How does time and the three dimensional environment affect your conversations? I have experimented with this question before, as you’ll note from this post about an event at the Joslyn Art Museum. Last Thursday, working with young professionals in First National Bank’s intern program, I put some thoughts to the test again, using a series of staged conversation stations, conversation prompts loosely aligned to an overarching theme, and a 6 minute time limit at each station.
Each station was positioned in circumstances intended to provoke, potentially, varied frames of mind, such as the couch positioned directly in front of a massive artwork, the soft chairs with Lego pieces scattered around, the high stool and low chair facing each other, and the paired chairs inside a dim, narrow exit corridor.
The feedback was as mixed as the environment, the prompts and, no doubt, the participants. For some, the space made little difference but for others it did. Some stations affected no one, and some pushed everyone. On occasion, conversations swiftly departed away from the prompt, and in other instances, there was inadequate time to complete the conversation about it. Perhaps this demonstrates that conversation is far too varied, nimble and unpredictable to be controlled or directed in this way? Or perhaps these controls impact only certain attitudes we have to conversation, such as our ability to be empathetic, open, courageous and curious?
There are numerous implications for how we structure our personal and professional environments, and the ways that we engage each other in those venues. How do these concepts manifest themselves in your work and social spaces?