By James Spears
When I was accepted as a UK Green Building Council Future Leader last year, I didn’t quite realise what I was getting myself in to. Even knowing that Lee French had already emerged unscathed / energised from the role, I wasn’t quite prepared for the impact of the initial three-day residential course in Manchester.
It was great to meet the rest of the 28-strong Future Leaders cohort, all from the built environment, but from a variety of companies – architects, contractors, developers and suppliers, and mainly sustainability professionals within their organisation. Happily, we all clicked. We’re all in a similar space – wanting to do things differently and wanting to become better leaders – but coming from different backgrounds and specialisms. So, as the only civil engineer there, it‘s going to be an intriguing group to be working with.
Led by Nick Jankel, “Professional Speaker & Leadership Futurist”, the mix of workshops, seminars and project work was fantastic and really challenged the way I thought about leadership and innovation. The main theme was understanding your own mind and how your emotional state affects your decision-making process. Tricky for an engineer.
It was a lot to get my head around, but it helped me see that when your role is process and deadline driven, your mind isn’t in the right place to be innovative. You need to step away from the boundaries that processes set and move into a freer way of thinking, even going a bit wild, until you almost become lost – almost overwhelmed – in the number of ideas and options you’re generating – that’s “working on the edge of chaos”. From those wild ideas, one or two will spring out and they are the ones you take forward.
Yes, definitely outside my comfort zone.
But I am looking forward to using the techniques when we get down to our group project. Our topic is, broadly, how to ensure the UK’s existing building stock is fit for purpose regarding the impacts of climate change, by 2050. How our group develops or refines that and takes it forward is completely up to us.
There are three more one day courses between now and September when my group makes our presentation, plus meeting with the project group, my mentor-buddy (another member of the cohort) and my Leadership Circle (a 4/5 person “support group” where we can chat through any concerns or ideas we want to share). So there’ll be lots to do, more to learn and perhaps additional updates from “..the Edge of Chaos.”