The Ideas Room shows what meetings could be like. Come try it out

An online platform set up during the pandemic has the power to transform how leaders interact with their teams, says Matthew Ruddle

An online platform set up during the pandemic has the power to transform how leaders interact with their teams, says Matthew Ruddle

8 May 2023, 5:00

We’ve all been to this kind of meeting. The kind that leaves you feeling over-worked and under-valued. The kind you have to sit through although most of the agenda doesn’t concern you, when you could be doing something more productive. The kind where the person who keeps asking questions is resented because they’ve made the thing over-run. The kind where content is delivered at you, a fait accompli that requires nothing from you, and especially not well-intentioned feedback.

Do you ever wish there was a safe space for you to go, where you could openly share and discuss ideas without fear of being judged or interrupted? A space beyond the physical confines of your office or classroom walls, and populated by FE professionals from across the country, all eager and ready to connect with you? Do you yearn for a new way of conducting meetings, to empower your teams to really think and listen to each other?

Good news: This space exists, and it is open and ready to welcome you.

I always leave the Ideas Room feeling re-energised, refreshed, and inspired, and I know you will feel the same.

Created and facilitated by the JoyFE Collective (a group set up by Dr Lou Mycroft and Stefanie Tinsley during the first Covid lockdown as a way for FE practitioners to stay connected during those challenging times), the Ideas Room is based on the principles of Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment.

In short, it is the very opposite of traditional meetings: there is no fixed agenda; everyone is treated equally; job roles and hierarchy are left at the door; everyone has the opportunity to speak without interruption; no advice is given. It is truly a space full of opportunity and potential, where ideas can grow and thrive.

Here’s how it works.

At first, everyone in the room is invited to share how they are doing and whether they have an idea to explore or are simply there to listen. Everyone takes it in turn to answer honestly and succinctly, without interruption. I felt self-conscious the first time I attended, but soon realised that there was no judgement from anyone. We listened intently to each other as we shared our feelings, not only about work but some personal things too. (It is up to each individual how much they want to share.)

Next, those with an idea briefly explain it and then everyone splits off into breakout rooms (one room per idea). The person with the idea explains it in more detail, and then we take it turns to share our freshest thinking about that idea, again without interruption. Ideas range from initial thoughts about a lesson plan or teaching idea to topics for CPD or research projects and right through to wider themes such as inclusion and motivation. Any FE-related topic is welcome.

Active listening is often missing from traditional meetings, but in the Ideas Room the act of switching off your mic is a powerful one. Forced to listen to the speaker without interrupting them, we listen more intently. It’s equally powerful for the speaker, who is free to share their thoughts and ideas with complete control over how much to say and the time to pause as required. It is wonderful to watch thoughts being formed and then verbalised in real time.

The framework of the Ideas Room can be applied to any meeting. Indeed, it has the power to transform how leaders interact with their team members by facilitating honest thinking in a safe space that is rooted in respect and equality.

The Ideas Room is held on Zoom every Wednesday evening from 8 to 9pm, and Fridays from 9 to 10am during term-time. It is a genuinely enriching way to reach out to the FE community and, as Joy FE put it, to let your thinking grow.

Work meetings might take some time to catch up, but in the meantime there’s a space for every professional to have a voice. I hope to hear yours soon.

To access the Ideas Room connect with #JoyFE on your favourite social media platform

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