Dove Nest Group

Hot House for New Ideas

Hot House for New Ideas

Just before Christmas, I was invited to join a two day “hot-house for new ideas” event. This was a joint event, comprising people from Dove Nest Group – experts in leadership, development and experiential learning, and Symbiotics – experts in psychological assessment and psychometrics for high risk professions. Never having participated in a hot house event before, I wanted to share my experience and the benefits for problem solving or creativity.

Hot-house: Green-House?

My previous understanding of a hot-house related either to the warm and protective structure for growing vegetables, or the intensive development of children by ambitious parents. Approaching the event, it was clear that neither of these definitions was accurate. What it turned out to be was challenging, intensive, frustrating but ultimately fulfilling.

So, what is a Hot house anyway? This Hot House approach  seems to have emerged from British Telecom as a means for of creatively solving problems. A Hot House brings together multi-disciplinary teams, to focus on a specific challenge, within the constraint of an urgent time deadline.

In our case, the time limit was two days, the team was a mix of different people both within Dove Nest and Symbiotics. Our challenge was to design a new approach for the leadership development of our learners. This all sounded pretty straightforward and not that revolutionary.

The entire group was split into three equal teams, each containing a mix of people, some from Dove Nest, some from Symbiotics. Each team was multi-disciplinary; mixing expertise of administration, programme design, catering, facilitation, professional coaching, technicians, psychology, and sales.

Given the mix of skills and personalities and our areas of relative expertise, we expected to have no problem in coming up with multiple ideas and solutions. After all, Dove Nest have been providing leadership development solutions to clients for over 35 years, so we must be rather good at it. Well, that’s what you’d think. What happened next was entirely predictable, but it still surprised me.


As we often explain to our learners and clients, before a group can start to perform and deliver, they must first come together as a team. I’d taken for granted that, because I already knew most of the individuals, that we wouldn’t need much to come together as a team? However, in reality there can be big difference between knowing each other and working together as a team.

Therefore, like most new teams, before we could address the business challenge, we had to overcome the challenge of becoming a team. This is classic Tuckman material: forming, storming, norming and performing. We achieved both simultaneously: by focusing on the business issue, we worked through the different Tuckman stages. What made a difference was the speed at which we managed this. Clearly one reason for the speed was the brilliance of the individuals on our team. That said one element clearly accelerated our progress: the deadline.

Having a deadline of only two days, with specific milestones, really cranked up the time pressure. The desire to deliver is a great unifier of teams and having a tight deadline really focused our attention.

The Results

At the end of the two days, all deadlines were met and expectations exceeded. However, the event generated not just one great idea, but three new and inventive solutions to leadership development. There was a voted winner on the day, but elements of all three ideas will be going forward and will  become part of our clients solutions.

The consensus was, that the two days had been hard work, challenging, motivating and above all we each learned more about our team mates, learned to perform as a new team, and enjoyed ourselves.

What can really make a difference, ….is difference

A key feature of the hot house event was the coming together of different people, each with different roles and skill-sets, some from outside the organisation. This represent the biggest potential benefit to both individuals and organisations. Namely: when you look for breakthrough or innovation, it helps if you mix things up a little – and don’t look for solutions in the usual, reliable, places.

“Everyone has something to contribute” can sound, at best idealistic, or at worst patronising. However, the Hot House event made it obvious that not only was everyone able to contribute, but the combined contribution allowed for some truly innovative breakthrough moments.

If you’d like to know more about the Hot House approach, how we do it and what it might deliver for you, please get in touch with us. Or if you’d just like to talk to us about leadership, development and learning, call us on 015395 67878, email us at or visit our website