Every space tells a story: Is your library the community’s living room? 6xCs to shaping your narrative.

In the libraryI have a soft spot for libraries. I started my teaching career in a primary school as the teacher librarian. This isn’t usually the first job for a young graduate, but it was mine. I loved reading to the children, making author and theme related display, but most of all, seeing the children explore the world of literature and their own passions for learning.

Learning Spaces

Learning Spaces Making more effective learning environments  is an online journal by Imaginative Minds

The most recent edition (Vol 2.2  2014) has an article “Libraries for the future of all users” (by Lee Taylor).

The key function shift from one of “collector” to “connector” – where the primary purpose has moved from one of collecting books, information or music, to one providing a range of people the opportunity to use this space to connect intellectually and physically – a kind of “living room” for the city.

Have you ever considered the library as your school of community living room? This can happen when there is a shift from “collector” to “connector”.  Prioritising people over things.

What characterises a people-focused, future-focused library?

It’s a place for connection, where people’s needs are understood. In this article Taylor makes connections with new community libraries in the cities of Newcastle and Manchester in the UK, by Ryder Architecture. Both of these projects:

  • minimised staff spaces
  • maximisation of public/shared space
  • book collections mechanised for efficiency
  • provide varied places for different types of work
  • variety of collections that respond to community interests
  • welcoming entrance space

These points contrast to the libraries of the past:

  • books front and centre
  • command and control culture
  • task and process oriented staff
  • large designated staff work spaces to hide away
  • one large controlled space where silence is reinforced
  • facing barriers to entering

The architects decided that to make the library the community living room the users needs were important, that it was a shared and community-owned space. This meant that the designed included things like easily accessible power charging points and that the design was able to accommodate mixed mode study. I think we can all relate, I often have my laptop, iPad, mobile phone, paper, pens spread out around me when I’m working.

Newcastle City Library and Manchester Central Library are characterised by welcoming entrances. Generous and comfortable, a space to linger, where library-users can catch up for coffee.

So if it time to rethink your library, where do you start?

If you are thinking about making changes to a space, to make it more person-centres there are a few things to think about. I have synthesised these into 6xCs

  1. Community: All stakeholder needs considered
  2. Connection: Design space for connection and working styles
  3. Collections: Placement and storage of resources, books, artefacts
  4. Communication: The verbal and non-verbal messages conveyed
  5. Comfort: Fit out meet users’ needs  - furniture, air, light, technology, modes
  6. Cool: The space is interesting, attractive, inviting, fun and quirky

Here is a process to facilitate your team’s thinking and action steps for change:

1. Articulate the aspirations of the 6xCs for your context

  1. Community
  2. Connection
  3. Collections
  4. Communication
  5. Comfort
  6. Cool

2. Gather your working group, go on a field trip and have lunch together.

Visit recent developments in your city how do these spaces interpret the 6xCs:

  • City offices with a variety of places for working and connecting
  • Community libraries
  • Incubator/co-working spaces
  • University libraries and social spaces

Look again at your 6xCs and create a statement of aspiration for each.

City sights

3. Develop your strategy

A. What is the current situation?

B. Describe the library what you want to see.

C. What are the pathways from A to B? Can you prioritise them?

D. What are major barriers and obstacles to achieving your B?

E. Now, what will you do:

  • Within a week
  • Within a month
  • This year
  • Within 2 years

This is the kind of process I enjoy working through with groups – Identifying their A, dreaming about their B and then developing the strategy to get there. Let me know if I can help you with your change process.

I’m also thinking about a Library Learning Space Study tour to the UK. Looking at community, university and school libraries. Interested?

@anneknock

The Listening Leader: Collaboration is critical to innovation and opening possibilities #Level4Listener

ChurchillLast week I attended a facilitator training workshop at Centre for Continuing Education at Sydney University. These two days were probably among the my most valuable learning experiences, ever.

To facilitate means to ‘draw out’ and the create hospitable settings for conversation and dialogue. (Lord & Hutchison, 2007)

Facilitation is a leadership role in which decision-making power resides in the members of the group. This frees the facilitator to focus on creating a climate of collaboration and provides the group with the structure it needs to be effective. (Bens, 2012)

I had expected to spend two days assiduously taking notes about being a facilitator, when in reality our ‘facilitator’ led the process of learning by immersing us in the ‘doing’. He modelled everything, from the room set up, the culture of the group and communication.

Of all the many things we processed and experienced, one thing shouted out loud to me:

LEADERS LISTEN.Covey
Facilitating is a leadership skill, essential for those who are professionals in the field and valuable to those who move people, from A to B and implement strategies. Listening matters. But it is not “just’ listening – but how to listen. Listening recognises that I cannot know everything, but collectively we can make a difference.

Successful leadership depends on the quality of attention and intention that the leader brings to any situation. (Scharmer, www.theoryu.com)

In Theory U, C. Otto Scharmer identifies four different types of listening. He talks about the inner world of the leader and that successful leadership depends on the attention and intention that the leader brings to a situation. This is similar to self leadership or personal leadership, looking inward before leading others.

The listening leader makes a difference. In the past great leaders have been orators, ideas-generators and trail blazers. They moved ahead, often with others scrambling to keep up. Listening may not have been a key skill as these leaders seem to already know the answers. However, in the complexity of the knowledge age, when information can be easily accessed and people readily mobilised to action, a new type of leader is required.

As leaders today, listening is a critical skill for us.  How do we need to listen?

Level 1. Downloading: Hears what is already known. Re-confirms

Level 2. Factual: Pays attention to facts and focuses on what differs from that which is already known. New Knowledge

Level 3. Empathic: Sees through the eyes of another. Redirected

Level 4. Generative: An open heart and open will, listens from the emerging field of possibility. Changed

(Scharmer, paraphrased)

Level 4 builds on the previous levels and is essential in leading innovation, being open and listening for possibilities, from wherever they may emerge. It changes us.

Level 4 Listening: How to be a Generative Listener

Listen to:

  • Yourself, first, to what life calls you to do.
  • The others, those that may be related to that call.
  • That which emerges from the collective you convene

The journey of innovation starts with embracing the incompleteness of self and that of the challenge ahead. As the leader, listening to our own sense or calling and purpose is the starting point and cannot be ignored.

Other people are the essential contributors to the journey, not just the partakers of the end-product. This puts collaboration front and centre of innovation, not just an add-on process.  As Scharmer puts it, this involves leading with an open heart and open will. Grounded in the purpose and then listening with wholeness.

Leadership is so much more that taking people on a mystery tour toward change.

@anneknock

Reference: Theory U: Addressing the Blind Spot of our Time

Every space tells a story. Is yours a place that supports the work of innovation? 10 Ideas to ponder

A few years ago I was presenting a workshop at a conference that was held in a school. The classroom allocated to me was one of the most depressing spaces I had ever encountered. As a professional learning space, I tried to do my best to reconfigure it, but the only thing I could really do was shift the orientation.

classroom

What did this space tell me about itself? The teacher was the most important person in the room. There was nothing else to look at. The old posters on the wall were tatty and who knows what view there was on the other side of the black plastic that was covering the windows. The large clunky benches meant that there was little opportunity for collaboration. The space shouted the culture at me: sit down and listen, don’t look out the window, look to the screen at the front. I will tell you everything you need to know.

Every space tells a story.

This is what’s happening in the world of work:

20120223-061939.jpg

Your next workplace may look more like your lounge room than an office. Architects of a new generation of modern buildings are offering workers ”living spaces” and ”lounge” facilities to make them feel at home, often replacing the traditional desk and chair.
(SMH 9 July, 2014)

 

What story does that tell? Comfort, pleasant surroundings and a sense of being ‘at home’ matters to productivity, creativity and innovation.

What story does a learning space need to tell?Maglegard

Think about the spaces you work or teach in. Does the surrounding physical environment support and facilitate the learning that you want? How does it positively influence the desired culture?

 

 

John Seely Brown, co-chair at the Deloitte Centre for the edge contends that the cultures that constantly produce innovation share three characteristics: visionary leadership; an organizational commitment to breakthrough thinking; and a place that supports the work of innovation. (Forbes)

When we talk about innovative schools, the three characteristics are the same:IMG_1230

  • Visionary leadership
  • An organisational commitment to breakthrough
  • A place that supports the work of innovation

Learning spaces for the innovative school need to be places where students and teachers can collaborate, share knowledge and learn together. Separate does not allow for this – separate desks and separate classrooms.

What are the considerations in designing a learning space that supports and facilitates innovation?

The Zone

  1. Flexibility: Wheels, movement and ‘reconfigurable’
  2. Technology: Seamlessly embedded into the space, simple and reliable
  3. Furniture: Choose the place to work and connect, facilitate collaboration
  4. An inspiring feel: Aesthetics matter, natural light, an aspect, empty space
  5. Storage: Thought-through, embedded and easily accessed
  6. SCIL BuildingMultiple focal points: No area is identifiable as the “front of the class”
  7. Light, air temperature and quality: To minimise stuffiness
  8. Subtle and unsubtle zoning: Spaces within spaces
  9. Acoustic engineering: To enable multiple conversations across the space
  10. On brand: Supports the vision and
    aspirational culture of the school

@anneknock

Further reading: How place fosters innovation. 360° Research, Steelcase

My top 10 challenges to become an innovative school #revisited

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about my top 10 ideas for an innovative school, its been the most viewed post.  Although it’s not definitive, it’s helpful to have a guide that can shape strategy. This time I’ve added a few challenges.

Revisiting the ideas, and updating for 2014:

1. A vision for learning is incessantly and clearly communicatedOrestad Gymnasium

  • What is your vision? Make sure you know where you are going.
  • Find ingenious and relentless ways to communicate it.

Who are the keepers of the vision?How do you empower the carriers of the vision?

2. Learning is future-focused

  • Shape the learning context for change
  • Observe the students, see how they work and communicate

How can you have less fixed and more flexible features?
What is happening in the world of work that can directly relate to school?

3. Culture takes time and persistence to embed

  • Once you have the vision – prioritise your steps. Change will take time and strategy
  • If you believe it, be resolute. Help those who are struggling to change, but stick to your guns.

Do you have a shared language?
What are the non-negotiables of culture?

4. Engaged and motivated students are the goal 2011-03-03_0088

  • Put current practices through the ‘learning’ filter – do they still belong?
  • Think about your own conditions for productivity and creativity, maybe it’s same for students

What strategies will make learning relevant and authentic?
What practices
disengage and de-motivate students?

5. Equipped and supported staff are essentialIMG_1218

  • Vision + ‘Learning’ Filter = Regular PD to support through change
  • We can’t change the way teachers teach until we change the way teachers learn

How much teacher-talk is OK?
What is the baseline expectation for IT proficiency?

6. Technology is an environment for learning, not the driver

  • This is not about who has the most bright shiny toys
  • Students live in a world of technology – the school-world needs be relevant

Is technology almost invisible?
Are you embracing the opportunities that the cloud opens?

7. Relationships matter

  • In the midst of all the learning, technology and activity nothing matters more than quality relationships
  • Students need to belong, be known, valued and accepted. This is only achieved through relationship

What activities deliberately get your teachers working (and playing) together?
Is relational learning seen to be important in your culture?

8. Learning is authenticNEMO

  • Set in a real-world context, skills will be learnt readily when there is purpose
  • Provide opportunities for students to be world-changers

Are your teachers passionate and infectious about their subject matter?
Does school feel like the real world or school-world?

9. Spaces for learning are welcoming and comfortable2012-10-03 13.27.20

  • This is not about bright shiny spaces and colourful furniture, it is about aesthetically pleasing environments where students (and teachers) will want to come to learn
  • Not all spaces (AKA classrooms) or furniture need to look the same

 

Have you visited a workplace that shows new ways of work?
Have you looked beyond the school furniture catalogue?

10. Creativity and innovation have expressionThe Zone

  • There will always be barriers to innovation, find ways to break or go around them.
  • Make this your culture, give it voice, take risks, embrace failure

 

 

 

What’s blocking innovation in your school?
What’s your next step?

@anneknock

A very personal reflection on faith in the richness of community: Freedom of – not from – religion

Ref: McCrindle Research

There is a debate in Australia about Christian influence in schools, as recipients of public funds.

Many see faith represented across society as a relic of the past. As a Christian I live my faith in everyday life and I am unable to separate who I am and what I do from what I believe.

 

 

 

Track back 40-50 years and our society was the product of a very different world. Those who led our nation on either side of the political divide were usually supportive of the Judeo-Christian values, and it was often politically prudent to do so.  People went to church because it was the expectation, and if they didn’t go themselves, they sent their kids to Sunday School to get some of that old-time religion, or a good chance for a lie-in.

In the same way, scripture classes, or religious instruction in school was seen as a way to promote and reinforce Christian values. Local ministers, priests and (usually) older ladies would come to school every Friday morning. We would all be distributed according to our particular ‘flavour’ – Catholics and Church of England usually had the most, Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational. I went to the Baptist scripture because my parents said so.

Sadly, while I was enjoying a happy family and being part of a faith community, there were many young people abused at the hands of those who claimed to represent the church. I fully appreciate that my experience is not the reality for so many.

However, I am no less enthusiastic about my faith today, and I believe that the Christian message remains as relevant and life-changing as ever. But how I express and share my faith needs to be equally as relevant.

“Express and share”McCrindle Research

Why don’t Christians just keep to themselves?

This is the real issue, isn’t it?

 
It’s interesting, that as a ‘brand’ Jesus Christ rates fairly well, and the church, not so. We read in the Bible that Jesus cared about people, he helped them and he championed the cause of the marginalised. He was active and not passive in helping people. As a Christian, literally ‘Christ follower’, I seek to show the love and compassion of Jesus, to speak for the voiceless and to work for justice.

Many of us today, reflect our faith very simply, love God and love people. We acknowledge that we are on earth for purpose beyond ourselves. The essence of the Christian faith is that Jesus is God’s son, who came to earth to provide a way to God. Jesus demonstrated God’s love and his teachings form the foundations of our society. Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the way for me to have a personal relationship with God.

So… Why don’t Christians just keep to themselves?

Because we follow the teachings of Jesus:

Go into the whole world

Teach others about me

Make disciples

I’m not a theologian, just a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ. I can’t just take the parts of Jesus’ teachings that I like and ignore what doesn’t suit me. On the other hand, I also want to ensure that I am real, that I am relevant to the 21stC and understand the cultural mores of the times. I believe I have a life worth living, and if what I have can help another person, then I am happy to share my faith.

For centuries churches were the heart of the community, the place where families gathered. In many ways this is what schools have become. Parents have the responsibility to guide their children according to the values they hold so the place of faith in schools needs to be something that is discussed. It is a timely and my hope is that faith remains in the dialogue, as this adds to the richness of community.

The basic value is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Faith is a mystery. I don’t have the answers to many of the great problems people face, I’m definitely not perfect, but I have the confidence that my life has hope and purpose, that there is a God in heaven who loves me and I couldn’t live my life any other way.

@anneknock

Team Leadership Lessons: Confront the brutal facts. Now. How? #readon

Introduction

It was a sad photo in today’s morning daily.

The once proud former senior naval officer was walking away from court, his face stoney, his wife holding her hand up to shield the media’s glare, their son by alongside, his eyes down. The former head of one of our city’s transport authorities had been given a non-custodial sentence for “racking up $273,000 in personal expenses for things such as jewellery, holidays, alcohol, groceries and private school fees”.

He used his corporate credit card because “I was living beyond my means”, his wife had been unwell, coupled with finally being settled after life of dislocation in the military. In his mind the efficient solution was to misuse his employer’s (the state government) credit card. “I really had no choice” (Really?). For a range of unjustifiable reasons, he was unable to look ‘the present’ in the eye six years ago, and now ‘the future’ is not one that he had envisaged for this period of life.

OstrichOften, we talk about leadership in terms of vision, aspirations and great ideas, but unless we are real about today, we have the potential to undermine all the good work.

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, identified the qualities of the Level 5 Leader, who builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will and is able to look realistically at ‘the present’ and continually refine the path to greatness with the brutal facts of reality.

Confront the brutal facts.

Leaders at all levels and in all spheres of life are responsible to create the culture where truth, however unpalatable, can have a voice. The SWAT analysis scans the present, identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, usually at the beginning of the planning process, but this alone doesn’t make plain-speaking a culture.

demotivateCollins also argues that the purpose of leadership is not to motivate people, if they are the right people around the big opportunity they will be motivated. He writes, The key is not to de-motivate them. One of the primary ways to de-motivate people is the ignore the brutal facts of reality.
Being honest and open in a highly respectful and relational context can help create the optimal platform for progress.

 

Here are the four basic practices (ref: Collins) for a team that build a culture of truth and openness:

Lead with questions, not answers
Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion
Conduct autopsies, without blame
Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored

What does it mean in the reality of our everyday working life for you and your team:

  1. Make time for real conversations about your team’s work – permission for honesty is healthy within a culture where relationships matter
  2. Measure progress – and be honest about the information, avoid glossing over the facts and trends and living in one-day-some-day-land
  3. Be solutions focussed – Finding someone to blame may give self-satisfaction (that it wasn’t your fault), but it doesn’t help
  4. Know the questions to ask, and ask them – there is a real temptation to think, if I don’t ask, I won’t know. This is an avoidance and self-preservation tactic.
  5. Take action – when you know, you are responsible to do.
  6. Care more about the people and the vision than your own career path and aspirations – if you can’t do this, you probably need to go somewhere else.

We can only imagine the difference in the circumstances for the ex-Naval officer if he had addressed the facts/data in front of him, spoken up, however difficult it may be, managed the tense relational context, looked for (legal) solutions and then taken action. In writing this I am also reflecting on a painful situation we faced and the need to make difficult decisions. It wasn’t easy, in some ways it still isn’t, but it was worth it.

@anneknock

The Curious Leader: The 4 zones of comfort that keep your team stuck

CuriousHow curious are you?

Leaders are curious people, seeking to explore possibilities. If you are like me, something will spark your imagination, you will see a new opportunity and then start to explore. Then your big job is to help your team to catch the idea and step out of their comfort zone.

 

Curious… It has the desire to understand, a desire to try, a desire to push whatever envelope is interesting. Leaders are curious because they can’t wait to find out what the group is going to do next. The changes in the tribe are interesting, and curiosity drives them.Tribes, Seth Godin

They [curious people] are the ones who lead the masses in the middle who are stuck. The masses in the middle have brainwashed themselves into thinking it’s safe to do nothing, which the curious can’t abide.

Once recognised, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity  that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.  

(Seth Godin, 2008, Tribes: We need you to lead us)

“Lead the masses stuck in the middle” this is the challenge for the majority of leaders. If we think about it statistically, most of us work under a leader’s vision, and are responsible to bring a range of people along. They invariably represent a variety of positions, often brainwashed… into thinking it’s safe to do nothing.

The curious leader looks beyond the present and has an eye on the next steps, drip feeding the future, while simultaneously shaking people from their comfort zone. After all, Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. (Godin, 2008)

Alice in Wonderland

Transition your team from the four comfort zones:

The Mind Zone: This is what I know. It’s how I’ve always worked, and now you’re telling me what?

Present the research, the wisdom and the opportunity that the new idea or project will bring. When people become mindfully engaged, they will step up. Describe the big opportunity and cast vision. Repeat.

The Culture Zone: This is the way we’ve always done it… If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Addressing cultural issues is essential to effective leadership. These are usually deeply held views, evident in behaviour and conversation. This means that the desired mindsets, behaviours and language are consistently modelled and reinforced.

The Familiar Zone: I’ve got all my tools and resources. We’ve all worked together for years.

The right tools for the job and positive working relationships are important to productive and meaningful work. Leaving comfort zones may mean deploying new teams and operations. Your team needs time to process this and establish new relationships. They will need training and coaching.

The Safe Zone: If I stay safe I can’t fail. New ideas might not work and then what do we do?

We all agree that feeling safe is an important human conditions. Leaders are usually people who can live with a degree of risk. Taking your team into unchartered waters requires trust. They need to trust that you know where you are going and where you are taking them will be better.

As Alice said, I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole — and yet — and yet — it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!

This rather curious sort of life is the stuff of adventures worth having.

@anneknock