Unconference Mini Wisdom

A few days ago, I co-facilitated one of the LnD Connect unconferences along with three fabulous people I know thanks to Twitter and the insightful chats we often join, along with many others, via #LDInsight.

This is not an attempt to describe the day in full. Indeed, there would be little point as I believe everybody involved will have experienced it differently and taken away their own ideas and inspirations.

Any of you who have experienced the Open Space Technique/Technology will know that it has quite an unstructured approach leading to the co-creation of discussion topics from whoever is there. Those in the room are the right people and the discussions that take place are the right ones that could have happened. People have 'permission' to stay with a conversation or to move on - they can hover like a butterfly or stay, pollinate the conversation like a bee, then fly away to cross pollinate other discussions. As a facilitator, this can be quite daunting. I was so nervous, yet excited to do this. My day to day work in recent months has been quite transactional, foundational HR stuff e.g. implementing a new HR system, designing and implementing new pay and pay progression systems. All important and necessary - and with the potential to improve the employee experience at work, but not terribly creative or developmental for me! I was in need of something to feed my soul. Luckily I got it and here's a little bit of why:

In the afternoon, we offered the option of having a go at Mindfulness, Reflective Practice or Street Wisdom. I have never experienced the latter, so I tagged onto @thatmarkgilroy's group to find out more. Wow!

We were at the Curve Theatre, Leicester and with only 30 minutes to sample this, Mark ran a focused taster session, giving us the choice of staying inside or going outside to look around, noticing what we saw and what we were attracted to. Then we focused in further looking for patterns, or 'tuning up'. Then we focused in yet deeper with a question in mind. Hmmm. Well, what can you achieve in 30 minutes, using a technique that usually takes 2 to 3 hours? Even as quite a visual thinker, I was shocked.

I was thinking quite loosely about organisational values, as this is something we will be exploring soon in depth where I work. Do they still fit? Do they feel right? What do they actually mean? How do we apply them? All those questions... I didn't get answers, but what I got was bathing of inspiration and insight.

The Curve is, well, curved! The theatre is in the centre and you can walk right round it via the booking office area, seating areas, the cafe, the bar etc. I love photography and quickly noticed the wonderful large scale photos displayed all around the curved outer perimeter of the stage area. I soon noticed that in one area, they were all of women - female lead characters in various plays I assume. My thoughts? A limited slice of the attractive aspects of an organisational culture or set of values may be all that some people see or experience. Yet it is only giving a small and possibly overly glossy or sanitised part of the picture.

I could never see them all of these photos at the same time due to the curvature of the wall and to looking up. Yet, when I had walked all the way round, I could see that they were not all of women, it was just a particular grouping. My thoughts? I was now seeing a much fuller picture and gaining a better understanding of the diversity of roles that had been played at this theatre. Very easy to transfer this thought into pondering about organisational values and how, ideally,  they work together as an overall understanding, rather than standing alone. 

I was also struck by the 'cut out' sections where you can see the back stage workings. Or can you? Was this just a design feature that looks authentic and gives a kind of gritty, authentic vibe? I guess I would only find out if I revisit Leicester and got to see a production there or ask someone who has. My thoughts? On one level, this is what is really going on, warts and all. What is really happening in an organisation, at worst, may not reflect its values at all. On the other hand, if this was just a gritty looking design feature to appeal to arty types like me, what does this say about how organisations display, communicate and promote their values. Is it for show, or is it real?

I'll leave  my reflections on that wonderful Street Wisdom taster on that thought. 

Thank you to everyone who was there in Leicester. You all made my day. Also thanks for reading. Hope to see you at an unconference again soon. 


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