How I brought a bit of chaos to faciliate creativity

Are you looking for ideas on how to help people learn from each other, inspire each other and share ideas? Would you like to facilitate innovation and creativity in the work place?

I have tried to do all of the above by organising a meeting where a bit of chaos was welcome and the attendees  were free to present on any topic they wanted. The only thing that I requested was that whatever they were talking about they had to find it interesting themselves. So here is the story of what brought this about and what happened on the day…


The Light bulb Moment

The Research and Development (R&D) team at Jisc is distributed across many sites with many people working from home. I was thinking of how to bring people together and give them an opportunity to feel part of the team, open the floor to different topics to be discussed and help to exchange ideas or practices which otherwise might get missed. So the meeting had to be quite unstructured, with short slots not to discourage people from taking part.

I was struggling with the name for this event and how to communicate it when I had the idea that TED talks tick all the boxes. They help bring people together and as the session length is prescribed and not too long keeps people focused. I decided that as the TED talk concept is widely known I would call our meeting a TED event explaining that in our case this would stand for Technology, Education and Digital futures (as this is how our team is internally known).

It was important for me to encourage all to participate so slots were automatically assigned to those who confirmed attendance (with an option of opting out from presenting). Slides were made optional to encourage people to participate and minimise the prep.


So how did it go?

I got a much smaller number of attendees that had originally confirmed due to an urgent and high profile meeting happening at the same time. In a way it was lucky as this allowed me to test the approach with a small group.

We had 8 sessions in total – 6 talks and 2 activities (and a few people just coming along to see what it all was about). The attendees decided that they wanted to draw the sessions from the hat so we proceeded with this random allocation of slots. It worked really well – having a bit of suspense helped with the whole meeting feeling quite energetic and we didn’t get the usual post lunch slumber. I slotted the two workshop activities after the 3 talks respectively and that seemed to work really well too.

There was a real mix of topics on the day (to mention a few: assessment, mentoring and coaching in the work place, WordPress, digital presence, and two workshops one around clean space and one building marshmallow towers with spaghetti). We used our Yammer channel to live ‘tweet’ about the event. I thought that all were really engaged in the meeting and there was a lot of discussion and reflection following each session.

The day finished with all giving feedback on how it went by simply putting their comments on post-it-notes and placing them next to the line according to how happy they felt about the Return On Investment (for their time).


Time for Reflection

So did we bring a bit of chaos into existence? I think so. Were people able to learn from each other? Definitely yes.As with regards to being inspired – I can definitely say another tick from me. Did this event help to facilitate innovation and creativity? Judging by the happiness level in the room I can only hope that yes.

For me personally there was the added bonus of really feeling a part of the team and the use of Yammer which contributed to the shared experience of the event.

What would I change for next time? Allowing more time for discussion and reflection, perhaps a tea break to facilitate the informal exchanges. It would be nice to have some time to reflect individually and then share with the group (perhaps in a game format to keep up with the fun theme of the day). Ah yes, and I would swap the sweets for biscuits or cake…

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