The Bridge Between Information and Wisdom is Reflection – An invitation to Write Wildy!

At the virtual meeting of the ODHE network in June 2020, we heard Professor Helen Langton, Vice Chancellor of the University of Suffolk, give a presentation on the ‘View from the Bridge’, sharing some of what senior leadership teams are addressing as they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Her presentation took us from Hell’s Bridge in Michigan to her own heavenly bridge (aka the Langkawi Sky Bridge), via the traditional ship’s bridge, as the fog begins to clear on some of the initial confusion and uncertainty and institutions begin to determine how they will move into the 2020-21 academic year. At the risk of stretching the bridge analogies, we used Michael Carroll’s assertion that ‘the bridge between information and wisdom is reflection’ to segue into some personal reflection, in the form of Wild Writing. The exercise prompted some positive comments and I was persuaded to pen a brief blog on the process.

My introduction to Wild Writing came through formal study for EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) accreditation as a Senior Coach Practitioner. Developing a strong reflective practice is central as we focus on being present and mindful for our coachees and also encourage them to become more present and mindful in their own spheres. Reflective writing then becomes a habit of our own practice and also a tool to share, as we each pause and review what we know; increase our self-awareness; and develop our ability for meta-cognition, triple loop learning. We make deeper connections and become more creative! The time spent need not be long, but can provide some rich insights.

A key thread in Professor Langton’s presentation to the group, and through the rest of the meeting’s agenda, was the need to support and sustain staff – ourselves included – as we work through the challenges and change arising from lockdown and whatever will emerge beyond. So for our wild writing exercise, we first took 3 minutes to reflect, individually, on what was emerging for us about how to sustain ourselves during the current period. The ‘rules’, adapted from Goldberg, were:

  • Keep your hand moving – write whatever comes to mind
  • Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, spelling
  • Try to be specific – nouns, verbs, colours, textures
  • Go with your first thoughts, don’t censor
  • Go for the jugular! If something comes up, let it out

We then privately reviewed our writing, identifying 3 key words and wrote again for a further 2 minutes with these key words as our focus. Typically the exercise might run again for 3 minutes, identify a further 3 words and then write again for another 3 minutes (9 minutes of writing in total), with a final piece being to bring together the 9 or so key words and reflect on what they, together, might signify. Personally, I’m finding that two rounds of writing is enough for me, and whilst not yet a daily practice, I am building a habit of wild writing and finding it very powerful. The questions I reflect on at the end include

  • What am I noticing?
  • What am I curious about?
  • What am I feeling (as opposed to thinking)?
  • What does this suggest I do next?

I’m also using wild writing regularly with my coachees. Typical questions that we start with include ‘What’s emerging for you from our conversation about x?’ and ‘What’s challenging for you about this topic? What’s creating that?’. The feedback they give me is that it has unlocked something they were stuck with, has provided some interesting insights and/or has been really liberating – freeing up their thinking. This fits closely with the feedback that we had from the ODHE session.

As we work to support colleagues through the remaining period of lockdown and begin to transition into new sets of working arrangements, you might find Wild Writing a useful addition to your own toolbox.

Goldberg N, 1990, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, Bantam

Exchanging ways to deliver greater efficiency

logo-1What are your thoughts on the ‘efficiency agenda’? Lots of hype? Dull stuff about procurement, outsourcing and shared services? Or is there a case for making more effective most of what we do in HE? Hefce’s latest predictions for the sector’s financial health suggest that HEIs will be looking even more closely at increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Organisational development and change programmes are likely to increase as a result, not decrease. Whether ‘efficiency’ is your thing or not, you may find it useful to explore and engage with the emerging work of a new project, funded by the Innovation and Transformation Fund (Hefce/Leadership Foundation), called Efficiency Exchange.

The service has been brought online quickly to start up the conversation with sector professionals on what information would be most useful, but will develop as work in progress over the next year. The intention is to go beyond a website to develop or link with communities of practice in related areas. Even if the topics aren’t of immediate interest, you may know colleagues for whom they are. Please help spread the word!

An online survey is open until 29 March, which will gather views on the opportunities, challenges and themes within the efficiency agenda that are most important to sector professionals.

The findings from the survey will inform a programme of engagement. This will include workshops with practitioners to develop action plans and commission new content.

The Efficiency Exchange project is delivered by Universities UK and Jisc, and supported by HEFCE and the Leadership Foundation.

For more details, contact Ian Powling, e-mail

Or follow the Efficiency Exchange on Twitter – @EfficiencyEx

Twitter – Two Ears to Listen, One Mouth to Speak

I so enjoyed Simon Inger’s blog about iPads, I thought it might be of some interest to share thinking about one way I use my own iPad.

twitter-bird-blue-on-whitestock-illustration-3365311-classic-car-1959-chevy-impalaI was quite skeptical about Twitter when I first decided to try it out but I saw that it was increasingly being used, particularly by students. When I was still in my 20’s I decided I never wanted to end up like an older friend. He simply refused to listen to any music later than 1960. He even drove a car from the 50’s – beautiful but certainly not the only choice around. I may not be on the leading edge of technology but choice for me continues to be important.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” (Epictetus, Greek philosopher, AD 55-c.135 by way of Tim le Lean). This quote epitomises the value I find in Twitter. To me, Twitter is:

1. A newspaper – I can use it to catch headlines and current activities from news organisations like the Guardian, THE, etc. as well as “headlines” from people and organisations within and outside the University of Kent that I have chosen to “follow.” I can dig deeper by clicking on the links attached to the tweets.

2. A source of continuous professional development – Following organisations and thinkers that I respect (I call them my virtual mentors) who write about leadership, innovation, diversity, strategy, and change as well as other areas of interest provide me with a steady stream of current, often internationally acclaimed thinking, on topics I care about. I can take five minutes to scan a few practical presentation skills tips or read an inspirational article to kickstart my own motivation when I am having a difficult day.

3. An event tracker – Twitter is a terrific way to keep an eye open for upcoming events and to have another method at your fingertips to tell others about events you are involved in or that you want to draw attention to. When it comes to events, Twitter is just one of a host of methods to get the word out.

4. A way to share thinking and research with others – This can happen either by typing 140 characters as a single message or by directing the reader to a blog or a website. Connecting people and ideas is easy when I see some resonance or possible common interests or goals. It’s also not as intrusive as an email; the broadcast approach of Twitter means people choose to engage with a tweet or not. The receiver of tweets can control and manage their own information, sharing or responding as they choose.

5. A way to build a positive community – Twitter makes it easier to communicate appreciation for others – for individuals or for organisational initiatives. It’s possible to send an expression of praise not just to one person in an email but to everyone who has chosen to follow you and is, therefore, by default, a part of your digital community. Of course, the reverse also holds true; criticism and negativity is just as easy to spread on Twitter. I consciously choose to use Twitter as a positive force. If I have an issue to deal with or a problem with a person or something that has happened, Twitter will not be my communication method. I only have control over my own tweets but I can choose to try and exemplify what I appreciate in others – particularly a sense of collaboration and a focus on continuous learning.

6. A way to be yourself – I do make conscious choices; I use Twitter and LinkedIn as my professional communication social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram are saved for my friends and family where I share a range of silly and serious topics, personno-foodal politics and family photos. But I also see something very positive in allowing who you are as a person shine through on Twitter – I have been known to post a picture from a great local festival or a Canadian winter driving scene; a link to a news story that has affected me deeply or a mention that I am finally heading off on a long anticipated holiday. However, I try not to share certain details – I’m not a chef and I know you don’t care what I made for lunch!

The best way to know if you will like Twitter is to try it. Read (listen) more than you tweet (talk) and there is much to be gained.

By Cindy Vallance, Head of Organisational Development, University of Kent
Twitter @cdvallance

App Review: VoucherCloud

VoucherCloud LogoIt’s a time of tightened budgets for all in Higher Education, so anything that can save finances whilst on the move has got to be good, right?

VoucherCloud is a free app that works on all smartphones, offering discount vouchers directly to your mobile phone.

VoucherCloud Options

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The app uses the GPS (geographical location) in your phone to identify where you are, and offers discounts nearby. Greyed out offers, as seen to the right, mean that the offer is not available at the time that you view it. You will also note that the food offers lean somewhat towards ‘pizza’, so not always appropriate, but worth a quick look.

The categories are:

  • ‘Near Me’
  • Deals
  • Restaurants
  • Casual Dining
  • Food to Go
  • Bars & Pubs
  • Film & Thetre
  • Online Shopping
  • Retail
  • Days Off
  • Leisure & Entertainment
  • Health & Beauty
  • Home, Garden & DIY
  • Travel & Hotels
  • Property
  • Finance & Business
  • Use Now OptionProfessional Services
  • Auto

Simply click on a deal that looks to be of interest, taking you through to a screen as seen on the right. The icons in the top row give you access to a map (from where you are now, to the location), a phone number, and the web address of the company.

To claim your voucher, double check the Terms & Conditions for any minimum spend/maximum number of users per voucher, etc., and then select ‘Use Now’, which will give you a code to give to your server. Just don’t forget to use it!

You can also access VoucherCloud online, and print out coupons.

National Rail App

App Review: National Rail

National Rail AppSpend far too many hours on a train? Would you like your train travel to be more efficient? Well, no one can make the trains go any faster, but it’s helpful to know what’s going on with your train journey, and the app can often beat platform announcements with information.*

The app draws on real time train running information to allow you to plan your journey across the UK rail networks, and integrated Underground Zone 1/DLR stations. You can save your favourite journeys.

Information is given on live arrivals and departures from all train stations, so you can plan when to depart/collect someone. The phone will use your GPS (geographical location) to identify which station you are nearest to, and how far away it is.

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You can ‘pin’ a particular train to follow its journey, and identify if it’s running on time. The image to the left identifies that the train left the previous station 8 minutes late, and the anticipated impact upon further destinations. This can alter quite a lot as the journey continues! There are also free in app alerts for delays and cancellations.

The app also offers a ‘Wake Me Up’ alarm for your stop, although the one time I tried this, it had turned itself off! I prefer to set the alarm on my phone to wake me 5 minutes before the anticipated arrival at the stop, should the train lull me to sleep.

*Note: Data signals to your phone are notoriously sporadic, and this only works whilst your data signal does.