open practice

Walking, talking, thinking. Conversational professional practice.

My office this Thursday

Recently I have experimented with different modes of thinking and developing ideas to see how I can expand my practice and work more productively in different contexts,  particularly whilst I travel.

Everyone I work with is distributed all across the UK and many people I work with on specific projects or initiatives are similarly in different places and so increasingly over the past few years I have made conversations, usually on the move, a big part of my professional practice.

What started as a necessity, i.e. taking urgent calls whilst I was walking from A to B or having confidential calls outside an open plan office became more intentional when I started working with my mentor and we adopted walking and talking as our preferred mode of working together.

Having something else to see and focus on, being able to move, look somewhere else than the person I am talking to often helps make conversation more free-flowing, less confrontational than sitting across each other at a meeting table and more personal than trying to hear each other in a crowded coffee shop. 

I find it much easier to think of new ideas or solve problems when I’m standing up in any case, so even if I am having a call with someone I might walk around my work space, talking and walking and thinking. 

It reminds me a bit of Bryan Mather‘s approach to visual thinkery, drawing and talking and thinking together. 

But whist having a walk is a great part of my professional practice, it isn’t possible or practical for me to physically meet up with everyone and so there are a number of other approaches to having a conversation that I have been finding really useful, including a recent experiment recording a podcast for a joint series on open leadership I am writing with Martin Hawksey.

Another experiment has been to take part in a different kind of conversation for a fortnight as a guest curator of @femedtech

Or the week co-hosting the #LTHEchat, which like the #femedtech week opened up a whole new conversation for me to take part in and deepen my understanding of how I can use different approaches to conversations as part of the work I do and the way I reflect on and explore new ideas.

A conversational approach to thinking about things and developing my understanding is particularly helpful because it makes me aware of my own perspective, what I take for granted, what assumptions I might make. It prompts me to re-consider my starting point as well as my objective. It also gives others the opportunity to understand my perspective better, to ask me questions and to put their point across and that is something that I value in particular as I have a leadership role in which that kind of exchange can easily be sidelined. 

I have also been writing my keynote for ALT’s Annual Conference, which I am really looking forward to, but it is in less than a month and the pressure to get my thoughts in order is palpable. When I am stuck or uncertain or lacking inspiration, that’s when having a conversation becomes even more important. Time to go for a walk this weekend.