Puppets and building blocks – a new facilitation experience

Nic and I have just visited the University of Essex and took in the Venue Essex ilab.  We were immediately impressed and if you are looking for a new venue for fresh thinking or a place to solve tricky problems, we think you would be too!

The University of Essex has two main campuses: in Southend and Colchester.  Both have an ilab.  We went to Colchester which has the additional advantage of being right next to Wivenhoe House, a four star hotel which has just been refurbished and is a training hotel, providing accommodation and 2 restaurants.  It was lovely but we were really “wowed” by the ilab.

The ilab offers a really innovative meeting space environment.  It has capacity for up to 16-20 people in three zones.  The first is a circular table environment with ‘white board’ tables and walls – loads of materials to use to stimulate new thinking, move things around or rearrange existing ideas and structures.  Yes – you can write on the tables and walls!  The second is a sofa based circle with puppets, building blocks and lots of other toys – this creates a perfect environment for breaking down some of those office or working barriers.  The third area is the IT suite where software from facilitate.com is used to enable 16-20 people to interact simultaneously on a debate.  Everyone can participate on an equal basis and anonymously – suddenly, the front line officer has the same say as the CEO and has a voice for how the customer experience needs to be improved – good things start to flow!

The space is different, exciting and impressive.  We can see how it could enable new levels of faciltation.  It could bring new forms of collaboration in shared service models and partnerships.  It offers space to explore new stratgies with stakeholders.  It could be used for team building, resolving problems and would be perfect for brainstorming creative ideas.

Its a great place for new businesses to visit.  We will be thinking about how our clients can use this space and exploring where else these kind of facilities exist.  Have you used this space?  Do let us know.  This looks like 21st century facilitation with a fantastic environment to generate great outcomes.