5 ways to create a brain friendly environment #3 Inside out or outside in?

Inside out or outside in?sacsayhuaman wall

With summer apparently here in the UK we’ve most of us been outdoors a lot more.  How does it make you feel if you take a quick walk, go for a run or do a spot of gardening,  particularly if you’ve been cooped up in a building all day?

Most people find going outside is a stress reducer.  Often they say they think better, are more creative, have more energy or feel more inspired.  And if those are your responses too then you’re not alone –  plus you probably have your own response to the outdoors.  Creativity, energy and inspiration can  improve performance and learning at work so why do so many of us spend most of our working days indoors and how can we make more of outside?

Best of all take your learning or work outside if you can.  Freed from the tyranny of powerpoint it becomes easy enough to take people, resources, flipcharts outside if the weather’s good enough.  And if it’s not great then warn people they’ll need poor weather gear but still do as much of the learning outside as you can.  Be like a colleague who delivers training on the accounts management system in the staff car park – even on wet days.

If you really can’t go out bring the outside in.  Another colleague had us writing our outcomes for a meeting on big shiny yew leaves and then pinned them to a ‘tree’ she’d brought with her (big sticky twigs).  You can alternatively use postits and a drawing of a tree but we really enjoyed the real version.

The most obvious thing of all is to have windows to look out from – open the blinds fully – don’t make people peer between the slats to see what’s going on out there. Researchers showed that students looking at a similar sized plasma screen showing the same view as the real outside recovered less well after participating in cognitive tasks than students looking th
rough the real life window.

If there aren’t even any windows in your  environment then eperiment with  a video loop of birds, trees, waterfalls, the sea, fields.  Research shows we feel better with a video of outdoors to look at than blank walls.  It’s enhanced  more when  played on a big screen – so try out the usual projector and screen as a ‘window’ on the outside world whilst you engage people with a whiteboard /flipcharts at the other end of the room.  A  client who works in an urban environment plays a video of people walking up and down the street outside because they’re down in a cellar and don’t even get to see their urban outside.

Even if you can’t go outside find ways to bring the outside in to refresh your people and your environment. What ideas do you have to connect with the outside?