Believing I have the Dream Team

Interview with IdeaConnection facilitator Pat Naylor
Pat Naylor has been a facilitator for about ten years. She runs a company called Future Plan Consulting with her husband that provides facilitation and training for a wide range of businesses, and public and private corporations. One of their biggest clients was the UK government’s Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

Pat’s facilitation experience had always been with face-to-face meetings so R&D Problem Solving with IdeaConnection was her first try at remote facilitation.

photo of Pat NaylorWas that a big adjustment for you?

It was certainly a challenge. I wasn't sure how it could actually work but it does. I was surprised that it is so easy to make happen. I thought I would need to have people in a room to be able to get the best from them but that's not the case at all.

I think I’m finding I'm learning an awful lot from the people I work with on IdeaConnection both from a knowledge point of view and a cultural point of view with so many different nationalities and cultures in one place, in one team. The knowledge that these people have is just incredible, it blows me away every time I work with people like this.

It's just their depth of knowledge in their subject is incredible. Working with the different streams of knowledge and bringing them together, just fascinates me how the ideas grow from that.

Is it necessary to be steeped in the scientific knowledge of the challenges that you're working on as the Facilitator? Do you need to know the subject or is that immaterial to your role?

I think it's pretty immaterial, although I do like to find out more about their areas of knowledge. With the challenge I’m working on at the moment I looked at the reiteration statements as they were coming through and thought, “I wonder if that’s exactly what the Seeker wants?”

So I had a look at it and had a go myself, which I hadn't done before, and I find I’ve learned so much just by doing that. It has also given me a greater understanding of what the Seeker wants.

Have you ever found that you’ve had to keep egos in check on your teams?

I think with the people that I’ve worked with there have been a couple of groups that have had disagreements shall I say. I think there’s a good way of dealing with that by bringing in all the team and asking everyone what they think and how they want to go forward. I do keep that at the forefront of my mind. I always ask team members what’s important to them about how they work together and how they go forward.

Does every team have a different dynamic?

Oh absolutely, totally different. And that's the great part about the job. I just love different things every day. And to have all the differences in culture, the differences in the knowledge, and differences in the team dynamics is just fascinating.

Does that mean you have to adapt your role to be in tune with each team’s dynamic?

I guess I need to understand the dynamic. I don't think I change too much in the way I deal with people, and I do keep the goal and their requirements and their requests in mind as I'm doing the work as well. I’ve had some team members who have said they are not confident with their English, and although they do want to contribute, they aren't comfortable in talking so much. Whereas there are some who are very chatty.

I always have to bear that in mind, that there might be someone who isn't comfortable saying something, but has very valid inputs to make. So I find a way to bring them in, sometimes by e-mail, sometimes on Skype or instant messaging, just so everyone feels included and that their points are being honored by everyone else.

What are the key skills that you would say that you bring as a Facilitator?

I think I'm really passionate about new ideas and bringing them to the forefront and allowing them a voice in the world. I think this is basically what makes us human – having ideas that we can take forward and grow with. I love trying something new so I'll always be open to a new way of doing something.

How many challenges have worked on so far?

I’m on number five at the moment.

Have you met with success with any of them?

The first one we received a partial award, half the award. And the rest we’re still waiting.

So, it’s been quite successful so far?

Yes, and I’m expecting lots more. I always go into the challenges believing that this is the team, this is the ideal team, the dream team; we’ve got the dream team.

Overall what are your thoughts on your experience with IdeaConnection?

I love it. I love the flexibility it gives me and I think it's the way forward for businesses and academics alike in the world. Just bringing together people that may never have crossed paths before, and getting them to connect and come up with ideas can only be a good thing.

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