Last week a group of academics, who have had Exeter Education Incubator bids accepted, were invited to take part in a facilitated workshop which aimed to ‘cultivate the innovative spirit’. Daphne Van Run, of Dream Meets Reality ran the session supporting next year’s Incubator Fellows in developing new networks, while at the same time providing innovative ways for them to focus on their upcoming projects.
Identifying the qualities of innovators
The session started with a quote from Ken Robinson:
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Using this quote as a provocation, participants were asked to work in pairs to identify the qualities they expected in ‘innovators’, sharing their thoughts with the larger group by means of sticky notes. The quote itself proved problematic at some levels, nevertheless the group tackled the task. The resulting image, pictured above, highlights both the similarities in the room and the differing perceptions of innovation and innovators.
Applying Johari’s window
This activity was followed by a discussion of Johari’s window, and how it can be used as a framework for communication. This model was created in the 1950’s by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham to help people to better understand both themselves and others.
Daphne encouraged us to chat to a ‘stranger’ in the room about our keys, illustrating how such a mundane object can help us to learn about others, and share information about ourselves. I have changed my keys since then – realising how much ‘excess baggage’ I was carrying around each day. The keys are such a simple everyday object, which everyone carries, that I used this activity as inspiration to developed ways in which I can work with participants’ keyrings in sessions in the future.
Repeated questions to generate deeper understandings
The next session felt uncomfortable, but at the same time was an extremely productive use of five minutes. In pairs we were instructed to ask the question
“Why do you feel inspired to bring your project into the world?”
The question was to be repeated for the duration of the activity. The respondent answered the question in a different way each time, allowing the fellows to delve into their purpose in depth. Roles were then swopped to allow the other partner to have the same experience. It has to be admitted that there was some cheating…we were curious to find out more about the projects, but still, an interesting way to enhance focus in a short time period.
Using Effective Listening as a tool to support focussed thinking
The final session before lunch introduced the Incubator fellows to a technique called Effective Listening Partnerships. These supportive relationships can be developed to provide a safe place for sharing concerns, without the need to receive advice. The technique was developed to support parents, but Daphne has developed it to be relevant to the academic environment. Looking around the room while these conversations took place was surprising. Most of the participants were thoroughly engaged in the process, either sharing or listening to their partners.
Conversation over lunch reinforced my view that this had been an interesting and challenging morning, with benefits which were unexpected and thought provoking. I have been left with a tidier keyring, and some plans for workshop sessions in the future, but also a different understanding of the research I am currently working on, and I made some new connections ahead of next year’s incubator projects commencing.
Many thanks to both Sarah and Daphne for a morning which was both challenging and supportive. You took us all out of our comfort zone and in the end we thanked you for it.