Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Facilitators: To Your Health!

I prepared a 54-page Facilitator's Guide for the workshop this week, a master list of materials, a session-by-session description of what job aids to make in advance of the event, and a mock-up of every flipchart we would have to draw on site. We had a detailed facilitation agenda, and a script ready for each session that would be lead, we even had a minute-by-minute design for our pre-event facilitation briefing.

However, in the instructions I created to help prepare our 8-person facilitation team, one piece of guidance was clearly missing - take care of your health.

I didn't say, make sure to get good sleep in the week before you come, take your vitamins, drink plenty of water, and don't stay out too late. I didn't say, don't try to get absolutely everything out of the way in the nights before you take that transcontinental overnight flight, and don't cut it too close on arrival so you can rest before we start our very full programme of activities.

Maybe Facilitators think they are a bit super human, dealing with the emotions of large crowds, handling stressful environments, holding the hopes and dreams and fears of a group of passionate people, getting up early and staying up late setting up the room and moving dozens of chairs, or running miles to find hotel staff and trying for the 100th time to get them to turn off the aircon in the room.

But on our preparation list in the future must absolutely be the husbanding of our own resources in the days before a big event, and during it. Otherwise, we risk being taken out by an opportunistic bug, wicked jet lag exacerbated by sleep deprivation, or worse. And while it is no fun for us, it is also no fun for our team members and our partners.

It hit home again today, I am not sick myself, but as the leader of the facilitation team and seeing it around me, I am sorry that I didn't write that note. And at the same time wonder, even if I did, if the Facilitation Team members would have done something different in preparing themselves for this event? I know this community. I write this at nearly midnight in Bangkok after a long long day, and after promising myself an early night.

Once I push "Publish" I'm off to bed, I promise myself, to take my own good advice...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Online Educa: Follow Us There!

We're going to Online Educa, 17th International Conference on Technology Supported Learning & Training, purported to be the "Largest Global E-Learning Conference for the Corporate, Education and Public Service Sectors"

This annual global virtual learning fest is held in Berlin from 1-2 December. Lizzie and I will be tweeting from the conference (follow us @GillianMMehers and @Lizzie_BGL ). We will be especially looking out for game-based learning, badging, and video learning innovations. We will also blog the conference. If you are interested in these kinds of things, they have a great online newsletter called OEB News.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preparing a Pecha Kucha: One Pragmatic Approach

How do you go about creating a Pecha Kucha? Well, growing experience with them is teaching us that the process is often quite the opposite of what we usually see when people begin a traditional PowerPoint presentation. Are you among those who start by annotating blank slides with key words and messages and then let the presentation grow from there, hoping the logic will somehow make it work? If so, you’re not alone, and like many if you try and fit this to a Pecha Kucha format you may struggle to match your messages meaningfully across to the 20 x 20 second timed slides. How about trying a different approach? Begin by writing a story. Then match your story across to slides for a much more compelling narrative with visual support. Here’s how.

In preparation for a recent event at which we demonstrated techniques for engaging groups in thinking, learning and working together, we asked one of our favourite clients (thanks Mark!) to help us. We challenged him to create and deliver a Pecha Kucha and he was happy – if a little daunted at first – to oblige. This blog post shares his valuable, pragmatic approach.

Step 1: First determine your key messages – what do you want your audience to think, feel and do as a result of your presentation - and write your story to get your key messages across. (Click here for our blogpost on storytelling.)

Step 2: Practice telling your story aloud and tweak it until it tidily fits into 6 minutes – making sure to breathe, leave pauses, allow time for the audience to absorb what they are hearing and so forth.

Step 3: Once happy with your story, it is time to divide it into 20-second chunks. Literally read and time it out, marking into your script every time 20 seconds passes.

Step 4: Create a table with two columns and twenty rows (for the twenty x 20 second slides you will eventually have). Cut and paste each the 20-second chunks of script into twenty rows of the table. At this point, you may choose to again tweak the text so that it fits more comfortably with the slide breaks.

Step 5: For each 20-second chunk of script, find an image or select one or two key words that best support the content. Enter these into the left hand column of the table.

Step 6: Convert the left hand column of your table into your twenty slides. And, with a little practice, you are ready to go!

Now, a little anecdotal experience... if all of sudden your presenter can’t make it, they may just be able to hand the whole thing over to a trusted colleague! With a timed script ready to go and clearly linked across to the slides, a little time to read and digest was all that was needed for someone else to come to the rescue and do a truly superb job. Pecha Kucha preparation pays!


For more on Pecha Kuchas, see our many earlier blog posts (enter 'pecha kucha' in the search box - left column. Here are a couple of our favourites:

- Taking the Long Elevator: 13 Tips for Good Pecha Kuchas

- The End of Boring: Borrowing, Mashing, Adapting for Facilitators

Using Spectrums, Sticky Dots & Templates to Explore ‘What Is’ & ‘What Could Be’

Let’s take an example. Imagine you want to have a conversation about future meetings in a large team or organization with a view to – no surprise here – improving them. You likely have opinions about meetings and how they need to improve in the future. All well and good; but in order to get others on board with this change, you need to explore their opinions about meetings and what improvement might look like. So you decide on a quick and easy way to explore what is and what could be.

On A3 sheets around the room, you have converted some statements about meetings into spectrums. On one, for example, is a spectrum with two axes. At one end of the y-axis it reads: “We always get the task done” and the other end it reads “We never get the task done”; and on the x-axis: “We always feel great about the result” and at the other end “We rarely feel great about the result”. On another sheet, you might have a spectrum related to the quality and quantity of participation. On others, a grid question addresses the amount of time spent in different thinking modes (with the thinking modes – critical, creative, etc. - as the column headers and % brackets in the rows – 0-25%, 25-50%, etc.) and a multiple-choice question is about the efficiency of time spent (with different rows from not efficient to very efficient).

With your spectrums in place, you give participants sticky dots and invite them to tour the room independently, placing their sticky dots in appropriate places on the spectrums of various formats. In the first instance, they should place their sticky dots to describe ‘what is’. Next, either using the same spectrum or an identical one stuck on the same board, repeat the exercise but this time using sticky dots of a different shape or colour to describe ‘what could/should be’.

Once everyone has contributed, it’s time to look at the results. You could choose to do this in plenary, but I recommend taking it a step further. Divide the group up into a number of smaller groups (corresponding to the number of spectrums) and provide them with a flipchart template to complete. Give each one spectrum and ask them to complete the template: (1) briefly describe the results; (2) analyze / suggest reasons for the results / assumptions behind them; and then (3) suggest how to get from ‘what is’ to ‘what could/should be’. Allow them 15 minutes to do this work, and then have each group report back to the rest, providing opportunity for others to then react and provide additional ideas.

This process is a great way of generating and quickly analyzing large amounts of information in a highly interactive, participatory way. The outputs are very visual, making great reference material throughout the event that follows. It is really valuable for clarifying perspectives on what is and what could/should be, the direction that the group want to head in, as well as beginning the conversation about how to make change in the desired direction. Try it and let us know how you get on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sustainable Development - The Words on the Lips of Experts

Every year I go to the Balaton Group Meeting eager to meet old friends, to engage, listen and learn more about what is on the frontier of sustainabilty thinking. This group of 55+ systems modellers, sustainable development experts, professors, practitioners and activists gather annually for a 5-day meeting to explore and share and ponder the past, present and future of the planet. They work to understand the dynamics, identify the leverage points for change, and search relentlessly for where the hope is.

I took pages and pages of notes this year (the 30th meeting, on the shores of Lake Balaton), and when I looked back at these notes just now I asked myself where the weight of the discussion lay - the models, the math, the crises, the peaks, the systems? When I put all my notes into a wordle, the above popped out.  I think it speaks for itself...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Resonate With Your Audience. Here's How...

Watch this video of Nancy Duarte talking about sparkline.

I have often found myself making reference to the ideas of Nancy Duarte. She spoke to me and a group of TEDx-ers on a pre-opening backstage tour of TED2011 early this year about storytelling and presentations that "Resonsate" - the title of her recent book. In my blog post "TEDxWorkshops, Talks, Tips and Tweets..." I recalled my tweets from her talk: Nancy Duarte on storytelling formula: What is - what could be - what is - what could be - what is - call for action - the utopian new bliss. / Nancy Duarte quotes Ernest Hemmingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.” / Nancy Duarte quotes Woodrow Wilson: “If I have 10 minutes to present I need a week to prepare; if I have an hour I am ready now.”

I have since quoted these myself many times when working with people preparing presentations, and am delighted to say that I just today discovered this short video of Nancy giving much the same talk. Watch it. And once you've done so, look at the links on the webpage under the heading 'Extended Web Content'. Here you can click through to examples of how the formula applies to talks - including by Benjamin Zander, Ronald Reagan and Feynman. I think these are very useful to see it in practice, and trust that you too will find this a great resource for thinking about your presentations in the future. Let us know how you get on!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

10 Systems Thinking Books Recommended by Pegasus

If you are interested in Systems Thinking, then Pegasus Communications (Systems Thinking in Action - based near Boston) writes the useful Leverage Points Blog.  With posts on everything from What it Takes to Lead a "Tribe" to 10 Useful Ideas on Systems Thinking.

One of the posts that caught my eye as particularly practical is their post listing 10 Favourite Systems Thinking Books of the Past 10 Years (or So). I have most of these books, and indeed they are my go-to texts when either learning or helping others learn systems thinking. They range from the technical textbook of John Sterman (Business Dynamics) to story-based learning about systems from Linda Booth Sweeney. From the first person examples from daily life on a farm that Dana Meadows narrates, to the future projections of the World 3 Model as written up in Limits to Growth by Dennis and Dana Meadows and Jorgen Randers.

I wanted to make a note here on this blog to remember this useful list and also connect the article to one of the most enlightening texts on systems thinking that I have found, and is referred to as a classic, which Dana Meadows wrote called: Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in the System. This is a list of intervention points in increasing order of effectiveness - from numbers to mindsets - which creates an incredible checklist for any aspiring change maker.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Thumb Wrestling for SMART People

I wrote in a past blog post about using Appreciative Inquiry to "makeover" the lessons from a great team game called Thumbwrestling. The post was called: Activity Makeover Using Appreciative Inquiry: From STUPID to SMART.

In that blog post I go through in some detail the debriefing, after the action happens (see that post for this info). But I didn't describe the main set up, briefing and steps of play. I had a request recently to describe the game administration, so I post them here for information.

First of all, I was delighted to find that Thumb Wrestling (aka ThumbWar) is really well described here in Wikipedia. I was interested to read that in some of the chants that are used (by children I guess, I have never heard them in my workshops) the phrase "You are stupid and I am great" is used. It is interesting that we often used (in the past) STUPID as a mnemonic to help understand what structure creates the behaviour of competition (Small goals, Time pressure, Untrusting partners, etc.). In the blog post mentioned above, we used an Appreciative Inquiry approach to make that over into then new mnemonic of SMART or SMARTS.

Thumbwrestling Game

To set the game up, the Game Operator announces that "We will engage in a simple competition called Thumb Wrestling. Everyone needs to find a partner to play". At that point the Game Operator also finds a partner to do a quick demonstration; someone who has been briefed to demonstrate a rather aggressive style of play. In the demo, you lock hands with your demo partner and tell people that their goal is to "Get as many points as you can." You inform people that they will have 15 seconds to do this, and then you demo how to make a point by elaborately struggling to pin the thumb of your opponent, warning people not to hurt each other. Ask everyone to keep track of their own points. You then shout "Go!" and time out the 15 seconds, shout out a 2 second warning.

In the debriefing, you can survey how many points people got, and then have the pair with the highest points demonstrate their style, which is bound to be collaborative, based on trust and their ability to ignore norms, models, language, time pressure, and small goals which normally influence people to play this game in a highly competitive way. Now the blog post on debriefing kicks in - so see that for more!

The description above should be enough to help anyone run the game as a team building exercise (again see the previous post for debriefing). If you want a better description with the systems thinking frame, with more precise timing and briefing/debriefing questions, Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows have written them up in the Systems Thinking Playbook, which also includes a DVD of someone running all the games so you can see exactly how to administer them.

Happy wrestling!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Training Camp! An Un-ToT Design

(Warning, this is a long blog post and rather detailed in terms of design thinking for Training Trainers. If you are a ToT organizer or trainer/facilitator it might be useful. If not, then you will want to check your Dilbert RSS feed right now.)

There seem to be cycles in our learning work and we seem to be in a "training" cycle now - with several ongoing projects to help groups create learning environments for themselves and others. I am not as fond of the word "training" as "learning", for me the former seems to come from the perspective of the provider, with the latter from the perspective of the user of the knowledge or information. From a design perspective, I find more inspiration when I can put myself in the knowledge user or learner's shoes. I know that for the learner a Training of Trainers (ToT)  exercise is a step with a group into the unknown...

There are many ways to create ToT environments and we also know that a great deal of the work that a new trainer (or learning facilitator) needs to do is individual. (See my blog post on "Training-of-Trainers from the Trainee's Point of View".) And if much of the work is about individual assimilation of content and methods for creating that learning environment for participants, then the ToT design should feature lots of guided individual and group learning spaces.

Many of the ToT designs that I see follow a set sequence:
  • an overview of the workshop that is being shared, with rationale, and partners behind it;
  • an introduction to the group of Trainers (trainees in the ToT) and their experience and motivations;
  • an expanded set of sessions that follow the workshop outline - each with a demo of the content by a content expert and then Q&A;
  • a session on adaptation to the local context with a discussion, group work and individual action planning;
  • a run through of the workshop with the new Trainers on delivery (the whole or parts of it).
This is a logical sequence and I have used it or something like it myself, sometimes with a full demo up front so the new trainers can experience it as participants, followed by the deconstruction of the workshop to go through the content and exercises that would be delivered when the trainers are back home.

I am currently thinking about how to do this a little differently these days, to make it more learner centred, and to draw upon some of the interesting "camp" designs that have featured in other sectors for peer learning. This interests me more as I come to the realisation that so much of the "translation" work for new trainers (moving from reading the Trainers Manual to them standing up and delivering it) is individual and can look very different trainer to trainer.

What if you combined ideas from the family of non-traditional events such as Bar Camps,  Foo Camps, Unconferences, and the inspiration for these - Open Space Technology - for a ToT, to come up with a Training Camp?

What might this look like? Here is a possible design for a 3-day Training Camp...

Training Camp Day 1:
  • You could start similarly to the more traditional ToT, just to put people at ease, and to provide context to Trainees, and to give some of the background that is needed to work together (why are we doing this? who we are? what we are bringing to the discussion). Then do an initial slow Walk Through of the base workshop (the one everyone is learning.) Expect everyone's eyes to glaze over at some point.
  • Then you might give the Trainers 30 minutes or so of Individual Work to look through the Trainer's Manual again (let's assume that you were able to send the manual in advance and they didn't want until that morning at breakfast to read through it) and highlight some things they would like to explore further. You might make them a simple Job Aid/worksheet to capture questions/types of questions that would help them frame the kind of sessions they would like to have to learn to use the information in the manual;
  • This could be followed by an hour of Pairs Work to talk through some of their questions to weed out any easy ones (this could even be a Pairs Walk if you are in a beautiful location and people's curiosity is already getting the better of them). This could be followed by a Plenary Exchange of what kinds of things people are identifying for more focused work.
  • Finally, you could open up the Training Camp space, and ask people either individually or in Pairs/Trios to propose learning sessions that they would like to host that afternoon, and schedule those using a simple matrix of time and space, as you would for setting up an Open Space Technology session (See photo for set up). The kinds of things people might want to discuss could include specific activities in the workshop design, content pieces they want to understand better, strategies for getting their participants attention, ideas for daily check-ins, how to identify and involve local content experts. Each session should have an output -  a set of tips, a checklist, a guidance note, or some key steps to follow, etc. - which could be captured on flipcharts and/or electronically and shared with the rest of the trainers, and put into the Trainers Guide (for the future). 
  • Then the scheduled Training Camp session would run itself for the rest of the afternoon. At the end, you could have an individual  reflective time where the trainers could make some notes for themselves on what they learned and what they want to remember. I am a fan of worksheets and job aids with good prompting questions, and I can imagine something like this to both complement the Camp sessions, and also to use at the end of the day.
Training Camp Day 2:
  • You could start the second day with a Table Discussion and Exchange of what people learned from the sessions on the first day (they could share their flipchart artifacts). What were some of the things that they learned that they thought were most useful for their own delivery of the training course under consideration? Take some of the most useful things from the table discussion into a Plenary Collection.
  • At this point it would be interesting to do some Pattern Spotting, and let people generate some of the things in terms of delivery that they think they would like to work on further with the content experts attending. This could be collected on cards, clustered and the grouped into Tutorial Sessions with those content experts. These could then be run in parallel, but have an open format where people can go where they want and ask the content experts questions on a self-service basis, and once satisfied go somewhere else. If there are big questions that everyone shares, then this can be done in plenary.
  • In the afternoon, hold a session on Adaptation. You can give the trainers an hour to think specifically about what it will take to contextualise the workshop to their local context (the trainers may be from different sectors, countries, organizations etc.) They could do it individually or in groups from the same country/organization. Again a worksheet with some prompting questions can help people think about what they can do about identifying local content experts who might speak at their workshops, how they might want to adapt the timing to different workday rhythms in their country, what stories or cases studies they might want to use or identify to replace those already in the workshop to make it more relevant to their learners, etc.
  • For the next 2 hours of the afternoon set up the Training Camp space again, with three parallel sessions organized in 3 rounds of 45 min each this time.  Invite people to host conversations about adaptation - not everyone needs to host a session.
  • At the end of the day, ask people to find a partner and then to identify a piece of the workshop that they would like to co-facilitate on Day 3 for feedback. For this, take an agenda, blow it up to A3, and make slips from the sessions of about equal delivery size (say 30 minutes) that are either presentations that the Trainers would make, activities they would facilitate or discussions they would run. Put all the options on the slips of paper out on the table and invite Pairs to take one and prepare to run that session in the morning. (See photo above)
  • Give the Pairs the rest of the afternoon to work on their design and delivery preparation for their session. Have the content experts hold Office Hours (in the same room), where the pairs can come to find them if they have questions during their preparation. Let people go wherever they want to prepare. Create a materials table where they can find any supports they need, along with flipcharts, computers for PPT etc. While they are doing their planning, make a schedule of the sessions following the chronology of the base workshop.
Training Camp Day 3:
  • Start Day 3 with 30 minutes of free time for people to finalise their preparation for the sessions if they need it, or to practice.
  • Then bring people's attention to the schedule of the day, and how it maps over onto the whole base workshop schedule. To do this you could make a large flipchart schedule of the base workshop, and highlight the sessions that will be demonstrated (use numbers for easy referral). Not all the sessions will be covered, as in one day there will not be time, so you (the ToT Trainer) will play the role of curator, and make the necessary segue ways where there are gaps. Ask the trainers to do this in their sessions too.  
  • Before you start the demo, give people a way to take some notes which they can use to provide feedback on each session. This could be done as a handout, with each session (named and numbered) and a space to write in feedback. But I think it would be interesting to give people index cards and ask people to take notes on those for each session (during and/or immediately afterwards). (See photo above) That way at the end you can collect the cards for each Pair and simply give them the cards to go through individually.
  • Start the demonstration. After each Pair runs their session with the group, take a few minutes for people to write down their feedback, what worked and what the Pair might consider doing differently next time. This appreciative frame will help make sure people are constructive in their comments. Either have them fill and hand in the cards with a few oral plenary reflections, or have people fill in their comments matrix and take a few reflections. Either way make sure to get some feedback for the Pair, and encourage people to take any notes for themselves as well. Also use that time to make points yourself (as the ToT trainer) about that particular part of the programme.
  • In the last hours of the day, hold a session where people individually or in groups will make a Next Actions list for themselves - what will they do when they get home? What is left to do to take the workshop from the Manual to their first live delivery of the materials with a group of learners? Again you can give them an action planning framework to fill in for the steps they want to take (I warned you I was big on worksheets and job aids!)
  • Close with some brainstorming on what the organizers and the ToT Trainees think would help them succeed - what could the group consider putting into place that would make it easier to share their learning, to continue the peer learning, to share any innovations or tweaks that the individual trainers may identify?  This is a perfect social media opportunity! Make some agreements on how to make this a reality.
  • Clap, make noise, have a party!
So, three days may be a bit of a push for this, but possible - if you have 20 ToT Learners, and only a 3-day slot. No matter how long it is, a Trainer who is going through a ToT exercise with a group of other trainers, needs to have a set of tools, a map of what they are learning, and people they can count on to help them when they get lost or need support or inspiration. The metaphor of a Camp, and the open space, with the individualised and group learning that it provides, may be just the model for helping Trainers find their way with a new workshop or process.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Learning in a Living Library

You go into a Library, you take down a book. You read its contents and you get some ideas, you think to yourself, and you ask a question (or a few).
What would happen if the library, and all the books in it, talked back?
It’s probably safe to say that we all belong to at least one professional network. We might go to periodic network meetings where we sit, contribute and talk to a few people. But what do we do to maximise the value (to ourselves and others) of these networks?
What if we thought of our networks as living libraries? And each member, the author of their own rich story of thoughts, reflections, learning and tips on the theme of our community?
I embroider here a bit on the story told on the first day of the start of the annual meeting of one of my own cherished networks, the Balaton Group.  A fellow Balaton Group member, Any Sulistyowati, described her perception of the group as a “Living Library”.
Whether at the face-to-face annual meeting, or virtually through the dynamic listerve discussions or other bilateral interactions, whatever question she has, idea to be developed, or reflection she wants to bounce off someone, she can go to our living library to query it, talk to one of the story-holders there, and go back and implement her learning. No matter what her question, there will be an authoritative voice or at least informed opinions ready at her request.
Now our network has some features that make this particularly true; we have built wonderful trusting relations, deep respect for diversity and perspective, and the unquestioned willingness to be helpful to each other. That is by design, and we are bound together, quite literally, through these shared values.
This group, in particular, is full of people with amazing stories, every one a page turner. 
Do you have a living library?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mobile Worker's Checklist: Don't Forget Your 'Phone

Today I left my phone at home again and only discovered this 20 min before my flight was boarding for a 3-day work trip to Stockholm. Thankfully I had my iPad and computer, both with Skype; not the same as a telephone but would do in a pinch. However, that doesn't take away the fact that it will be extremely inconvenient at the conference I am going to, where I will be coordinating and working with a number of colleagues scattered around the venue on a joint workshop. I will feel completely foolish telling them that I forgot my phone - people will look at me incredulously.

Ok, so I'm not happy about this, well actually I am extremely annoyed with myself for walking out without my phone. This is not the first time in recent months that this has happened (at least only the second). So what can I do about this worrying trend (at least two data points into a trend)?

Recently I have joined the ranks of mobile workers everywhere. I took an interesting 18 month, 50% job with a global organization whose HQ is in London. On top of my other travel, weekly or biweekly trips to London now seeing me passing, two feet and two wheels, up to four times a week through Geneva airport.

In spite of the fact that I have lived over half my life without one, I feel amazingly lost and rather lonely without my phone. I'm sure I am the only person over 5 years old on this plane without one. Thankfully, by virtue of my age, I'm wearing a watch and don't rely on my phone for that ( see Sir Ken Robinson's interesting TEDtalk - Bring on the Learning Revolution -  about generational shifts in learning and watch wearing). A watch is another essential (for me) in a workshop setting.

Inspired by both Atul Gawande (Better and Checklist Manifesto - how checklists save lives) and David Allen (of GTD fame -checklists are blackbelt moves), I decided to make a Mobile Worker's Checklist.

Just a word about checklists here, you might be saying, "What? That's all, that's the answer? I make lists all the time."  But do you reuse them? That's the difference. You need to make a master list, update it until its perfect, and use it every time. Now that kind of  list takes a lot of things off your mind, and avoids foolish mistakes which you are bound to make as a mobile worker. Repetition and familiarity make you very cavalier with travel, but one really can't afford that. We might not be doctors or pilots, who also rely on checklists, but a mobile facilitator or trainer or co-worker without a phone can cause serious team communication problems too. So here's my checklist:

Mobile Worker's Checklist

1. Communication (this has to come first)
  • Phone with charger (USB and wall)
  • Plug adapter (international)
  • USB hub
  • Power bar (to plug in multiple devices when there is only one awkward socket behind the hotel bed)
  • iPad if one day trip with Bluetooth keyboard and charger
  • Laptop if multiple day trip with power and USB key with docs, your whole music repertoire and movies to watch when you're shattered
2. Travel
  • Keys (home and destination office)
  • Tickets with boarding passes printed
  • Passport
  • Airline cards and insurance card (international)
  • Oyster card (local travel pass)
  • Train pass (home country)
  • Currency and bank cards
  • Loyalty cards for destination Office city (from coffee to hotel)
  • Envelope to keep receipts labeled with trip date
3. If conducting a workshop
4. Clothes and toiletries
  • As needed
  • List of what has been left in destination office (eg sports clothes, toiletries, sweater) so you don't pack it again (and you will forget if you don't make this sub-list and keep taking the same stuff back)
  • Vitamins (because you are getting up at 4am and going to bed after midnight)
  5. Documents
  • GTD file (still on paper)
  • Agenda (can't let go of paper mirror of electronic)
  • Business cards (for both organizations)
An additional benefit of making such a checklist is seeing how many heavy things could be replaced with soft versions on a USB or external hard drive, or even better on the ' cloud'. For example, Dropbox can do away with the external hard drive (although you can't use Dropbox on the flight). Also, I leave my heavy laptop at home and only take my iPad and wireless Mac keyboard when I know I will be in meetings all day and will only need email. The iPad is great for filing on flights and syncs all that work once connected to the internet again.

With a new organization comes a new email account, folders, password etc. (I already had two-personal and company). Three separate gmail accounts is clunky to manage.  Not to mention the fact that people often use whatever email address pops up in their automatic address function, so the messages are often in the wrong accounts in terms of their folders. Add this to online/offline mobile working (planes, trains and automobiles) and you need a new email management system.

So I migrated my email (which was previously kept in outlook on my hard disk) to imap where I can see all three accounts and their folders in one view, and they are kept on the cloud. (I say "I" migrated it, but it was actually tech support from software-writing husband downstairs in office cave.)

For a mobile worker this system is good because your work, files, etc. need to both sync and be available from multiple machines: laptop, iPad, phone (if you remember it) and random dumb terminal.  You don't want to have to do anything twice, and you want to be able to access all your aliases, being able to send from all accounts and use different electronic signatures.

With this checklist I won't forget my phone, and everything else I forget will have a place to go - on the checklist...it might take me a few iterations, but hopefully then will be foolproof.

(This is my checklist, what's on yours?)

Friday, August 12, 2011

What's in a Name (Tag)?

For years, name tags looked something like this (above): Name, title and organization. Small, business card size and with a pin on the back that always meant that no matter how many times you adjusted it, it listed slightly to starboard. The printing was also pretty small, making people with personal space issues perpetually nervous.  Name tags are changing, here are two I received more recently that start to work for you on a lot of levels.

This GTD Summit name tag is twice as big as the first, measuring 9cm x 11cm and popped into a sleeve hung on a sturdy cord. The first name is pulled up by many font sizes, and your identity within the community gathering is added to the information given. For an international group, skipping the official title and adding your country helps give more backstory for discussion.

This name tag, used by TED Global this year (as last year), is even bigger. Measuring in at 12cm x 19cm, it is laminated into a block hung by a cord connected by clips on both sides - this you can see from a distance which helps at crowded receptions and also presumably to monitor entry to the venue and satellite events held all over the city. On the name tag the first name again stands out, encouraging people to be on an informal,  first name basis. The photo is an interesting addition (mine is pretty standard, but many people had unusual studio photos that gave away some secrets of their passions). Below the title, organization and place of origin (also helpful for languages), comes a section called "Talk To Me About:" followed by three key words. We were asked to pick these to add to both our online profiles as well as our badges, to give anyone approaching a substantive starting point for a discussion. Again, lots of creativity can go into these three words.
Another cool feature of this  name tag was that on the back you had the programme for the week, colour coded day by day, with the session titles, speakers names and timing. Social events and venues were also added. So when you are sitting in a big conference hall waiting for a speaker, or at coffee wondering if you wanted to go back to the big room or sit in the simulcast lounge, this information was at your fingertips to update you on what's happening and for quick decision-making about where you should be at any moment.
In the end, a name tag is both for the person wearing it as well as everyone else attending the event, it provides provenance, establishes identity in the group, and also, if it is designed to do so, can help encourage engagement that starts further down along the usual small talk trail of questioning.

The next time you make one, think about how the name tag can be an intervention in itself? Think about how many different items of information are useful to include - and what you want the impact to be. Can it help people be on time, help people find their own language groups,  identify similarities and diversities for you so that you can get right into the most interesting conversation, encourage informality by picking out the first name, give you the sense of being one of the in-crowd by wearing a huge identifier?

Now, that's what's in a name (tag)! Any other innovations to this workshop staple to add?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ever Wondered What You Might Discover in a Great Conference Gift Bag?

Well here’s what I found at TEDActive 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. It was heavy to carry home, but worth the weight! And I think there is some interesting gift bag inspiration for others of us in the future.

Of practical use during (and after) the event:
- A special limited edition design JAMBOX wireless speaker + speakerphone by Jawbone: a small packaged hi-fi streaming wireless audio from any Bluetooth device, OR a scooter for speeding around the spreading hotel venue (these were the gifts of fame this year!)
- A ceramic Bento Box for healthy meals on the move, away from home - ‘Box Appetit’, by www.black-blum.com
- A re-usable water bottle from www.natura.com (with info on refill stations in the venue)
- A drip coffee bag of very freshly roasted from Hebo Coffee Ltd. (www.hebocoffee.com)
- A little book from the www.CoffeeCommon.com to guide attendees’ coffee experiences
- Two bags: A unique bag created from a billboard by www.bannertheory.com - turning unsustainable waste into sustainable good AND a sturdy travel bag from www.JackSpade.com
- A compact LED flashlight from www.newegg.com (especially useful for the desert party)
- An Action Journal from Behance (www.CreativesOutfitter.com)

Interesting conversation-starters:
- Full colour attendees brochure with portraits and “three things to talk with me about”
- A publication featuring the amazing stories of the 2011 Long Beach TED Fellows
- A mini-publication of photos compiled from TEDx events across the globe in 2011
- Necklaces from women in Kaolack, Senegal
- A peaceBOMB bracelet - made from fragments of bombs - supporting artisan families, community development, and clearance of unexploded ordnance from farmland and forests in Laos (www.shoparticle22.com and www.bigballsfilms.com)
- A $100 philanthropic gift card underwritten by REDU for use supporting a classroom project of choice from www.DonorsChoose.org online charity

Reading material to keep up the (re)discovery post-TED:
- A special TEDGlobal issue of “Design Mind” - the award-winning publication of global innovation firm frog design - entitled “And Now the Good News”
- Seth Godin’s latest book: Poke the Box
- Trois Couleurs Special Issue: JR 2001-2011, A Retrospective
- ‘Imagine, Design, Create: How Designers, Architects and Engineers are Changing the World’ edited by Tom Wujec
- A TEDBooks Gift Card courtesy of Lincoln.com for use via Amazon.com

Further learning opportunities and brain exercises:
- Research credit to Frost & Sullivan (www.frost-and-sullivan-institute.org) for your choice of ‘The Visionary Membership’, ‘The Growth Partnership Service’ or ‘The Top 20 Mega Trends Study’
- A free LivingHome Feasibility Analysis or one-hour environmental design consultation to help you assess how to lower your ecological footprint for an existing home or office (www.livinghomes.net)
- A subscription to Lynda.com - online software training videos
- The Unit One version of the Rosetta Stone solution (language of choice)
- One month tuition-free access to the Rouxbe Cooking School (www.rouxbe.com)
- A year’s subscription to MAKE: technology on your time (www.makezine.com)
- Two A-ha! Brainteasers of choice from www.thinkfun.com

For the journey home and to share with others:
- Complementary wifi session from your return journey - courtesy of Delta Air Lines
- Free Personal Travel Planning Package from JetSetter
- A Blu-ray of Pixar’s latest film, Toy Story 3
- The feature film ‘Waiting for “Superman”’ - from the Director of An Inconvenient Truth - looking at education in the United States (DVD)
- CD of the Venezuelan clarinet of Alcides Rodriguez
- In support of Sylvia Earle’s TED wish - Drivers of Change: Oceans - cards to share with your community and help shape a better world (www.driversofchange.com)
- A page of Seed Paper from www.greenfieldpaper.com to plant when back home, mixing 100% post consumer content with their custom wildflower mix.

I’m keen to learn what Gillian’s going to come home with next week after her time at TEDGlobal!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

TEDGlobal: On My Way!

Oh, it's been busy busy busy, but for a week, time with stop, and I will paddle around with some 700 other people in a veritable sea of "ideas worth spreading" at the TEDGlobal Conference next week in Edinburgh.

I have done the suggested prep - I noted and contacted my Top 10 TEDGlobal attendees (TED uses a "secret" algorhythm to generate that.) They all have something in common with me - either the key words they picked, their profiles etc.

I have updated my own profile, so that other attendees get the latest info about me. I packed my business cards which have different images reflecting the different kinds of work I do, so I can customise the image for the people I meet (See: Make Your Business Cards Moo). I have a thick notebook, and rain gear.

I even re-read my last year's blog post on How to Go To TED, and am always very happy when I re-use my learning. I also tidied up my TweetDeck columns so I can follow the #TEDGlobal tag, and use it to find people and keep up with what's going on onsite. This year, however, TED tells us that people using smartphones and laptops must sit in the back rows of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre where the main stage is located.

TED is known for bringing to the stage people with remarkable ideas, who are not always household names (yet). On the agenda this year are Malcomb Gladwell (writer), Alain de Botton (philosopher), and Thandie Newton (actor), among many others - see the speaker list here.  And there is normally a secret guest - last year it was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, this year it could be anyone...

I have not been able to entirely clear my calendar for the week, although that is highly recommended by the TED organizers. But I do have a set of connecting questions I would like to ask the people I will meet there, bringing together my world and the eclectic TED world. For example, how can other learning events have similar pull power that people will actually prepare for them? What are some of the features that make an event so exciting that people will update their profile before they go?  TED has a lot of "pull" power, and although I can guess some of it, I have my own reasons, and it would be interesting to hear from others what makes them so eager to come for this learning extravaganza...

I will do my best to blog and Tweet, but will probably do it at night, as I can't see myself in the back rows at such an exciting event!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Online Facilitation - Adapting to a Virtual Environment with Free(mium) Tools - Part One

We've written a number of posts about both facilitation and the use of online tools for virtual and face to face events. See, for example:

"The Connected Facilitator: What's in the Online Toolbox?",
"Look Behind You! The Webinar Facilitator's Non-Technical Checklist",
The Two-Day Total Twitter Immersion: Using Twitter for Social Learning",
"Knowledge at a Distance: Skype Video - It Works!"; and
"Create a Facilitator Role for Your Conference Calls and Webinars"

In this two-part blog post, we are sharing (in part 1) some examples of tools that are either free or have a “freemium” model (you pay for increased functionality) and which we think can be usefully used in online facilitation; and (in part 2) some ideas about how you might adapt facilitation methodologies to an online environment using these tools (plus IRISnotes – as we haven’t yet discovered a lower-cost option…). We hope you find it useful, and that you'll share your ideas and experiences too!

● Contribute to / follow conversations in real time with short bursts of info: max 140 characters
● Hashtags aggregate related content
● Content can be ‘retweeted’
● “Follow” option
● Tweetdeck

Backnoise.com / Yammer.com
● Similar to twitter
● Private option

● Conference call diverse group sizes
● Option to add video (max 10)
● Screen-sharing
● Instant-messaging with chronological display
● Send files

● Create screen-casts, recording screen and voice to share online

● Share presentations, documents and professional videos publicly or privately
● Create slidecasts (slideshow + MP3 audio synced)
● Create channels & favourites

● Upload video content
● View video content online
● Create channels & favourites

● Co-create documents collaboratively
● Track changes / contributions
● Password protection option

● Co-create documents collaboratively
● Similar editing to word / excel (and can export in these formats)
● Design surveys (google forms)
● Auto-generate survey reports with graphics

● Design and manage online surveys
● Auto-generate survey reports with graphics

● Create multiple choice or free-text polls
● Collecting info in real time via text message, web, twitter, and smartphone responses which can be instantly combined
● Charts update instantly as people respond (online or embedded in ppt)

Doodle.com / MeetingWizard.com / TimeAndDate.com
● Propose dates / times and gather responses online to quickly and easily determine preferred options

● Co-create Mindmaps online in real time
● Working simultaneously and see changes as they happen

● Generate “word clouds” from text with greater prominence given to words that appear more frequently

Smart Phone / computer video cameras
● Create short videos for sharing (by email if video-bites)

Smart Phone / computer audio / voice recorders
● Create audio files for sharing

● Slideshow, chat function, audio for presenters, recording, private chat, whiteboard, video link for the facilitator, and more.

● Keep time online, counting up or down
● Customize the visual (stop-watch, clock, egg timer, etc.) and sound (bell, alarm, laughing, beeping, etc.)
● Once customized, download the link to your timer. (Personally, I like the egg timer with applause as here: http://www.online-stopwatch.com/eggtimer-countdown/full-screen/?ns=../../s/3.mp3)

And here’s another one we love but that's not free (you'll need to make a small purchase):

● A pen and mobile note taker
● Capture handwritten notes and drawings
● Edit, save and export them
● Convert handwritten notes into editable text

Online Facilitation - Adapting to a Virtual Environment with Free(mium) Tools - Part Two

Following part one of this blog post (which shares some examples of tools that are either free or have a “freemium” model and which we think can be usefully used in online facilitation), this part two shares some ideas about how you might adapt facilitation methodologies to an online environment using tools that are either free or have a “freemium” model (plus IRISnotes – as we haven’t yet discovered a lower-cost option…).

1. Scheduling future events
• Use Doodle.com / MeetingWizard.com / TimeAndDate.com to quickly and easily determine favourable dates and times for future events (e.g. future conference calls). Not only can this be done to schedule your online event – you can effectively use it during the online event to efficiently schedule your next in real time!

2. Presentation
• Use Ignites (igniteshow.com) / Pecha Kucha (http://www.pecha-kucha.org/) (timed presentations) to keep to timing in online events and make sure presentations are well prepared and maintain a good pace.
• Use Prezis (Prezi.com) for variety in presentations (a change from powerpoint), creating visual interest.
• Use short videos and/or screen casts via YouTube.com / Screenr.com or Slideshare.net

3. Work in small groups with online “job aids
• Provide a participants list to everyone in advance, including names and Skype.com IDs (or equivalent). Divide the group up into small groups, designating a host.
• Pre-create job aids using Wikispaces / Google Docs / Mindmeister etc. These will most often be templates, to which you can provide links.
• Direct people to your ‘job aids’ with links (plus log-in and password).
• Provide an online timer to keep time and remind people to promptly rejoin the whole group at the specified time.

4. Report back (after small group work)
• Use Screenr.com to create screen-casts for report back
• Create video or audio recordings – using computer and smart phone programmes / applications to pre-record report-back and share using YouTube.com or Slideshare.net - helping to avoid lengthy monologues and add diversity to the event
• Use an online timer (such as online-stopwatch.com) to help with time-keeping and speaker management

5. Prioritizing questions (e.g. for a Q&A with a speaker)
• Use Twitter.com / Yammer.com / Backnoise.com. Determine a hash-tag in advance and provide this to participants.
• Give participants a few minutes to submit questions. To prioritize these for the speaker (so they respond where participants are most interested in learning more in a limited time), then ask participants to ‘retweet’ the questions others have posted that they are most interested in hearing the responses to. The questions most ‘retweeted’ are then prioritized and the speaker addresses the questions according to this prioritization.

6. Clustering questions / ideas
• Use a mind-mapping online tool such as Mindmeister.com (or do a hand-drawn version using IRISnotes). Set up the mind-map in advance and provide all participants with the link / access (to edit or view) or, just use Skype.com screen share (or equivalent) to share the map and designate one editor.
• Ask all participants to think of a question / idea and then cluster these as follows: Ask any person to start, sharing their idea using instant messaging (this is important to keep it concise and to the point) - as well as reading it aloud (but not expanding on what is written unless someone asks for clarification!).
• The mind-mapper copies and pastes the idea from the instant message into the mind-map. With this done, ask for someone with a like / similar idea to share it (again, instant messaging it and reading aloud), which is then copied and pasted into the mind-map / or summarized by hand if using IrisNotes. Do this until there are no more like / similar questions or ideas. Then start with a different ‘branch’ of questions / ideas on the mindmap. Repeat until all questions or ideas are represented.
• The mindmap will clearly show where there is greatest interest, most clarification needed, most energy and/or ideas and conversation in plenary afterwards can start from here.

7. Voting
• Use an online tool such as PollEverywhere.com to do real-time voting (with an anonymous option). Prepare the questions / options in advance, or generate them online and set the poll up in the course of the online event. Either-way, if you think you might vote on something, get familiar with polleverywhere and its parameters (e.g. more than 30 people and you may need to pay a subscription fee) ahead of time.
• One advantage of poll-everywhere over google docs and survey monkey (see below) is that rather than having to download the results as a pdf, you can actually see results live – as they change second by second, creating more excitement and anticipation.
• Google docs (‘forms’: docs.google.com) and SurveyMonkey.com could also be used for voting prior to or during an event. Both enable results-exporting as visuals (pie charts / bar graphs) in pdf.
• All give you the option to track – or not – who responds and how, so you have the option of anonymity or respondent profiling and analysis. (e.g. how do responses vary by sector / region…)

8. Carousel
• Use Skype.com video conference calls (or equivalent) for small group discussion (Note: make sure all participants are in one another’s contact list in advance and provide a participant list with names and skype IDs, as well as who is in which group for the carousel so that the host / facilitator of each station discussion knows who they need to include in the conference call)
• Use wikispaces.com / google docs (docs.google.com) / Mindmeister.com mindmaps in place of flipchart stations
• And/or use IRISnotes for visual / hand written work in combination with Skype.com screen share (can save and share doc with next group for further editing, or have same station ‘facilitator’ throughout)

9. Open Space Technology
(visit openspaceworld.org for the ‘how to’ steps in a face-to-face environment)
• Use instant messaging (e.g. Skype.com chat) for people to submit topics / questions to schedule
• Prepare a blank timetable (in word / google docs / wikispaces.com) and copy and paste across questions and topics as they are submitted
• Provide each topic ‘host’ a few minutes to decide where they would like to capture the key points of the discussion as it progresses (e.g. wikispaces.com / google docs / Mindmeister.com / irisnotes), to set up the appropriate ‘page’ and send you the link plus log-in / password if necessary. Note: If you prefer, you could just pre-determine that everyone will use (for example) a wiki and provide the topic hosts with links to appropriate wiki pages - labeled topic x through to topic y.
• In the same doc as the timetable, include the following info:
(a) Who is hosting the conversation (plus their Skype ID)
(b) Links to the page(s) where the conversation will be captured, plus log-in / password if necessary.
• Use a screen share tool (e.g. Skype screen share) to share the timetable with everyone as it is developed
• Ask participants to instant message the topic host when they wish to join a conversation
• As the facilitator, keep time and use instant messaging to inform groups when they have 10 mins / 5 mins / 0 mins until the end of their session (OR use an online timer such as online-stopwatch.com) and then invite everyone to revisit the timetable for information on where to go for their next conversation.
• Use Skype conference calls (or equivalent) for small group discussion, in combination with Skype screen share as necessary.

10. World Café
(visit theworldcafé.com for the ‘how to’ steps in a face-to-face environment)
• Provide a participants list to everyone in advance, including names and Skype IDs (or equivalent). Include also in this list some coding (in a table) to facilitate organizing three different groupings of 4 participants for each round of the World Café, and nominating a host.
For example, for the first round of the World Café / first grouping of 4, you might group people by simply going through the participant list organized alphabetically by surname, and counting people into groups of four – giving each person a letter next to their name – e.g. the first four participants would be coded ‘Group A’, the second four ‘Group B’ etc. For the second grouping of four participants, go back through the list and this time number them from 1 through to the total number of participants / 4 (e.g. if you had 40 participants you would number them 1-10 four times. For the second round of the World Café, all the 1’s will chat together, all the 2’s together, etc. Then for the third round, you might assign different symbols or colours. You choose – the important thing is to determine in advance how you will group everyone, and include this ‘coding’ in the participants list so it is clear and easy to create the groupings.
Additionally it is important that, for each round of the World Café, you designate clearly in the participant list who is responsible for hosting the conversation (i.e. hosting the Skype call, keeping time and making sure everyone contributes!)
• Once everyone is clear about with whom they will chat in the first round and who is hosting the call (plus their Skype ID), you can launch round one. But first – set an online timer (such as online-stopwatch.com) that everyone can see and which will ring to call everyone back into plenary.
• Back in plenary, take some highlights ‘popcorn’ style from each group (call on the hosts of each group of four) and capture these in wikispaces.com / google doc / Mindmeister.com / irisnotes using screen share at the same time.
• Repeat.

11. Point and counterpoint (read the description of this methodology for the ‘how to’ steps in a face-to-face environment in the book: Thaigi’s 100 Favourite Games)
• Provide a participants list to everyone in advance, including names and Skype IDs (or equivalent).
• With everyone on the conference call, use Polleverywhere.com (or google forms / or SurveyMonkey.com) to gauge participant’s positions regarding a controversial statement. Set the poll/survey question up in advance, putting opposing controversial statements at either end of a scale of 1-10, with 10 fields in between into which they must enter their first name. (You need the names later!) Give participants only 30 seconds to decide where they are on the scale.
• As soon as you have all the results, generate the report (export the results) and share this with participants using Skype screenshare (or equivalent). You should be able to see the names of all participants on the scale from one to ten. At this stage, make a comment on the distribution. Then ‘count off’ participants, starting at the person nearest 0, putting them alternately in team 1, team 2, team 1, etc. Note: Designate one (or two) participant(s) – you want to ensure there is an equal number of participants in each team) who fall in the middle of the distribution as ‘judges’ who won’t participate in the work of team 1 and 2. Then designate the person nearest 0 as the “captain” for team 1 and the person nearest 10 as the captain for team 2. They are then responsible for hosting two team calls (using the list of participants shared prior to the meeting).
• Use a tool such as wikispaces.com / google docs / Mindmeister.com as a work space for each of the groups (having set up a space for each team in advance). Provide them with the link and (if necessary) login/ password and set them to work brainstorming all the arguments in favour of ‘their’ controversial statement – capturing all contributions on the tool provided. (This capture is essential for later.) Use an online timer (online-stopwatch.com) to keep time and remind them to return to a full group call.
• Meanwhile, set up 2 quick slideshows. Make sure you can play both on loop. In the first, go through the results from the poll, entering one name per slide into the slideshow starting with the name closest to 0 (and remembering to remove the judge(s)). With all the names in place, make the slides with the names of all participants from team 1 one colour, and all the names from team 2 in another colour. When you play the slideshow, as it goes through the names, the slides should alternative team/colour one and team/colour two. You will use these to call on the members of the teams to share their arguments, as well as helping everyone keep in mind who is talking and on behalf of which team / position. A second slide set is just two slides with just the two team colours (no names).
• Back in full group, launch the ‘debate’, determining who speaks when using your slide set, until all the arguments captured are exhausted. The switch to your second slide set and invite people to ‘change teams’ and spontaneously argue from the other team. You will not have names, so just switch from colour one to colour two. Participants can only share if they are adding a new argument from the other team to the one in which they participated.
• Once all arguments are exhausted. Invite the judge(s) who have listened to the debate to give their ‘verdict’ with a brief synthesis of which arguments they found most compelling.
• Finally re-do the poll that you started with. Generate the report and compare the results! Have people shifted in their thinking?

Please let us now how you get on and what you think!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

I'm the Facilitator

We are currently running a Facilitation learning programme with a large organization here in Geneva that is focused not so much on tools and techniques, but more on the design of facilitated learning processes, and what it means to be the person leading them. Overall we are working to help people use facilitation in a very nuanced, thoughtful way rather than as a blunt instrument.

We have a session that is focused on ourselves as facilitators and for that we use any and all information that people have generated over the years (their choice) using diagnostic tools such as MBTI, Strengthsfinder, FIRO-B, etc. They can also talk to friends and family to get some inputs. The objective is to reflect on how our behavioural preferences might manifest themselves in our facilitation and group process leadership work.

It has been a very interesting thought exercise to try to identify times when our individual behavioural preferences might really help our processes, or might get in the way. Just asking the question - How might my behavioural preferences manifest themselves in my facilitation work - is an intervention in itself as it is something most of us don't consider or consider very often.

We both give examples of where we see our own preferences at work, and take the exercise one step further to talk about how, once we are aware of them, we manage these. We are both very different facilitators, Lizzie and I, and it is interesting to see what we both actively do to make sure that the best outcome is achieved.

I grappled with one of my behavioural preferences recently during a large group facilitation exercise in Mali. My FIRO-B results in inclusion are rather high (expressed and wanted). This is a good thing, of course, when it comes to working successfully with groups, and at the same time it gives me a challenge when ownership by the group is one of the soft outcomes desired of a facilitated process. This might be the case for a network building meeting, one generating an action plan or campaign, or a Youth Call to Action - as was the case in the Mali event.

For any facilitator high in inclusion, turning over the process, standing back and letting the group take over takes deliberate thought and action and can really work against that behavioural preference to be in the middle of everything until the very end. But that ownership outcome demands it. In Mali, at the end of our process, that hand over needed to occur and did occur, but it was a little messy and felt for some as though the process was listing to starboard. As easy as it would have been for me to step in (my inclusion was ready to jump), I didn't. I was present, I helped from the floor, I gave advice when needed, but the group representatives and the process we had set up took over, and they finished the work, and could revel in their success in doing it themselves.

That was hard for me personally, but very good for the process.  Lots of additional relationship building, deeper perspective sharing, and considered decision-making might have been lost if I had run that process myself right to the very end. And these outcomes can be used as social capital when this group meets again.

We use other examples of how our behaviour preferences map over to our facilitation work, and we talk about what we do to manage these, whether it is to design in specific things (like a handover point), to working with a co-facilitator that balances them out, to contracting differently with the group. We all have preferences that both make us good at being facilitators and that also might get in the way. Being mindful of these, and frequently asking the question - How might my behavioural preferences be showing up in my facilitation work? - is a good way to constantly be learning when I'm the Facilitator.

Related blog posts:
What Did You Say? Building a group's capacity to deal with its own issues
A sampling of good intervention statements to use when you are trying to help a group work through its issues, take control of the process and lead its own development.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Reflections on dealing with a group that has different inclusion needs - just because someone is not talking doesn't necessarily mean that he/she is not engaged. Watch jumping up that Ladder of Inference!

Understanding What We are Bringing to the Party: Group Process Consultation Resources
A list of tools and resources that facilitators and Group Process Consultation practitioners can use to explore their own impacts on a group.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

TEDx Tokyo: Let Junko Edahiro Welcome You to the "De" Generation

Watch this 8 minute video taken at the recent TEDx Tokyo which features Junko Edahiro, Chief Executive of Japan for Sustainability, answering the question about what motivates young people today.  She introduces 3 "De's" - trends which she observes to be forming a big part of the value set of young adults today (much to the consternation of their elders).

  1. De - ownership (from owning things to sharing things),
  2. De-materialisation of happiness (from happiness in buying things to person-to-person/nature),
  3. De-materialisation of life (happiness in our own lives without the lure of the monetary economy),

For the latter she talks about young people who are half farmer/half something else (musician, NGO leader, etc.). These people combine growing their own subsistence food needs with their mission-driven work - instead of investing all their time climbing a company ladder, climbing a ladder to pick apples instead. Junko talks about Japan, can these same trends be spotted elsewhere in the world?

Junko provides thoughtful examples, challenges us all to think about our own possibilities to "De" our life, and welcomes us to the Era of "De"!

(Note from me: Junko is a terrific speaker, fellow Balaton Group Member, and friend and I am delighted to see TEDx and Junko connecting their considerable talents in this way.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Training-of-Trainers from the Trainee's Point-of-View

Yesterday at the beginning of our training course I asked my trainees a check-in question, "What do you think you will have to do to apply your learning today?" I wanted people to think about their own processes of learning and to share with each other some reflections on what it would take for them to translate the content of the training course from theoretical, or passive, knowledge to something that they can actually do. Effectively, from an experience in a workshop room, to something they will be able to draw upon easily in a real-life situation.

They were surprised at that question, and found it tricky to answer. However, translating information from a page/mouth of an expert "Trainer", even when supported by some practice exercises, into something that you can do/use yourself takes lots of considered individual work. Most people's response to this question was to "Practice, practice, practice" - which is true, but there is so much more.

This question also made me pause, as I realised that I had gone through the same process for the training I was giving right then - that I was as much of a Trainee as my participants were.

I have given many Training-of-Trainer (ToT) courses over the years, for many of the fields in which I work. In my groups of Trainees I would have both people familiar with the content and those for whom it was fairly or completely new. The ToT would deliver the content and training process, we would practice different elements, and finally we would demo the module (whatever it was) together for a completely new group of participants. Then these newly-trained Trainers would be sent off with a beautiful Trainer's manual and all participant materials, handouts etc. I would always be available to answer further questions (even to this day). But definitely the Training-of-Trainers experience doesn't stop there. It is just a fraction of the learning experience needed to be able to go from the ToT workshop to being able to deliver the content.

This particular training course that I gave yesterday is one of the first times that I can recall that I was trained in an area where the content was broadly new to me - it is in the galaxy of the tools and skills that I use, but I had never worked directly in the area or used the particular tools that I was being asked to train others to use. That did not necessarily mean that I would not be good as a Trainer, it happens all the time (and actually that is precisely why there are Training of Trainer courses!) However, when the content is rather new it does mean that additional individual work to assimilate the content with enough confidence and expertise to be able to effectively transfer that learning to others is critical and time consuming.

Making it Mine - Going from Trainee to Trainer and Learner to User

During the ToT that I myself took to be a Trainer in this new field, I took copious notes on both content and process, even verbatim notes from the master Trainer. When she delivered her slides, I wrote down her text and examples beside the slides. When anyone asked a question, I wrote the question down and her answer. When we did an exercise, I not only recorded my group's answer, but also the answers of the other groups. I noted when she handed things out or used a flipchart and wrote that into the agenda. When we used job aids, I wrote down how she briefed the exercise and then debriefed it. At the end of the ToT, I had recorded as much process data as I could notice to go along with the content descriptions.

When I got home, I went back through my notes. But it wasn't until I was called to deliver that training myself that deepest learning kicked in. Here are a few things I did to make that that training course content mine:
  • Connect the Content to Me- Finding My Own Stories: I found in my own experience some connections between the new content and what I had already learned and done in life - things that substantiated my being a Trainer in that area. It was a little stretch, but actually not as much as I thought. Some of the core skills I was using in other areas. That steadied me a bit. Initially I was nervous because I didn't have years of specific experience to draw upon, but when I made these connections I could find my own stories.
  • Integrate Process Notes: I developed for myself a detailed Trainer's Agenda. I used my own template and rewrote the agenda with all the process information, timing, and segue ways included. A simple agenda existed from the ToT with a separate process note for new Trainers, but I needed to work through the logic of each session and bring these together into a logical narrative in my head, and make something I could follow on the delivery day.
  • Get an Overview of Materials and Equipment: I created a materials and equipment list, and made a note on the Trainer's Agenda which materials were needed where. This also included a list of what needed to be prepared in advance (at home and in the training room). With all of this thinking done, I could concentrate once I was in the session on the content.
  • Fill in Knowledge Gaps: I went through all the content PPT slides and made sure I understood exactly what they meant - for this I needed the notes I took when the Master Trainer delivered it. I researched all the questions I had and all those I could anticipate (e.g. people asking where that fact came from, getting a good definition of a term, understanding the difference between x and y). I also took out lots of transition slides and builds in the PPt that, for someone who is less familiar with the content (or at least not the original creator) or who has a different pace, just makes it look clunky.
  • Reduce What You Have to Remember (Part I): Create a Detailed Flipchart Agenda for the Training Room. I created a flipchart agenda to keep up in the room which was more detailed than usual, as much for me as a guide through the course as for the participants . Whenever I needed a flipchart in the content delivery, I put a number for the flipchart on this agenda. Then I numbered my flipcharts with post-it notes sticking out the edges (like tabs in an address book).
  • Reduce What You Have to Remember (Part II): Make Job Aids. I made up some new Job Aids/handouts for some of the exercises which had all the instructions on them - every thing I would say to brief them.
  • Reduce What You Have to Remember (Part III): Put Instructions on Flipcharts. I also made up a set of flipcharts with all the exercise instructions on them so that I would not have to remember every tiny detail myself (I might but I might not).  
  • Create a Trainer's Manual: I put together all the separate pieces I had from the original ToT and that I had created into a ring binder to organize in one place all the materials and documentation. Each session had its own section which brought together my notes, with those of the Master Trainer so I had them for quick reference if need be. There was a section with my process agenda with the original participants agenda behind. One section had my new PPt slides with my notes and examples and stories, with the original one from the ToT just behind. There was a tabbed section for each exercise, with a separate sheet with briefing and debriefing notes prepared, and any associated handouts, all combined with the Frequently Asked Questions I had picked up from the ToT. This way if I had a moment during group work, I could scan ahead to remember points for the next session if need be.
All this preparation happened BEFORE I got to Practice, Practice, Practice.

Through delivering this new course, I have developed a lot of new empathy with my Trainees of the past (and future); learners who are invited to come to a ToT and to become a Trainer on a topic that perhaps they have never trained before that day. We all need to know what we are signing up for when we go to a Training of Trainers Course, or providing one. As a Training Trainer we are effectively giving our Trainees a ToT group experience, and also a lot of individual follow up work as well, if Trainees really want to be able to deliver that training themselves. ToT organizers should be very aware of this critical work outside the ToT itself and talk through a strategy to help individual Trainers make this leap.

I think having now had this experience myself, I will devote much more time discussing with the Trainees what they will need and want to do to be able to apply the learning in a training situation - from something coming out of my mouth to something coming out of theirs. And in the future I will push even further into that learning space with participants to help them develop a strategy for that,. Just as I asked my participants yesterday to do.