blog

Take Your Team to New Heights

Our goal is to provide you with truly meaningful content full of insights and guidance to assist you in making the most of your next meeting, conference or retreat. Please enjoy and be sure to check back often for the latest content.

yoga team building

Team Building: The Architecture of Success

It’s fitting that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wingspread is the centerpiece of Wingspread Retreat & Executive Conference Center. The former family home of Herbert F. Johnson, Jr., is a monument to teamwork and productive compromise.

From two different worlds, Wright and Johnson were nearly polar opposites. Johnson was a corporate executive and conservationist, while Wright was a fiery, independent creative. Stories of Wright’s need for control are abound. “I respect ‘hunches’ of others, that is, should they correspond with mine!” says a famous, handwritten note by Wright.

However, he and Johnson found common ground on many points. In fact, it was Johnson’s rough sketch that was inspired by the Drake Hotel in Chicago, which Wright adopted as the foundation for Wingspread's design.

The ability to collaborate, compromise and overcome challenges – it’s not an official definition of resilient, but the quality of team resiliency is certainly a key aspiration of leaders.

Building a team that is ready to embrace common goals, prepared to overcome obstacles and willing to adjust to new circumstances – that is the definition of success. The team building menu at Wingspread Retreat & Executive Conference Center was designed to help your team achieve that level of success.

The custom-designed team building exercises in Wingspread’s catalogue bring people together in a relaxing way with a healthy dash of competition. From Yard Game Olympics to Cooking with Fire, you’ll find an exercise that fits your team dynamic.

Stir things up and fire creativity with one of our competitive and delicious culinary events. Push creativity to the limit with a lively round of Giant Pictionary or an Egg Drop competition. Share the ‘feel good’ outcome of the popular philanthropically focused Build a Bike program or learn more about food and beverage pairings through a guided Beer and Wine Tasting exercise or Tapas Challenge.

Creative, engaging and fun, team building at Wingspread focuses on what you need – motivation, trust, unity, cooperation, respectful communication, and of course, resilience.

Wingspread Retreat & Executive Conference Center’s commitment …to create intimate, inspiring meeting and conference experiences that foster collaboration and innovative problem-solving is reflected in the experiences they design for each group that assembles here. With the Frank Lloyd Wright’s designed Wingspread building at the centerpiece, inspiration is abundant.

Space for meetings and conferences, inside and out, fine food, exceptional accommodations, the latest meeting technologies — all your convening needs are met effortlessly. Wingspread’s planners design meeting experiences that allow attendees to explore the 36-acre wildlife preserve and soak in this entire property’s unique history. But one of the things they do best is designing team building events that support a culture of collaboration and foster success for your group.

If you'd like to learn more about how Wingspread can be the perfect venue for your next meeting or retreat, click here!

Past Articles 

The Right Space & WhiteSpace

Right Space and WhiteSpace

The Tremendous Value of a Private Venue

We all need time to think. Attendees of meetings for large and small corporations and non-profit organizations are desperate for agendas that include – simply – time. We’re learning that blocks of unplanned time integrated within a meeting agenda are valuable. Very valuable. They allow attendees to independently and collaboratively digest the ideas and information from the content of the actual meeting. This planned-unplanned time is something meeting professionals call WhiteSpace.

When Herbert Fisk Johnson, Jr. donated Wingspread, his family’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, to The Johnson Foundation, the term WhiteSpace had not yet been coined. But his ultimate purpose was to give thought leaders exclusive access to a beautiful, gated property where focused conversations – and, yes, WhiteSpace – were possible.

Valuable in both short spurts and large blocks, planners know that WhiteSpace helps prevent fatigue, recharges minds, sparks creativity, and inspires problem-solving.

How can you leverage WhiteSpace at your meeting or retreat?

  • Integrate it into your agenda. In Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina shares that the most effective learning occurs when our minds are given time to absorb ideas and concepts. So, a well-planned agenda can support successful outcomes.
  • Choose an environment conducive to WhiteSpace. Comfortable furnishings and decor, natural light, and engaging indoor and outdoor spaces should be considered. Minimize all distractions.
  • Plan WhiteSpace that can be shared. Organized physical activities and time outdoors can enable groups to disconnect from everything at the same time, open their minds and connect with each other.

Inspired by Wright’s architecturally amazing Wingspread home, The Johnson Foundation has built The Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center around it. A unique meeting venue, its design reflects the belief that privacy, time, and space result in meetings that deliver powerful outcomes.

When your groups of 30 or more meet here, they have the entire property and staff to themselves. Onsite accommodations for up to 40 guests, private culinary services and well-designed indoor and outdoor meeting spaces eliminate the distractions often present in traditional conference environments. “Once you walk through our gates, Wingspread is yours,” promises Roger Dower, President of The Johnson Foundation – making Wingspread the right space for WhiteSpace.

Four Ways to Make Your Small Meeting a Huge Success

Unplanned meetings, impromptu conversations, and unexpected calls mean that the office isn’t always the best place to get things done. In fact, American workers estimate that anywhere from 40% to 60% of their day is spent on unplanned interactions. So, if your business or organization needs to solve a problem or create strategic plans, getting away is often the only way. 

Commit to the value of a small meeting.

While putting all hands on deck to solve a problem or make a plan might be tempting, research suggests that when it comes to effective problem solving, bigger isn’t better. Increased participation and creativity and decreased interpersonal conflicts are just a few of the benefits of trimming your attendee list. Your small group can become the enthusiastic, well-trained ambassadors for education and change implementation across your entire organization.

Choose comfort first.

One of the leading meeting trends of 2019: meeting space that doesn't feel like meeting space. Small groups thrive in these informal environments. Seek professional venues that offer comfortable furnishings, “living room style” space designs and natural light to encourage participants to relax and share.

Make the culinary choices personal. 

One menu does not fit all. Within your small group there will be a myriad of food preferences and unique dietary needs. Choose a venue that caters to the individual and offers healthy food choices. Look for food and beverage teams that accommodate food allergies, health regimens and vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. Give preference to those that practice sustainable methods and are committed to reducing food waste.

Select a venue with room to breathe.

Attendees appreciate room to roam. Select a meeting venue that offers generous accommodations and large outdoor spaces. Open areas encourage guests to unwind by exploring independently or together. Indoor and outdoor recreation and quiet time in spacious rooms at the end of the day will help your team contemplate their progress and recharge their minds and bodies.

Catering to the individual attendee is what the Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center does best. From customizable meeting plans to personalized menus, we’re here to support small groups in making a big difference.

How NPR was Conceived at Wingspread

This Is (the Story of) NPR

Fresh Air. Car Talk. Morning Edition. If you’re feeling warm and fuzzy, then you’re probably a fan of National Public Radio. While you may know all the programs and can actually hear the voice of Terry Gross or Steve Inskeep in your head right now, you may not know that the concept for National Public Radio was born within the storied walls of The Johnson Foundation's Wingspread, in Racine, Wisconsin.

In the late 60s, the radio industry was struggling to remain relevant. In 1967, the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television concluded a successful two-year campaign to acquire public funding for educational television when Congress, under President Johnson, passed the Public Television Act. Challenged yet again by the seemingly insurmountable visual appeal of the flourishing medium of television, the fate of radio seemed sealed.

Shortly after the launch of the Carnegie campaign in 1965, hope for radio prevailed in the passionate leadership of its own Jerrold Sandler. Then Director of National Education Radio, Sandler began an effort to convene a meeting of radio’s finest for a conference he entitled “Educational Radio as a National Resource.” Intending to match the prestige of the Carnegie-led television movement, Sandler enlisted the support of The Johnson Foundation and requested space at the Foundation’s own Frank Lloyd Wright designed venue, Wingspread.

Sandler’s project matched perfectly with the Foundation’s mission and purpose: “The Foundation shall be an instrument for creative programs which serve man….”  Supporting education, growth, freedom, and community were part of the Foundation’s early statement of purpose. Preserving the communication shared over the country’s airwaves was a project the Foundation could easily embrace.

The three-day meeting took place at Wingspread in September of 1966. What resulted was a set of specific action steps designed to convince members of Congress that radio deserved equal billing with television in the pending Public Television Act. The eventual result of the Wingspread meeting: congress issued and passed an amended bill. The Public Broadcasting Act authorized the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to act as a funding and policy making agency. National Public Radio was incorporated in February of 1970. A meeting that ended very well – All Things Considered.

Recreation Around Racine

History, nature, art, fishing, hiking, shopping…welcome to Racine, Wisconsin.

This community is site of not just one, but two Frank Lloyd Wright architectural masterpieces, including the Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center. While secluded on a 36-acre wildlife preserve, conference guests at Wingspread are surrounded by a wide array of incredible leisure attractions. Fill on-property leisure time in the fitness center, with an art or flower tour or hiking on the trails.

Enjoy art? The Racine Art Museum, just a few miles away, features two floors of contemporary crafts that include wood works, textiles, metal, and more. See more here. 

If water is your thing, begin with a walk to the Wind Point Lighthouse, where you can stroll along the rocky shore and learn more about this historic structure. Enjoy the boats at Reefpoint Marina and stop in the Brew House for craft brews, fresh sea food and live music. Take on the water with a sailing experience at Tall Ship Red Witch – plan ahead, as they cater to private experiences.

Traditional leisure-time options are here as well – with lake beaches nearby, rounds at the Shoop Park Golf course, wild life gazing at the Racine Zoo, and a thrilling group experience at Seven Keys to Escape.

History, art and great stories — this is what you can expect on the guided tours of both Wingspread and the SC Johnson Corporate Headquarters. Both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they are a treat to experience, inside and out. Wingspread is on the National Register of Historic Places.

See and experience all you can while meeting at Wingspread in the lovely lake community of Racine. Then return to your meetings refreshed and ready!

Enjoy Better Ideas and Lower Stress During Your Next Meeting

Person outside with computer

In 2012 David Strayer, a researcher from the University of Utah, did what we all used to do – he went outside and played. Of course he brought a group of friends. Together they took a four-day backpacking trip. During the course of the journey they found that their ability to solve puzzles increased significantly. Strayer’s group performed an amazing 47 percent better at solving puzzles than the control group did over the same amount of time while in pre-hike mode. Could it be that the answer is, in fact, blowing in the wind?

Numerous scientific and psychological studies have repeatedly demonstrated the value of time outside – specifically, in nature. Hikes in the woods, strolls across fields, quiet contemplation by a lake or pond may have once been viewed as recreation only or “downtime.”

In fact, your brain is actually “up” when you’re outside. Stress and fatigue give way to creative problem solving, more positive attitudes, and the ability to relate better to others. Depression, anxiety, and stress all melt away when we take walks in nature. Walks in urban areas do not yield the same results as do strolls among the birds and the bees.

Where can you and your team immerse yourselves in nature? Look to Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center in Wind Point, Wisconsin. Tucked away on a 36-acre wildlife preserve and practically an incubator for creativity, the property offers nearly a dozen flower gardens, lushly vegetated ravines and hiking trails that lead through lofty trees. There is also a large and impressive bronze statue collection – and at the center of it all, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wingspread residence, designed in the 1930's.

During a walking meeting or on downtime, we encourage attendees to enjoy the grounds to their hearts’ content, pausing by Wright’s reflecting pool for, well, reflection. Energetic hikers will be rewarded with fabulous views of Lake Michigan and a historic light house at Wind Point, an easy-to-traverse one-mile journey.

Better ideas, smarter solutions – when you need to make a meeting successful, surround yourself with the world’s oldest and wisest source of inspiration: Mother Nature.

Why Green Matters to Meeting Planners

Why Green Matters to Meeting Planners

Did you know that a typical five-day conference of 2,500 people will generate 2,000 plates, 87,000 napkins, 75,000 disposable cups or glasses and 90,000 cans or bottles? 

The importance of hosting green meetings continues to grow in the conference industry. Reusable water containers rather than bottles and cups, more outdoor meeting spaces to reduce energy consumption, easy access to recycling bins, biodegradable food containers, conservative housekeeping practices and organically based cleaning products are just a few of the practices environmentally conscious meeting planners are looking for when choosing a venue. But their most important asset in their green meeting efforts? Venues with a culture of conservation.


Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center, located in America’s Midwest, is a Johnson Foundation-owned and -operated property with a long legacy of true environmentalism. While the meeting spaces can accommodate larger groups, the property’s Sam and Gene Johnson guest house features 40 rooms. Since 2010, these accommodations and meeting spaces achieved and have consistently retained LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council. By encouraging intimate gatherings, we keep our environmental footprint small. 

Both Wingspread and The Johnson Foundation exist today, in no small part, due to the efforts of third generation patriarch, Herbert F.  Johnson, Jr., who was also one of corporate America’s first conservationists. In the midst of the Great Depression, Johnson’s thoughts turned to carnauba, the key ingredient for the Johnson Wax Company’s main product. Concerned about the security of his company, Johnson headed to the rainforests in northeastern Brazil to learn more. This trip inspired Johnson to pen a book encouraging corporate environmental responsibility and to form The Johnson Foundation.

His accumulation of property on the Wind Point Peninsula in Wisconsin culminated in the formation of a wildlife preserve. Eventually amassing 36 acres, Johnson often brought his children to the property to spend days reveling in nature. The preserve became home to the family with the construction of a prairie home, Wingspread, designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright himself kept his architectural works in harmony with nature, and his design for Wingspread is no exception. Taking direction from the land, Wright used natural materials – including fine grain, first-cut rich white oak, Cherokee red brick and pink sandstone. Tidewater cypress composes the exterior, upon which the seasons cling as vines and snow.

The next generation of Johnsons has continued the cause of corporate environmental responsibility. In 1975, Sam Johnson removed chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from his company’s products. It was another three years before CFCs were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a dozen years before they were banned worldwide. Sam Johnson was a founding member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and was named by Fortune Magazine as “Corporate America’s leading environmentalist.”

Meeting planners can and should seek partnerships with conference venues striving to keep nature close and making every effort to conserve it. Working together, the members of the meeting industry can become diligent stewards of the careful balance of wildlife, plant life and human life. 

About LEED

“LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.” – US Green Building Council