It wouldn’t work…


March 28th, 2011

Many years ago I worked in agricultural extension. That means I used to organise field days for farmers to explore ways they could improve or adapt their farming. Farmers from across a geographic area would gather on one property and we’d walk around, kicking the dirt and learning how this farmer had done something different, why, and what the impact had been. Often I’d hear the comment that went something like this: “Well that’s okay here, but on my place the soil is different so it probably wouldn’t work.”

Jump forward a couple of decades to facilitation training. After introducing an activity that’s a bit left of field (which really depends where you’re standing – for me it’s often fairly central, but for others can be way out there on the edge) – things like sociometry, or improv games for surfacing behaviours, or using gibberish to level the playing field in a multi-language group, or even something as basic as removing the tables – I’d start hearing this:

“That’s okay here, but it wouldn’t work with / in (insert group / country / situation).”

Bollocks.

When that voice in my head says that to me I now recognise it as my own fear, or reluctance to take a risk, which I have externalised on to the group. When I don’t listen to that voice and do it anyway, it works out just fine.

That’s not to say everything works every time, or anything will do. Mistakes are a part of facilitating, and learning. And mistakes, and taking risks, are about stretching and developing as a facilitator. Playing it safe means you probably won’t get into trouble. You probably won’t learn anything either. Your choice.

2 Comments so far

  1. Dwight Towers on March 28, 2011 2:50 pm

    This cartoon from Dilbert, about the risks of admitting mistakes, seems apposite here.

    http://dilbert.com/2011-03-25/

    Cheers!

  2. Jani Turku on March 31, 2011 6:51 pm

    I hear that sentiment quite a lot when discussing the day’s agenda with the customer. Usually they are surprised that in the end, yes, it did work.

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