Think Different, Be Different

Listed on September 17, 2013 in Blogs!

The broadcaster Evan Davis pops up everywhere. First on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme then on television’s Dragon’s Den. More adventurous radio listeners will also know he hosts a terrific programme called ‘In Business’ where he gets three guests to discuss topical subjects relating to modern business practice. I mention this because not too long back there was a discussion about the value of the away day – time taken by colleagues away from the office to discuss some particular challenge or problem. The general verdict was that getting away from the office was good for the team and it added real value to the business. Put simply the change of location enabled colleagues to think differently and become creative – unencumbered even.

Later this week I will be talking briefly to a group of managers from around the country about Dillington and its work. I can guarantee that most will not have realised that their residential meeting was founded on monastic principles or perhaps more accurately, on the concept that living and working together in a community. The Danish pastor NFS Grundtvig came to England and stayed at Trinity College in 1829. He visited three more times and was greatly taken by the communal living of the students and dons. By 1851 the first Danish ‘folk high school’ was created – the first of over a hundred residential colleges for adults. The idea spread and by the 1930s it had become a theme much discussed in educational circles in this country. The experience of war brought the idea to the fore in national policy and the UK started opening its own version of the folk high school. The first was in Wiltshire at Urchfont Manor which sadly and regrettably was recently closed and sold. Dillington was founded in 1949 although the first courses ran in August 1950. Right from the beginning the power of being in residence was realised and soon businesses and public bodies were using Dillington for residential meetings and training. From the late 1950s to the 1970s British Rail used Dillington for twenty weeks a year delivering their General Railwayman’s course. Of course, residentially is still a key element of university education and it features largely private secondary education. Borders get the best deal, the best education. That’s why parents pay fees!

So, what conclusion can we draw from this? Well, getting away from our routine and our usual environment is always good but living away from it is even better. When it comes to business, spending time with colleagues changes the conversation and we get to know each other better. Apple, that great US computer company had a strap line for their business – Think Different. Today’s world of business needs to do that more than ever. We need to think different and be different. Finding ways of achieving can be discovered by dislocating yourself and your mind – at Dillington if you dare.