Insights from Gill Phillips of ‘Whose Shoes?’

The ability to see the world through others’ eyes – to walk in their shoes – is arguably an essential co-production skill. It’s not, unfortunately, a skill which is regularly demonstrated by organisational leaders or senior professionals. In this informative and energising blog post, Gill Phillips (inventor of the superb ‘Whose Shoes?’ training game) reflects on her recent experience at the ‘Thought Diversity Hothouse‘ organised by NHS IQ and the NHS Confederation.
Inevitably, I wondered who would be in the room. I felt that, whoever they were, there would be accusations of them (us!) being the ‘usual suspects’. I don’t think they were. I’m not quite sure who the ‘usual suspects’ are at an event of this kind but ‘my table’ had a lead from a CCG, someone from the police, a CEO from a Foundation Trust, an equality activist and other interesting roles… and me and Ken. It felt exciting that my friend and colleague Ken Howard was invited – a person living with dementia at a non-dementia specific event.
‘Chatham rules’ were to be observed and I thought this was only right. Fear seems to be a big part of the transformation to a new, more enlightened era of honesty and transparency in many quarters, so people needed to be able to speak out with freedom.
There was a poster inviting us to note down any elephants in the room. For me the biggest elephant seemed to be that some passionate people (and inevitably the room was full of passionate people) are really not very good at … listening. And until people listen, listen really deeply, and are prepared to think and behave differently themselves, nothing much will change.
I was glad to be there to support Ken to have a voice. I have never had to do this before but, to be fair, we have generally worked together at ‘dementia-specific’ events. This perhaps reinforced for me how ‘silo-ed’ things are. Ken is very charismatic, speaks huge common sense but in a quiet way. Any quieter voice in that room was going to struggle.

We need to hear the quietest voice in the room, and not just pay lip service to this.