Tuesday, 23 June 2009

What a difference a place makes

Last weekend I was in a team of seven, leading a weekend retreat of around 40 guys. It was an inspirational weekend of new, deeper friendships, insight and change. The place was ‘magic’.

It took five months of part-time robust communication for the leading team to co-generate a plan for the weekend: a deeply shared concept of purpose and process. During that time we got to know each other quite well. We prepared deeply but held our plans lightly, ready to follow unexpected opportunities. There were plenty.

The place we chose for the retreat was deliberately remote: a coastal wilderness - only 42km from downtown Auckland but separated from the city by rugged bush-covered hills penetrated by the narrow hill-clinging gravel road that ends at the lodge in earshot of the black sanded wilderness west coast surf.

Clustered insignificantly in a corner of a vast expanse of dune and marsh, beneath high conglomerate-rock remnants of an ancient, massive caldera rim – are the historic wooden buildings that are the lodge. They once housed an early settler timber milling family and workers as they stripped the land of its mighty coastal forests (now regenerated somewhat). The spaces are basic living spaces, wilderness spaces, and ocean spaces.

Twice before I’d stayed at the lodge and been amazed at the depth, breadth and openness of conversation that the place seemed to produce. This weekend was no exception.

The place itself breaks the rules, breaks down the walls: presents new possibilities, new perspectives within architecture and landscape that are both disturbing and comforting, both challenging and confirming, intimate and lonely. People have to figure afresh how to relate. Out of that come new conversations, insight and change.

We can easily overlook the pervasive determining influence of the meeting place. Its nature and design can deeply determine the results: hinder or help learning and change. University lecture theatres, conventional classrooms, and similar spaces evoke assumptions, behaviours and expectations that are good for achieving compliance and qualifications but counter-productive for organisational learning and change: counterproductive for experiencing and learning new ways of interrelating; of transformed, more effective organisational relationships.

What’s your place good for? What are you trying to achieve?

No comments:

Post a Comment