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Making innovation work for good. T:@inspirechilli

Wednesday 20 June 2012

When the room rocks

Highlights from day two and three of my Australian visit....

 Day two
I take a tour round a ‘crisis’ project which houses and supports people of mixed ages over a short timescale who tend to be working through drug and alcohol issues.  It’s a building which, although from the early 90’s, looks like a homeless sector dinosaur: a front desk behind a screen, announcements from reception on an intercom like something out of Hi-de-Hi,  dark labyrinth corridors, bare walls.  I feel like Barton Fink. 
What’s different though about this tour is that the manager showing me round has been trying to use Open Talent to change the culture.  Whatever limits the building posed, outside had been converted into herb gardens and recreational spaces, while inside anything that could be maximised as a potential zone for informal activities was being renovated to help develop a different culture of working.  At the same time, a project had been funded as part of one staff member’s time to trial out the Open talent personalised ‘bond’ approach over a 3 month timescale.  Invitations were sent out to clients living in crisis accommodation, transitional housing, those on a drug dependency programmes and supported in outreach.  12 people applied, with 10 selected between the ages of 30 and 47. They had worked to identify a range of aspirational goals, ranging from developing personal skills in writing and music, setting up various original business ventures, and gaining work in the community and homeless sector.  The project was over half way during my visit, with at least 6 of the 10 evidencing clear progress.  There had been a lot of learning along the way, and considering the lack of planning, time and resource involved in the venture, the focus and drive in the project was impressive.  This was a good example of using experiential learning to help create the conditions for Open Talent to grow, teasing out the confidence, trust and belief to adopt a different approach. 
Bur there is one challenge. While the staff are doing a great job of recording what the outcomes and journey is, the paper that is doing the capturing speaks less than the people do. In other words, there is not the system in place to really hold on to the wealth of impact and learning being gneerated. It is this arena that our new work funded by Esmee Fairbairn will be so important, to provide a process to assist staff to do that. 

Day three

I have just finished a workshop on Open Talent with staff from a mix range of organisations associated with the 3 new Foyer developments in Melbourne. The exciting thing is that they are integrating Open Talent into the first Foyer design, so it is developed through the lens of advantaged thinking. It will be the first Open Talent Foyer of its kind anywhere.   More than that, of course, it will transform the organisations involved in the process.  Open talent, as DNA, is not something you can just isolate in a box - the ripples reach out everywhere.  I’ve been working with key staff on how to integrate Open Talent and create a manual of practice, so today was the opportunity to involve a broader group in a special ‘inspire workshop’, with a focus on innovation activities drawn from the new TalentS QA model (some of them just written on the flight over).

This was the feedback from the end of day activity, where staff were encouraged to speak into my mobile phone about what they had taken from the day, what they were going to do, and what permission there were prepared to give the senior staff to take Open Talent forwards:

‘I’ve got it… I was thinking from a micro context before, not the systemic of Open Talent’

‘We’ve started the conversation… we’ve started thinking differently’

‘I’m going to create an environment in my team where my thinking is challenged, and I want you to keep challenging us when our thinking is out of line from where our beliefs need to be’

‘I’m going to start being more perceptive about the type of language I use, and to look at other sectors where they use positive language and bring that back to this’

‘What I’m going to do is to reflect on the way we manage our teams and influence their thinking around advantaged thinking’

‘I’m going to audit where we are doing the domains of Open Talent and where we are not doing them and why’

‘Given we have silos in my Government Department called mental health, drug and alcohol, homelessness, it’s going to be interesting to introduce Open Talent'

‘I have a better understanding of the opportunity to present the positives of the sector… and to start to change the narrative’

‘The open learning and sharing was fantastic’

‘We are beginning to create a common understanding, a model that is shared between people’

‘I learnt conceptualising open talent as DNA and what it means appropriating other tools… and how (as a funder) to write and express advantage thinking in my own reports and recommendations, and I want you to hold me account to do that.’

‘I got most excited about the possibilities’

‘The Open Talent tags gives us a direction to build a framework’

‘I’m very heartened that the not for profits have considered a different approach to young people and taken the lead’

Most asked for output from the day: to create a ‘booklet’ of advantaged thinking.  Key priorities for action: to focus on the campaign language, to create a new HR approach, and to integrate the change at a  strategic and Governance level.

Last night there was an earthquake in Australia. Today, the room rocked with Open Talent.  And the best thing of all, everyone involved in Open Talent back home in the UK would have understood each word. It's the beginning of a powerful community of practice.

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