Archives for posts with tag: inspiration

‘Talking shop’ has probably never had a pleasant connotation. Think of those people who can’t let work go at non-work events; or situations or organisations where lots of talking takes place but no decision is ever made and nothing gets done.  Talking shop or “professional conversation“, to give it a more scholarly gloss, is an invaluable – and often overlooked – source of learning and development in our careers.

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A little preparation can make conversations more constructive and less awkward. Photo: M. Gillie, Port of Hull.

Conversation is a little like breathing –  so involuntary, so necessary to life that we usually never stop to think about it. Take a moment now to reflect on an unplanned professional conversation you’ve had with someone in your department recently – a grabbing-a-coffee, caught-in-corridor or standing-in-the-photocopier queue chat.

Who was it with? What was the topic? Which of you introduced it? Did it involve a story with a critical incident*? Does anything stand out in terms of the language used, emotions expressed (or held back), tone of voice? What was the balance of listening, speaking and questioning between you and your colleague? Were there any digressions or changes of subject? What were the implications of these? Looking back, do you think the conversation had an impact on your thoughts about the topic? Do you think there were missed opportunities to learn something or help your colleague to learn?

Conversational analysis has a formal, rigorous research methodology of its own; these questions are simply to stimulate reflective thinking about how professional conversation fits into your working and learning life. For those in mentoring or management roles, becoming more reflective and self-aware of professional conversation can support and strengthen these relationships – helping others to become better at learning from ‘talking shop’.

To find out more about having better more effective conversations at work, start with these:

Vitae (2015) A brief guide to career conversations with research staff. (seeing it from your supervisor’s/PI’s/mentor’s point of view a can help you become better at managing conversations, too).

Haigh, N. (2006) Every day conversation as a context for professional learning and development.  International Journal for Academic Development.10 (1), 3-16.

Hirsch, W., Jackson, C. and Kidd, J.M. (2012) Straight talking: Effective career discussions at work. CRAC.

Sarangi, S. and Roberts, C. (1999) Talk, work and institutional order: discourse in medical, mediation and management settings. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

*This page is due to be replaced soon, but it’s probably the most helpful definition of a critical incident I’ve ever come across: http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/writing/medicine/reflective/2.xml

As the Bank Holiday Monday approached I wondered how I would spend this wonderful free extra ‘me’ time.  I had to stop to think about it as the week before my son came home on leave from the army and found himself with a day free and said he didn’t know how to spend it. It didn’t happen that often and it was a problem! In the end he came round to our house and played some old video games with his sister and they both really enjoyed it. They laughed and chatted and remembered old times. Perhaps that is one idea, to take time out to reconnect and do things that make us happy with people we care about. Read the rest of this entry »

ERS_Logo_12_bI attended the Engineering Researcher Symposium last Friday (30 June 2017) and the message that came across to me, was that often collaboration isn’t about having a research idea and then looking for collaborators, but rather it can be by talking to others, that ideas for collaboration come about. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear doctoral supervisor,

“I was blissfully unaware how long it would take me to write up. To be honest I would have preferred a more clear marker from my supervisor, or from the department, saying stop doing experiments now and write! I was expecting someone to say when I had enough data, because I never felt I did, so instead I kept going much longer than I needed in the lab because I didn’t know how much was enough. I feel pretty annoyed about that.”

FullSizeRender.jpgIt’s 246 days ‪until the 31st of October. I mention this date as we have around 1100 third year doctoral students whose theses are due on that date*. With 8 months to go, now is a perfect time to make sure that your thesis writers know it’s time to spend some time each week — an hour a day, every day? — writing. Read the rest of this entry »

o-new-years-resolutions-facebookHappy New Year to everyone from the Think Ahead Team!

New Year is the time when many of us make those New Year resolutions. We aspire to put things in place to be better versions of ourselves, be it to start that diet (…again!), do more exercise so sign up to a gym, stop drinking/smoking, save money…

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As I am just back from holiday after several weeks away, I realise that I have been thinking a lot about how researchers get inspired for their work. When you ask young researchers what they do to foster their research inspiration and creativity, they usually start by responding that before being able to be creative, they need to know enough, need to have read enough. They may say that they get inspired by attending conferences or by meeting other researchers.

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How do we get our research inspiration? How can we be creative as researchers? These are vast questions. What strikes me is that rarely will people start by saying that for them to be inspired or creative in their research, they just need time to think. In some ways, ‘time to think’ may seem an oxymoron in the academic context. Isn’t it what researchers do all day, isn’t it their job to think? Of course you do think all day when you are doing research, but the question remains of how you can sustain inspiration and creativity in the manner you pursue your research. I have just started reading a very interesting book called Bite: Recipes for remarkable research (Eds. A. Williams, D. Jones & J. Robertson from Sense Publishers), which presents lots of examples or as they are called in the book recipes about fostering and sustaining our inspiration and creativity as we work alone or collaboratively. It would be interesting to hear from you which of these recipes work for you.

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