Go ahead, play musical chairs
How often do you sit in a different seat at the dinner table? A regular meeting? A plane? When I travel, often starting on a regional jet, I’m usually in seat 1B. Not 1A, or 2B, but in 1B. It’s where I’m comfortable. Of course, my objective is to be comfortable. If my objective were to learn, this would be a bad strategy.
My brother Mike has been a high school teach of rhetoric and English is now an instructional coach for other teachers. On his blog Flinchclass.com, he shares the effect that switching seats in the classroom can have:
Much of our long-term memory is episodic. The brain stores time/place memories in the hippocampus, and when informationâ€”the content of your courseâ€”is attached to those episodic memories, it is easier for the brain to store and recall. When we think about important events in our lives, we almost always return to a physical setting. Third grade in the seat by the windowâ€”watched the balloon I got for my birthday sail into the sky because my mother, who was cleaning, accidentally let it slip out the door. Mid-afternoon sitting in the corner of the bench beside the front windows of my high schoolâ€”discovered Holden Caulfield narrative voice in Catcher in the Rye. Recalling those places helps us recall the events or information we associate with them.
I can remember more than anything from high school where I sat and who I sat behind, often because I was talking with that person when I was supposed to be paying attention. Because we never did change seats, and perhaps also because I wasn’t always paying attention, I remember this more than I remember the lessons.
Last week in a board meeting when several of us walked in we said “let’s sit somewhere else and change things up a bit.” We had been sitting in the same seats meeting after meeting. It did indeed affect the conversation and change my perspective, and was glad we did it.
Here’s what you can do;
1. In your next meeting, get there early and sit in a different seat, particularly one of those from someone else that comes early. They will have to do the same, and the whole meeting will be a bit less habitual and more attentive.
2. If you are running a class, whether high schoolers or executives, change up the seating. Whether they do it on their own at your request, or you purposely arrange their seating, change it up.
3. Change the perspective also by changing the location of the meeting, or do it standing up. This will also break the cycle and create a new perspective.
4. If you really want to get a point across from someone, meet in a new and unique location. Go offsite, or find a special spot. Pick someplace that will stand out, and then your critical conversation will be reinforced by the memory of the physical environment.
If you’d like to continue learning and change your perspective, you can change your inbox. Enter your email in the box at the upper right and continued receiving this content via email.