River Cafe




Knowledge Cafe
A River Cafe on the Noharo
I would like to tell you about a project I am working on with Chris Penrose Ransley. Chris and I have long been interested in "creative conversation" and both have of us have a background in the subject. I run my London Knowledge Cafes and Chris through the 90s facilitated both face to face meetings and ones augmented with 'group meeting technology'.

One aspect that has always interested us is the role of 'place' in facilitating creative conversation. We all know through experience that certain environments are more conducive to thinking; creativity and problem solving. Chris, in particular, has experimented with a variety of environments, the latest being a luxury 45 foot Dutch built steel motor yacht. She is moored on the Thames at Abingdon between Oxford and Reading, England. Click the photo for more details:

Chris has facilitated several meetings on the boat, some of which I have attended and we are both convinced it makes an incredible environment for creative meetings. There is something about the water; the movement of the boat; the sky and all the little things going on in your field of vision that somehow nurtures creative thinking. We think it is the fact that you can never focus on an issue too long before being distracted. And paradoxically it is this distraction that seems to spur new insights. Chris has dubbed it "peripheral intellectual vision" i.e. focus on an issue and then look slightly away and you will find what you are looking for. This seems to be the effect of the boat and the water. The Chinese seem to have understood this - the five 'elements' of ancient Chinese wisdom: were fire, earth, metal, water and wood where water represented creativity and insight.

So Chris and I plan to explore the concept further. We intend initially to run one or two 'River Cafes' on the Thames in September 2004. This is how they will work:

The Noharo at Wargrave Regatta
We will invite 8 people (plus myself and Chris and one other crew member) to each k-cafe. They will run from 10:30 to 17:00. The pick up point will be on the Thames in Reading. There is a mooring only 10 minutes easy walk from Reading mainline station. Reading station is only 30 minutes from the London Paddington terminus and just a few miles off the M4 motorway. There is ample parking at the station. So it is exceptionally easy to get to.

The eight people will be selected to create a 'balanced' but 'diverse' group. One of the group may be 'catalyst' who is interested in 'conversation and place' and who can talk a little on the subject. Along with myself and Chris they would help set the theme for the day with a short 10 minute talk and help catalyse the conversation and thinking during the day.

At the start of the River Cafe, the following question will be posed to the group:

"Your environment has a huge and powerful impact on how you think and the way you behave." Do you agree and what is the nature of that impact?

We will then cruise along the Thames for the afternoon, discussing the topic and taking out time for lunch at a riverside pub/restaurant. We will return at the end of the day for a final review session to share our thoughts and insights. Participants will be expected to pay for their drinks and for their lunch. Otherwise the day is free with one proviso - we ask each participant to provide a one page review of their thoughts and conclusion from the day.

The first event will be held on 8th September 2004.

The September event proved a huge success.

Video: Nick Milton on Best Practice

Nick Milton on Best Practice.

Media Information: Image

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership


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