Without the right venue, Learning and Development doesn’t work

Objectives, results, achievements… if you’re responsible for organising Learning and Development, there’s a lot riding on the outcomes. Which is great news when you get the result your organisation is looking for. And if you don’t…what then? It’s frustrating when you spend time researching a provider, ensuring that leaders carve out time for the work and then… nothing changes.

Sound familiar? The right provider, a personalised programme and willing participants are key to success. And there’s more: if organisations are to see the results that they want, then they need to consider where the development work is delivered.

This blog is the second in a three-part series exploring Farscape’s philosophy. The first blog examined the role that consciousness plays in making behavioural changes. In this exploration, we’ll examine why ‘place’ is so vital to our work.

Why place matters

The idea that the environment influences the human psyche is not new. In the 1980s, Stephen Kaplan published his Attention Restoration Theory. In short, Kaplan argues that the natural environment can restore our attention and improve our focus after periods of mental exertion. The natural environment, in comparison to urban areas, is restorative and regenerative. ‘Natural’ doesn’t mean an expanse of desert or the dense Amazon rainforest. A leafy park or even a view onto a green space prove beneficial.

The impact of the natural environment is something that has guided Farscape and shaped our philosophy. The belief that the environment can affect how we perform has transferred to our working practices. The value of the natural environment on L&D is immense: taking someone out of a familiar environment and into nature means that their mind is in a restful state and able to make new connections. This supports learning and means that the individuals have a better chance of making changes that will last.

It’s not just the physical space that matters

The physical space is not the only thing that makes a difference. As any L&D provider will attest, a safe psychological space matters too. Trust doesn’t automatically exist between a coach and a coachee or between a facilitator and delegates. It’s down to the provider to build that trust.

The client’s premises do not necessarily support that psychologically safe space. The workplace can have negative associations, or anchors, that inhibit the individual’s ability to learn. Anchors, in this context, are associations between feelings and physical spaces. For example, if you’ve spent any time in a hospital or the dentist’s chair and undergone unpleasant treatment, your brain may anchor your feelings with some tangible part of the experience. So the next time you smell disinfectant, you feel queasy and ill at ease.

The same goes for the workplace. If you received some unpleasant feedback in a meeting room, you may feel stressed, a heightened state of anxiety, or discomfort the next time you go there. None of which will help your brain learn and absorb new information and experiences.

The outdoors isn’t just a pleasant and stimulating physical space to be in, it supports the safe psychological space. It takes the individual away from any potential negative anchors, putting the brain into ‘safe’ mode, freeing the mind to make new connections.

The drawbacks of in-office development

While there may be negative anchors associated with the office, there are other reasons that the work environment can inhibit progress:

  • It can be appealing to use your own space;organisations are sometimes motivated to do so, because of a desire to save money, time, or travel expenses. However, as we have discussed, this can very much limit the outcomes. While doing the work onsite can feel like a smart move, in the long run it’s a false economy because the learning and integration are not as effective.
  • Elsewhere might be best for the delegate;when the individual remains onsite, they are subject to all the distractions and day-to-day happenings of work. That means the temptation to pop back to their desk on coffee breaks takes their attention away from the issue they’re wrestling with. Their physical presence in the office means that they are approached with questions and get involved in things which take up mental space which could be used for development.
  • What’s best for the organisation?If the natural environment is best for the individual, helping them to perform more effectively and to do so over the long term, then that is better for the organisation.

The temptation to squeeze L&D into the client’s day at their office is real. It’s why we at Farscape place so much value on the environment; we believe that it dramatically impacts the outcomes our clients achieve.

How does ‘place’ link to the other elements of our philosophy?

In our last blog we considered the role of consciousness and what it means to develop it. For any kind of development work, people have to go deep into their own consciousness and examine things which are challenging: beliefs, values, personality and behaviour for instance. In order to do that, the place has to be stimulating and safe – which underlines the importance of the right physical and psychological space.

Reflective experience, which we’ll cover in our next blog, is impacted by place too.  As Kaplan’s theory says, the brain is at its most creative in the natural environment, which creates the optimal conditions for reflection. The brain is relaxed and able to forge new connections, can attain the peace needed to reflect, yet is stimulated enough to see things from another perspective.

Why you should think about place before undertaking development

By taking leaders away from the office, they switch off, are present and have the best chance of making changes that last. The knock-on effect is positive for the wider organisation too.  Though it may require more time and thought in the beginning, organisations must give serious consideration to where they develop their people. If you’re looking to do some development work, and thinking along these lines is something that you’re unused to, perhaps we can help? We’ve worked with individuals and teams across a host of industries to help them change their horizons. Call 0117 370 1800, we’d be happy to help you with whatever your organisation is facing.

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