After a short sleep and a cold train from Leeds to London, Home Sweet Home’s light and airy circular ‘play space’ in Covent Garden was the perfect arena for the AQR Breakfast Bites on creative facilitation. The session was led by Lucy Taylor of Make Work Play, who was an inspiring and engaging facilitator, modelling her own techniques with positivity, energy and a ‘yes and’ approach to ensure we all felt involved. Mercifully, there was no death by PowerPoint; we were involved, on our feet, striking our power poses and getting our hands dirty from the start.

From her brilliant herding cats film to time spent with plasticine, pipe cleaners and puppets, Lucy showed us that full immersion in different senses is a rich way to generate ideas and collaborate inventively. She demonstrated just how vital physical space is as a vehicle or blocker for creativity, by encouraging us to continue a paired conversation on beanbags, back to back, while walking around or on high stools. It made me appreciate that even the furniture of a room can influence our output, from expansive ideas to intimate confessions — and that we should consider how we best match the environment to our workshop or research goal.

Indeed, physical space and how we use our bodies was a key theme. I am keen to experiment with the technique of asking my next group to stand and position themselves in terms of how close they feel to a brand to shake up the usual sedentary nature of a discussion. It may help me to step into their shoes more deeply and intuitively.

Lucy’s quote from Plato that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation should be an impetus to us all as qualitative researchers to get out of our comfort zone and into our playground to make workshops and groups more fruitful and fulfilling. In the spirit of ‘yes and’ to Plato’s thinking, I’d add that it is the very conversation that emerges during play where the magic really happens.