The meeting ends. Papers are collected, laptops closed, pens gathered and briefcases refilled. You push back the chairs, retrieve coats and scarves and, trading true english courtesy, invite each to go through the door first.
Then something happens.
More often than not, the conversation – previously focussed on objectives, next steps and deadlines – then abruptly shifts gear. You and your fellow conferees begin to talk about the journey home (“and where do you come in from?”), plans for the weekend or coming holidays. It’s also the place where the stories emerge. Such is the transformational magic of the corridor.
I remember once where, having immersed ourselves in serious topics for an hour, the three of us stepped out of our meeting room and the client immediately began a story about…and conscious about betraying confidences…a somewhat explosive end to a corporate dress-down day shortly before Christmas. In that short story, I learnt more about the organisation – its culture, values, political niceties – than I could from any press search or annual report.
So why the corridor? Maybe it’s the sudden opening of the physical environment after the confines of an enclosed room. Such subconscious and metaphoric liberation might similarly loosen the chains on what we feel we can and should talk about. Maybe, it’s the long vista that stretches into the distance and invites us out of our current state to somewhere else.
In this sense, the corridor is a liminal space. A locale for transit, for movement and progression. It leads from one place to another and not just in a physical sense but in a symbolic way too. From the formal, serious room of discussion and commercial imperatives to the exit and a world of the normal, the day to day, the social. And maybe, it’s this shapeshifting quality – still part of the business environment but one whose clarity is slightly blurred and out of focus – that encourages different conversations and elicits our stories and tempts them out into the open.