Connecting with Central Manchester

Early in every Leaders Plus course, candidates tour an area in flux, experiencing places with fresh eyes – or ears, noses, pens and lenses – and reporting back. ‘Connecting with Place’ is about expansive thinking and started as a drawing project with artist, teacher and writer Ilga Leimanis before expanding to include photography, interviews and sensing with Strategic Content‘s Anna Faherty, a creative polymath and Leaders Plus regular.

Future of London believes field trips have real value for learning and networking, but this particular activity has additional goals:

  • to actively experience place as a person rather than a professional, and report back to each other without the professional perspective that makes us think about e.g. borough boundaries rather than what our street feels like; value-engineering rather than being lost or wind-battered, etc. It’s a great exercise for empathy, and for flexing observational muscles.
  • to shift from reductive or ‘decision tree’ thinking to expansive or open-minded thinking, with a view to strengthening senior problem-solving skills. As all of us become more senior and overloaded, we tend to short-cut to get to answers faster. Complex problems need a richer set of approaches, including finding and considering new options. Stronger ‘observational muscles’ help with that too.
  • (A third goal is to signal to new candidates that Leaders Plus is not about nine months of watching PowerPoints in a classroom!)

The GM Leaders Plus 3 cohort shared brilliant insights from their March 24 walkabout, including who’s in central Manchester as the city emerges from Covid; candid impressions about way-finding and kindness from inner-city residents and long-term homeless people; a surprising (possibly welcome!) lack of smells; the soullessness of some of the new squares; and how places that look quiet or dead may come to life when you stop to listen…

There’s of course more to the session summary, which candidates and mentors will get as part of their programme. Thanks to Trowers & Hamlins for hosting & to alumni Tom Wainwright & Darren Ashworth for the welcome & advice!

If you’re an FoL member and are interested in trying this activity with your team or you’re interested in applying or nominating someone to the next Greater Manchester or London Leaders Plus course, get in touch – and see you out there!

Thanks to Sam Styles of Arup for his sketches of St Mary’s, the “Hidden Gem” – one of which is below.

Thanks to our GM programme partners too – couldn’t do this without you!

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