Do you believe in coincidental meetings? I do. I love the fact that you never know where a conversation could lead. I love the potential. And I don’t mean in a ‘When Harry met Sally’ kind of way. I am talking about the possibility of the spark of a new idea. What I am talking about is Hot Spots.
I first saw Professor Lynda Gratton when I attended a HR Conference in 2008. She told the most wonderful story about chocolate deodorant when presenting on Hot Spots. (No, not the sort of hot spots you get under you arms). She observed that teenage boys were smelling of chocolate. The reason? Unilever had created a chocolate scented deodorant that was claimed to attract girls. Lynda thought it was no coincidence that the Unilever company also made Magnum ice cream, another product that used chocolate to enhance desirability. She proposed that two people met from seemingly unrelated parts of the company and two ideas were synthesised into a third. A Hot Spot flared into life.
Lynda describes a Hot Spot as something that starts with a spark and can be a time, a place, a team or a community. A Hot Spot is a place in which you feel incredibly energised, excited and creative. She describes it in more detail in her presentation to the London Business Forum. Now the bad news is that these amazing places of energy and creativity can’t simply be created. But there are three factors that are needed to help promote Hot Spots. The first is a cooperative mindset and willingness to share ideas to generate a creative atmosphere. The second is the ability to cross boundaries (within and beyond the organisation) as new ideas may be the product of two previously unassociated thoughts. The third is an igniting purpose, a fresh idea or challenge to really ignite creativity.
It is the second factor that I am interested in, the ability to cross boundaries. As we know, safety is not something in itself. You cannot create safety. To me safety is about supporting people to be successful in whatever it is that they are trying to achieve. And if, like me, you are solution focused then I am sure that you consider ideas from all sorts of sources. I am sure that you are always open to the fact that you are never sure where the next idea could come from. With this in mind I have been thinking of ways to ‘cross boundaries’. Here are some of the ideas that I have come up with:
- Invite an ‘outsider’ to your meetings. Next time you have a meeting (maybe to come up with a safety initiative, conduct a risk workshop, discuss a safety issue) invite someone from outside your group. Invite someone who has no idea about what you do and how you do it. Invite someone who will ask the ‘stupid’ questions. Someone who will ask ‘have you thought about this?’. Or ‘why do you do it that way’.
- Don’t seat people together based on organisational structure. How great would it be if, in the office, we sat next to people from different departments, with people who worked in different functions to us. We may learn about all sort of different approaches and different ways of thinking that we could apply in safety.
- Create spaces that encourage people to talk. Most workplaces have communal eating areas but how conducive are these areas to encouraging people to talk.
I am sure that there are plenty more ideas on how to ‘cross boundaries’ and I would love to hear them.
* I would like to acknowledge the information provided on Hot Spots at www.londonbusinessforum.com/events/hot_spots