WOMEN WHO INSPIRE LURING LEADERS We are here to meet general manager Fiona Webby (Fee), to discuss a couple of new cutting-edge adult learning programmes, Leading Change for Good, and Digital Skills for the Workplace. Two of her team, marketing manager Britta Sisam-Jones, and project manager Bex Taylor, sit tapping away on their laptops on adjacent couches and contribute with the occasional anecdote and plenty of laughter. Since lockdown, The Mind Lab has allowed its staff greater freedom to work from home, but they say that they’d rather come in to work, and it’s apparent why—aside from being a space that inspires creativity, it’s clearly a whole lot of fun to boot. Fee is an assured and articulate communicator but struggles to find the words (“look at me getting all emotional!”) that capture her pride about how the team “stepped up” during lockdown. “From a personal perspective, I loved being able to spend more time with my husband and daughter and walking the dog every day,” she says. “I also did a lot of baking and finally signed up to that photography course. But I felt more connected than ever to the team. We were all in touch through Zoom and Google Hangouts. There was a lot of checking in on people as we were aware of the mental health challenges.” At the start of lockdown, The Mind Lab moved all of its programmes online, with the crew also busy developing new offerings such as Leading Change for Good, a postgraduate certificate that “focuses on leadership and transformation for social or environmental good”. “We recognise that the hierarchical, traditional western way of leadership is changing,” says Fiona. “Sympathetic, values-based leadership is coming through stronger.”
“We recognise that the hierarchical, traditional western way of leadership is changing,” says Fee. “Sympathetic, values-based leadership is coming through stronger.” Collaboration, too, is ever more vital.
It’s been a few years since Verve last caught up with the good folk at The Mind Lab—so long, in fact, that this writer very nearly headed straight to their old base on Carlton Gore Road. The esteemed educational facility’s uber-cool new HQ sits at 99 Khyber Pass; the converted space embraces its industrial architecture, with exposed shiny metallic ducting and concrete flooring complemented by indigenous artworks and plush sofas adorned with cushions dotted with native birds. Walls are painted green, much of the space is open plan, and when there are partitions, they are often glass.
“There’s a big difference between cooperation and collaboration,” she continues. “True collaboration leads to growth and innovation, creating an environment where everyone is successful. You must create a platform of trust so that people feel comfortable to put ideas forward and are not afraid to fail.” The Mind Lab philosophy dictates people “fail fast then have another go”. Kids, paradoxically, are generally more mature than adults when it comes to accepting critical feedback. “Failing is nerve-wracking, but it’s how we learn,” insists the GM. “We try to teach people to be reflective: ‘Why didn’t that work?’ ‘How could I have done it differently?’ We know that when you fail, and start to take different paths, that leads to progress. There are so many ways to do the same thing, particularly with digital technologies.”