What’s in a space?

 

So there I was, walking through the Sandton (Johannesburg’s Business Disctrict) CBD on my way to attend a session hosted by Equinox and Cerebra.  It was windy and I almost felt a bit like Batman, pacing from the Gautrain station upwards towards Maude street, with my coat dangling in the wind.  Jip, winter is definitely here and I craved shelter from the taunting wind.

I found a cute little roastery that sold coffee and I was sorted.  With warm comfort (coffee) in hand, I walked further.  The shade cast by the towers and business buildings made me a bit grumpy as they were stealing the warm sunlight.  If it wasn’t for their beauty, Batman (that would be me for the moment) would roundhouse kick them to let through some vital sunshine D, aka the sun.  I arrived at 15 Alice Lane and the corporate energy can be felt in the expensive vehicles, people’s suits and the way they queue to get through security.  What mattered more was that I was inside, away from the wind.  “You need to go down to level -1” the lady at reception remarked.  -1? Surely if this is a corporate session, why do I go down to the basement? Shouldn’t it be in the professional, corporate auditorium further along? It struck me as odd, but I obliged and took the elevator down.

The doors swallowed me up only to spit me out again a level down.  PING! the sound almost ripped me from my thoughts.  There I was.  I was baffled.  I am almost sure I took a wrong turn and arrived at the Underground in London somewhere.  The distinct styling, tiles and signage teleported me to a different place.  The friendly man told me to ring the bell.  No more Batman vibes, these are James Bond vibes! The door opened and closed behind me and I was cubicled with a lovely wooden clock to keep me company. Another door swished (is there such a word?) open and I entered an old library, complete with seating, dimmed lighting, books, knick knacks on the shelves and I was no longer in Corporate Johannesburg.  I was in the underbelly of a creative thing.  What magic is this??!

There it was again….. swiish… another door opened and I am greeted by lovely receptionists clearly enjoying my baffled expression as I sign in.  Through the doors again and I entered a room where circling television screens greeted me, empty apart from the beanbags scattered to the side.  This is literally a mind@#%$,  (a good one might I add) and through the worm hole I arrived at the reception area with artificial grass and seating.  After I collected my Americano, I sat down.  How is it possible that within the corporate structure that imposes, impresses and almost intimidates, flows a space where I can breath, absorb light, sights, sounds and a plethora of creative energy.

We were greeted and guided to the session hall.  There an ensemble of seating awaited us, unconventional, different, colourful and on wheels.  Yes, the seating moved the moment you put your weight down on it.  Think it’s that way for a reason, to blur lines, make you aware of how out of control and IN control collaboration can be sometimes.  I enjoyed my morning on Internal Collaboration hosted by Mike Stopforth from Cerebra a lot.  What I enjoyed even more, or shall I say appreciated, was the creative space that was born from a need by the Corporate sector in Sandton, to use space to create, dream, make mistakes, ask silly questions and a space that can be the catalyst to exceptional collaboration.

The question still bugged me.  What are we doing with our spaces?  Can we do the same? Are we utilizing spaces to serve us or are we doing things to serve and justify the space we use?  Surely creativity cannot be boxed, but it can be found.  It can be found in the creative underbelly of the Corporate towers called Equinox.  It can be felt at the Roastery just off West street, where I bought my coffee from earlier, it can be found in the garden, kitchen, on mountains and so I can go on.  WE (us), need to use our spaces better, utilize our spaces to service not just us, but others.  Well done Equinox on being a catalyst and thank you for the challenge to create and collaborate and create spaces for people to be baffled in, to dream in, to meet in, to work in, to play in, to bring change about.

PS. They are open to host your meeting, go Google them! Now!

Meetings are like chameloens!

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We all are on the drill, get to your desk, switch on your technology and await instructions on your workday as the emails roll in.  Wait for it… wait for it…. and there is the knock on the door and you are summoned to your first meeting for the day.

As you enter the board room, you do a double check to see if you tagged along everything you need to make your spot relevant.  Laptop: check, Phone: check, a positive attitude…. hmmmmm and there it sometimes fall short on the tick list.

Why are we so allergic to meetings?  Yes, some meetings require all the above mentioned, but then there are meetings where you need to break the mould of the corporate tradition and start asking:  Why do we have to have meetings in a boardroom?  Some of my best meetings are being conducted in the hallway on our floor, the kitchen while brewing a cup of coffee for the team or taking a walk outside the office.

Energy are being ignited when we change the setting, rhythm and format of meetings.  One of my interns in the past suffered from Narcolepsy (uncontrollably falling asleep) and that was an amazing trigger to me on how I should conduct meetings.  Here is my list of triggers you should watch out for and make meetings worth while:

  1.  Check your teams non-verbals

You see, my narcoleptic intern helped me to monitor the speed, relevance and format of the meeting.  That moment when her eyes started to droop I know the meeting need to either speed up, or take a break.  This wasn’t just because of her, but we loose and draw energy from people in poor conducted meetings.

2.  The end result

Clearly stipulate with your members what the end result of your meeting will be.  What goal would you like to reach?  Stick to the theme of the meeting and when the meeting get side tracked, refocus the team.  It will only be natural that the discussion will grow into smaller points of discussion, but keep the conversations relevant and in some cases it’s fine to start sub-committees to meet in their own time to sort out the nitty gritty and rather report back to the main meeting.

3.  Time

Keep to the time!  There is NOTHING as irritating as being late or keeping the meeting going beyond the said times.  Everyone is on a schedule and that should be respected.  Should important points arise, either note them down in your minutes, or have a sub-discussion to give feedback.  If that’s not an option, agree with your meeting that you will go over ‘x’ amount of minutes and stick to that.

4.  Minutes

Keep minutes and always reflect with your ‘minute-taker’ that the right content is minuted and formulated correctly.  Many meetings had minutes, but it was so vague and meaningless that it served no purpose at all.  Constantly reflect the decisions and make sure the ‘minute-taker’ jot that down.

5.  Space

Choose your space for meetings.  One on one are usually done off site central to both parties or closer to your clients, but for internal meetings, why not chuck the formal setting all together and rather opt for an informal space away from disruption.

6.  Temperature

In some cases meetings might develop in tension between members and it’s of vital importance to acknowledge everyone on their views and to remember that it’s not a popularity contest, this is about getting work done.  In some point in time, conflict will arise and it’s critical that the focus should always be on the issue at hand and not the person.

7.  Creative

Have fun in meetings.  If someone made an exceptional contribution, why not commend them for it a give them a candle and call them the ‘bright spark’ of the committee.  When we laugh and have fun, our brains heighten the production of Serotonin and Dopamine which ends in a ‘feel good’ experience.  It lies with you as the chairperson to make sure everyone leaves feeling productive, accomplished and good as far as you can.

THEN….

Remember to have good coffee (ok, it’s not the pre-requisite for a good meeting, this is just my addiction speaking).  Bottomline, meetings cannot be conducted in the same format, space and rhythm for each of your audiences.  They need to be different, they need to be creative when it’s a creative crowd, they need to be straight to the point when you have focussed people that are always in a rush.  Keep your finger on the pulse of your group and make the effort to acknowledge each member and their contribution to the table.

Have a good meeting today!