Season 6 Episode 4 Robert Poynton On How To Create, And Hold, A “Space To Learn”

With a third of humanity still in various forms of Lockdown, the worlds of Work and Learning hare changing radically, indeed will arguably never be the same again. As Learning Leaders we can be forgiven for asking ‘What Now?’ In our new COVID-19 mini-Season at ‘Learning Is The New Working,’ we’re reaching out to some smart folks who might give us some useful food for thought here, and you can’t get better than this week’s guest, Oxford University in the UK’s Robert Poynton. Poynton, an Associate Fellow at the University’s Saïd Business School, first came to my personal attention when, just out of Microsoft, I read his fascinating 2018 book Do Improvise: Less push. More pause. Better results. A new approach to work (and life).

The basic idea couldn’t be more timely; access improv skills that an actor might use on stage to the everyday business of work and life as a way to embrace change as a natural process, putting creativity and innovation at the heart of all you do. I love this, and three of the core ideas he explores seem so relevant when the global pandemic and consequent lock-down has us all reevaluating and re designing our lives and our work.

Noticing more, using what we have to hand, and letting go seen like the only useful operating instructions for 2020. I decided to reach out to Robert in his home office to capture some of his reflections on our current global situation. We find out about his personal intellectual journey studying Psychology and Philosophy at the same institution he still works in then a move into Advertising for a few years, then:

  • how he works in both Oxford, but also “off grid” in rural Spain;
  • the range of brands, including Nike, and leaders he works on in both his Executive Education and Improv work;
  • the ‘Do’ series of books and its guiding ideas;
  • why improvised theatre fascinates him so much – and why it should you, too;
  • how it turns out improvisation is actually based on a set of practices that can be studied and learnt and help us deal with Change;
  • why we end up spending too much time in our own heads and that noticing your environment can really help;
  • how to map his ideas onto being a better Learner and building a new Workplace Learning model;
  • his reflections on the clues the response to COVID-19 is giving us;
  • and much more.


Watch Robert’s special lecture in the Do Lecture Series on the Covid19 Lockdown and what it may mean here

Get ‘Do Improvise’ either from Amazon or the Do Book company here, which gives you the option of an audiobook version, too

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