Unhurried meetings and workshops in hurried times: How do we want to spend the precious time together?

When I see online or in person events where information sharing occupies a big part of the precious meeting time, I wonder why bringing people together for this? Why doing the effort to connect smart heads for giving an information update or rushing through some bullet points or Q&A? I wonder if the meeting or workshop organisers also question whether this is the right thing to do? If they have some doubts? I wonder how potential participants react when they see the invitation? I guess many think “Could this be done differently”?

We must make the best use of the precious time when bringing people together for a meeting or a workshop. We always should ask ourselves: How do we want to spend the time together in our workshop (in person or online)? The time spent together must be as purposefully, meaningful and productive as possible.

Purposeful, meaningful and productive can look very different. Once we have clarity on the purpose of the event – why we meet and what we want to achieve together – we can think about the process.

The paradox of time

It might look like a paradox, but as time is scarce, an unhurried process could be more beneficial. Yet we tend to rush and pack the agenda full of information and updates.

We rush a lot.

There is a link between pace and thinking mode. The question is, which thinking mode is best for our challenges? Do we meet to ‘get things done’, for some fast habitual thinking and finding confirmation and agreement for our plans? Or do we need something else? Some slow thinking, some deeper reflection and inquiry?

Different modes of thinking need differently paced meetings.

Empty the agenda – create time for thinking

Sometimes, we need some unhurried moments so that we find the peace and inspiration to ask questions and to process chunks of information and ideas. This kind of thinking is not a linear process it is more of a zig-zagging, circling and meandering. A process of inquiry and digestion.

Talking about meandering, I came across these wonderful maps from 1944 of the river Mississippi. I am fascinated by the course the river takes, the bends the river makes. It could serve as inspiring metaphor for a free flowing thinking process, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, but certainly in an un-straightforward searching process.

The colourful maps of the historical meandering traces of the Mississippi River designed by Army Corps of Engineers cartographer Harold Fisk were published under CC by Bill Rankin, historian and cartographer.

To be creative, we need to move between intense concentration and relaxed reflection. A kind of flexible attentiveness is an antidote to the many things in life that can fracture our attention. It’s a practice of bringing attention and curiosity to how we work with others.
Johnnie Moore

Unhurried is no luxury

Especially in unfamiliar situations when planning gets difficult taking time for some quiet reflection and sense making is probably more helpful than trying too hard to think and act fast.

When we create time for inquiry to explore ideas in-depth and play with our thoughts, we might be able to connect some dots. We might not have instant results, but some good ideas and material to work with and to build with.

Have a look at the Manifesto for slow thinking in projects by Over The Fence, the manifesto is a wonderful invitation for some unhurried conversations at the start of EVERY project.

So, how do you want to spend the time together in online or in-person workshops?


Upcoming workshops

Unhurried at Work: I am currently planning with Johnnie Moore for an Unhurried at Work workshop in Amsterdam (more info here). We also offer a free Webinar on April 15 (9:30 BST/ 10:30 CET) register here
Unhurried at Work. Workshop Amsterdam, September 10 & 11, info here

Curious what Liberating Structures looks and feel like?
We do another online taster session on April 14, 13-14h CET  info here
Liberating Structures Immersion Workshop, July 8 & 9,  Leiden NL info here
Liberating Structures for Monitoring & Evaluation specialists, Sept. 3 & 4, Leiderdrop near The Hague NL info here

Bringing your meetings and workshops online: Confident, Creative & Convincing! 3rd edition coming soon on Zoom!

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