Ribbons, Writing and Re-connecting

Yesterday we had our Organisation Studies cluster ‘Away Day’. One of the aims of the day was to re-connect with each other and find links between our work so that we could start new conversations and enthuse ourselves about our future – anyone currently working in Academia/ Higher Education will know this year has been a particularly challenging one!

Together, we have created this and I think it looks great!

With my ever-supportive Associate Head of Department, Dr Carol Jarvis, I suggested making a visual, creative, fun, interconnected sort of mind-map! Each colleague was asked to bring 3 photographs/ images that ‘spoke to their passions’ regarding research, teaching and/ or knowledge exchange/ executive education work (KE/ExEd). Each was also asked to contribute up to 3 key words, relevant to their current research interests, papers or other passions – this list of words was then used to create a ‘Wordle’ (www.wordle.net).

We talked about our pictures and then spent much of the morning creating our ‘Connecting Conversations’ mind-map. Colleagues glued their images onto a large sheet of fabric/ paper (we used white Vlieseline and a large durable paper tablecloth with backing – this helped the whole thing to be malleable, flexible and foldable in order we might use it as a point of reference in various internal meetings in the future – and hang it in our corridor!). The ‘Wordle’ of key words was placed in the centre of the piece.

Colleagues where then encouraged to use 3 coloured ribbons: red for research, blue for teaching, green for KE/ExEd work and then pin lengths of ribbon from their own images or key words, to others’ images and key words. Black buttons, added after the making process, ‘join the dots’ as it were and show who and what has ‘connected’. This created a complex, intriguing and rather attractive mind-map showing where we might find common ground, where we might like to start a conversation about something and where we might already be working together. What I found fascinating was that a number of colleagues plaited the ribbon together in order to demonstrate how interlinked their research, teaching and KE/ExEd work actually is. I also liked the fact that there didn’t seem to be a dominant colour used – there was a sense of balance between our passions for research, teaching and KE/ExEd work – which is great, and certainly reflects how I experience our cluster of colleagues!

As part of this reflective process, afterwards we talked about what this creative ‘connecting’ had done for us as a group…which is good because it covers the ‘so what…?!’ of all this! Some of what came out: We will be using this mind-map as a starting point to inform our conversations about the ‘Centre of Excellence’ we will be creating at the Business School; this creative process has helped us identify 5 areas where will be setting up small discussion groups within the cluster (including ‘the identity group’, ‘the psychoanalysis group’ and ‘the liminality group’!), so we might support each other, our writing and future research work better; this process has also helped us work out what we don’t talk about…as well as what we do talk about – there were more areas of overlap than we had first thought. Our ‘Connecting Conversations’ mind-map has created, certainly for me, a better sense of our collective identity and has re-connected us as a group.

It will be hung in our corridor and will be used as a reference document, an ongoing reminder of what we do and what we love…and hopefully, be source of inspiration!

P.S….and as an aside!…it struck me that perhaps this is another example of being creative in a period of liminality, a period of transition (rather like the stuff on my PhD Quilt below…). As a cluster, we are ‘in-between’ – we are out of the challenging academic year we have just had but not yet part of the next, and we are at a stage where we are re-establishing our identity. To help cope with this, perhaps this creative process has been a useful way of managing some anxieties, reflecting on our selves and making the intangible, tangible…?