Co-Directors Alexandra Pearson and Bridget Rooth in Conversation
Bridget asks Alex:
What are the roots of The Yurt Academy?
Alex: I returned to the UK four years ago after 25 years of living and working in Beijing. On my return, I purposefully exposed myself to as many experiences as possible to try to understand the society and the thinking of the country that I left when I was still a student.
I spent a lot of time walking the hills and beaches of my new home in Brighton reflecting on what I saw, heard and experienced.
One key insight that I had early on is that we have a younger generation that wants to work in or for businesses and organisations that have purpose and that bring benefit to communities and the world. Perhaps this is a result of our age, of the current mono-measured capitalism, consumerism, rates of extinction and growing mental health issues. Or perhaps the younger generation are able to see more clearly the interconnectedness of people, the environment, business, and politics.
Whatever the reason, I began to see clearly that the future needs to look different, and the future can’t but be different.
And this became my starting point for The Yurt Academy; the question that kept returning to my mind was: What can I do to be part of a movement that involves businesses, organisations and individuals to create a better world.
It came to me that we could gather together brilliant people, who have thought deeply on different subjects, to share their brilliance in the areas of curiosity, creativity and connectedness, to illuminate minds and offer a real adventure in lifelong learning.
Curiosity – because this is the basis of enquiry and learning;
Creativity – because it is the foundation of innovation and change, and;
Connectedness – because we are social creatures, and a part of a complex and wonderful eco system that is our planet.
I know you’ve been involved in the field of creativity for a long time. Can you share your thoughts on that subject?
Alex: I have been working in the field of creativity for about 30 years now, running training courses and masterclasses in universities, businesses and public sector organisations in China and the UK. It is a fascinating field of work, and one that continues to develop as we learn more about how the brain works, and how the mind, body and spirit are interconnected.
But creativity is also linked to the world around us, and our modern world is built to constrain creativity with its preference for exploitation over exploration. Our education system is test centric, risk avoiding and focuses more and more on the marginal and not the exceptional.
There is growing avoidance of non-tested subjects such as the arts, music and social sciences, giving less and less space for imagination. By the time we leave the school, most of us no longer trust in our creative capacity. But it is there, we just need to allow it back in.
Creativity is a process rather than an outcome, and one that thrives in the murky combination of what is known and what is unknown, what is tested and what is yet to be imagined. Creativity is still largely misunderstood or misrepresented, and so there is work to be done to remind people that creativity does not belong to the few, but to all of us.
We were all born creative, we have just learned how not to be. There are tools and techniques to develop creative thinking, but fundamentally it comes down to building habits that allow for the creative process to happen.
Creativity allows us to break through to a new paradigm where change, fear, ambiguity and failure become possibilities, innovation, adventure and creation.
The Yurt Academy is founded on an unusual business model. What are the benefits of structuring your offer this way?
Alex: Our approach to learning and development focusses on the individual and individualised learning paths within teams and organisations. We absolutely believe in building brilliance from the inside out, benefitting first the individual, and by default the organisation.
True and meaningful engagement – connections, contribution, personal growth – has proven time and time again to lead to positive outcomes for both the individual and the organisation. A stimulated, positive, engaged individual is in poll position to be more creative, innovative, resilient, and this results in a substantial increase in productivity and effectiveness.
Curating individualised learning paths requires providing a broad array of subjects and we do this by tapping into the existing brilliance from within our community. We build connections with experts who want to pass on their mastery.
We call these people Yurt Keepers – custodians of knowledge. Already experts in their field, successful in life and in business, they have all thought deeply on subjects close to their hearts, and they have converted these illuminating subjects into interactive masterclasses.
Our Yurt Keepers bring some surprising, and often uniquely acquired knowledge, to The Yurt Academy portfolio – Ancient wisdom, nomadic wisdom, the newest findings in mind and body connectedness, news ways of looking and thinking, emotional and creative intelligence, visual integrative thinking…. – and our network continues to grow as more brilliance joins the movement.
Alex questions Bridget:
You recently went back to school. What was that like?
Bridget: Before I retrained, I was very much a ‘knowledge worker’. My days had become very ‘intellectual’: proofreading academic journal articles, checking translations on a range of subjects, doing background research for my work as an interpreter at conferences. I was paid to think in several languages and my brain was very firmly in charge of my earning power and my life!
I decided I wanted to work more with people and less with documents; more with my body and less with my brain. It was as if I had a need to reconnect the two parts: body and brain.
It was amazing to go back to school in my fifties. I found it so exciting to be learning again! Training to be a yoga teacher and breath coach moved the focus away from my intellect and into my body.
Working as a trainer has brought so much energy and stimulation into my working life. I love interacting with students in my workshops and am excited to take my work into organisations through the Yurt Academy.
You’ve just set up home in London after many years working overseas and four years travelling as a digital nomad. How did your time on the road open your mind?
Bridget: Being on the road for so long opened my mind to what community truly meant to me. Community – whether business or social – contributes to a person finding value and reward in life. In leaving my Beijing community of 12 years, I walked away from my various roles and my place in the community there.
It was a thrill and a shock. It meant learning to be with myself and finding new connections wherever I went. Ultimately the desire to belong somewhere again, the need to feel connected to people on a deeper level, to be a part of a new business community drew me back to my home country and to London.
A large part of what attracts me to The Yurt Academy is the idea of being involved in a collaborative group working towards the same goal. That excites me and I’m happy to be joining this new movement.
Can you expand on why you want to work in this type of collaborative model?
Bridget: Sure. It seems to me that everything about The Yurt Academy is collaborative, from our tribe of Yurt Keepers to the way in which we work with clients.
And I should add Alex, that you asked me to join as Co-Director – so our leadership is collaborative.
We know that the Future of Work is going to require workers to continually retrain and/or upskill. This means organisations will adapt by bringing in experts to train their staff, or move some of their work to external workers – this will involve a great deal of cooperation and collaboration as companies keep having to evolve to serve their clients.
By collaborating with the Yurt Academy, organisations get to leapfrog several steps as we have already selected, guided and tested our Yurt Keepers and their lean masterclasses.
Good collaboration thrives on trust, professionalism, and respect and those are all values that underpin our model and our working relationships. I think this is a win for everyone – our clients, the Yurt Keepers and The Yurt Academy. I want to be a part of that!
We’ve expanded our Masterclasses offer – have a browse!
Meet the Yurt Keepers Alex and Bridget have gathered into their tribe of brilliance by visiting our Yurt Keepers’ profiles.