The larger roads in northern India have lane markings. They appear to be indicative, as is the direction of traffic. Cars and motor bikes jostle with rickshaws, trucks (so many trucks!), buses, bicycles, camels, donkeys, cows and dogs. And people. Crossing a road, on foot or in any vehicle is a case of trusting the process.
The only thing I saw that was scary was a drunk driver in charge of a B-double truck. It was on a back road, he weaved from one side of the road to the other, seemingly oblivious to his erratic trajectory.
I’m sure there are many accidents, yet I didn’t see any. And a lot of vehicles, which should be a smorgasbord of dints, scratches, scrapes and bumps are remarkably free of any marks. And the horns! How anyone can make sense of all that noise is beyond me, yet they seem to manage. It’s not like Melbourne, which in many ways is scarier – certainly faster and a lot more aggressive.
Which got me thinking about expectations. Everyone talks about the traffic in India yet it’s not possible to really know what it’s like without actually being in it. We only have our own field of experience to draw on and if that doesn’t include the erratic, and seemingly chaotic, way traffic is in India, then it’s hard to imagine, and it’s hard to know what to expect.
In retrospect, I can talk about what I experienced, what surprised me, what scared me, and I can make comparisons with other traffic experiences. If I’m asked in advance what my expectations are I can only talk in generalities: I think it will be different, more chaotic, busier than I’m used to. Do I expect to be scared? Maybe.
And then there’s that oft-asked question: were my expectations met? That’s always hard for me to answer. Maybe if I was clearer about my expectations I could answer yes or no. Yet I’ve already explained why I can’t be clearer about my expectations.
So it’s a nonsense question – to ask before an experience, and afterwards.
Better to focus on the reality of experiences rather than obscure and abstract expectations.Evaluation, General | Comment (0)
I’m really keen to bring music to my workshops, and having no talent whatsoever with any form of instrument or voice, I have to rely on technology. Thank goodness for those devices, I say.
With the help of social networks I’ve been collating a bunch of songs suitable for all sorts of situations that arise in workshops and meetings. Now all I have to do is work out how to play said songs on demand in the middle of a workshop. One step at a time though.
Stuck In A Moment (U2) – people who can’t, or won’t shift
Gimme A Little Sign (Brenton Wood) – for those blank faces in the audience
Pick Yourself Up (Jerome Kern) – avoiding self-flagellation after inevitable failure
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones) – self explanatory really
We Don’t Need Another Hero (Tina Turner) – for all those facilitators trying too hard
Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (The Animals) – works both ways, I guess
Will You Love Me Tomorrow? (The Shirelles) – for those of us who like to be liked, even after difficult workshops
What’s Going On? (Marvin Gaye) – indeed! I ask myself this a lot!
Human Touch (The Boss) – making best use of having living, breathing human beings in the room
Ooby Dooby (Creedance Clearwater Revival) – nope, I don’t understand a word either
How Do You Do It? (Gerry and The Pacemakers) – well, that’s Secret Facilitation Business!
Hi Ho Silver Lining (Jeff Beck) – one for the optimists
Hard-headed Woman (Cat Stevens) – I can be that if needed
Go Now (Moody Blues) – When it’s over, it’s over
Get Over It (Eagles) – and yourself, for all those self-important types
Dumb Things (Paul Kelly) – I know, that’s not very nice, is it?
I Feel Good (James Brown) – who wouldn’t feel good after listening to a bit of Mr Brown?
Room to Move (John Mayall) – pure genius, and so true. Get rid of the tables!
So Hard to Share (John Mayall) – this never happens, surely?
The World Keep on Turning (Fleetwood Mac) – even while workshops happen!
Nowhere To Run (Martha and The Vandelles) – more’s the pity sometimes
Jigsaw Puzzle Blues (Fleetwood Mac) – for all those people who don’t like ‘those’ sorts of activities
Five O’Clock World (The Vogues) – yeah, bring it on
The Times They Are A Changin’ (Bob Dylan) – too obvious?
Danger, Heartbreak Ahead (Marvelettes) – it’s gonna be a tough day
Merry Go Round (Terri Clarke) – here we go again!
General | Comments (5)
Johnnie Moore wrote significant parts that I’d forgotten, edited my clumsy words, challenged my thinking and was there throughout the whole process, providing encouragement and support.
It’s taken so long to get to this point simply because a book like this can never be finished. It is always in ‘beta’, always a work in progress and no amount of requests for cookie-cutter approaches to facilitation can stand up in the face of the messy, unpredictable and ever-changing world of actual facilitation with living, breathing humans.
Nonetheless, experience might count for something. If our experiences resonate for you – or even if they don’t, and simply get you thinking – then this book will have been worth it. In fact, it’s been worth it simply to gather our own thoughts, to spark some rather interesting conversations and to make our thinking accessible to others.
We’re giving it away, with a liberal Creative Commons licence, because that sits well with our philosophy of collaboration and connecting with people. If you download the book, we like to think of you as a collaborator and we’d like to hear from you. Indeed the whole process was a global collaboration – between Australia, the UK and USA – made possible by technology, particularly long Skype calls!
The linear format dictated by the book format gave us many sleepless nights. Facilitation is not linear. There may be some obscure logic in the format, but don’t take it too seriously. Start anywhere. Dive in.
The book is divided into five parts.
Part One: Why Facilitation? is about exploring the impact of facilitation and facilitators on groups, the qualities that make for good facilitators and some of the underlying philosophy that underpins our approach.
Part Two: Workshop Basics is about the necessary foundations of facilitating workshops.
Part Three: Beyond the Basics is about providing an understanding of how to engage people and use different approaches.
Part Four: Creative Facilitation explores some of the knowledge and understanding that helps facilitators step into complex, and sometimes difficult, situations. It also explores in more depth, elements of human behaviour and group dynamics.
Part Five: Resources provides suggestions for developing your own “toolkit” with what you learn from experience as well as useful links, resources and other information.
Stay tuned for some smaller companion eBooks that elaborate on our favourite topics.Collaboration, Facilitation, General, Learning | Comments (8)
It feels a bit like pressing the restart button, this first day of January.
An opportunity for new beginnings.
It’s both a relief, and a little sad, to say farewell to another year, and also exciting to anticipate a new year. It captures the essence of every new day – to carry forward what we need, let go of what we don’t, and enter unchartered territory. Every day is an improvisation.
My favourite African proverbs captures my hope for us in 2013:
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
How far can we go together in 2013?Collaboration, General | Comment (0)
Some people like to set goals. I’m not one of them. I find goals too restricting, they don’t allow for serendipity and can blind me to opportunities that might arise while I have my sights set on achieving those goals.
There’s also a thing called goal displacement, where means to the goal becomes the goal itself. Here’s an example. Just about every country, at some time or another, has used a bounty as a way to reduce pests.In Australia, the Government offers bounties for fox tails. The goal is to reduce foxes. It works, for a time, then the number of foxes increases. How so? The bounty itself becomes the goal – so hunters don’t hunt female foxes, ensuring a continuing supply of young foxes for the bounty next year. The economic imperative replaces the original goal.
I prefer little mantras, reminders of how I want to be in the world.
This last year it was Show up. Let go. Jump in. It has served me well. I’ve shown up to places, events and for people. I’ve let go of my own agenda (or tried to) and of expectations. And I’ve jumped in – contributed, offered help and ideas.
In 2013, it’s time for a shift. A new mantra for a new year.
“I have been very struck recently by how productive it can be to start things before you are ‘ready’. It is something improvisers do the whole time. They step on stage before they have an idea, rather than waiting until they have one. They let the idea emerge from the action…I don’t mean you shouldn’t prepare but that if everything is determined and decided beforehand – in other words, if you are completely ‘ready’ – then something is lost. The unimagined possibility is eradicted before it even has the chance to occur.”
Yeah. Works for me.
General | Comments (4)
So I came home last night from playing improv games to find the content of my blog gone! Kaput. Was it a sign of the Mayan apocalypse? I still don’t know what caused it but it was a bit disconcerting to lose all that personal history from the last six years. I use this blog to share, and also to keep a record of my experiences and thinking. To think it may have all been lost, well, maybe not apocalyptic, but at least a bit distressing.
I am ever so grateful to those of you out there who helped me navigate this unexpected and, for me, bewildering situation.
In particular, my friend Brenda Moon, restored all of my content. Phew! Thanks Brenda. And YES, I will save after every single post from now on. Lesson learnt!General | Comment (0)
This cartoon by Michael Leunig tells you all you need to know about how to get there. I think it’s brilliant.
Sometimes people ask me how I got to be doing what I’m now doing (I think they mean the work, and not sitting here at a computer writing a blog post). Sometimes I ask myself the same question (about the work, and about writing blog posts).
It relates well to my latest mantra: Show Up. Let Go. Jump In.
Or sound advice given by my humanitarian aid friends: Proceed until apprehended.
Just keep on with it. Good advice, don’t you think?
Especially for someone like me who likes beginnings, but not endings.General, Musings | Comments (2)
One of the ongoing themes around applied improvisation is the use of language, and recognising that improvisation has its own jargon. This jargon may sometimes be unhelpful when introducing people to the principles and practices of improvisation. I’m forever grateful to friends such as Izzy Gesell, and Simo Routarinne who helped school me in the jargon and language of improv.
There’s also jargon around facilitation. One of my big insights at this year’s Applied Improvisation Network Conference in San Francisco was about how to explain some facilitation concepts to improvisers, especially those who are mainly theatre improvisers, and maybe unaware of some of the traps of taking what works well on the theatre stage onto the corporate or conference stage.
I have learnt a lot about facilitating from performers – about being present, about noticing, accepting offers, about staging, about emotional movement, about pace and timing, about status (oh yes, status) and owning the ‘stage’.
Here’s what I can offer performers about facilitating.
Play with new formats
I love going to improv shows where a new format is being tried. I can imagine the buzz of creating a new format using the constraints of the theatre, and of performance. I can also imagine it could become boring doing the same format over and over (even when the content is improvised!) The same is true of facilitating. Play with formats, try out new approaches, remembering the constraints of the form. You’ll stay engaged and your audience will love you for it. In particular, try breaking out of the ‘sage on the stage’ format. Try sitting in a circle; try using the whole space, allocating different parts for different processes; use a walk and talk format; use the walls; use the floors; use your imagination. See the constraints – the room’s not quite right, the number of people is too large, the amount of time is not enough – as an offer. Accept, and move forward.
Learn about the bones of facilitation
To be able to break the rules, you first need to know the rules. There’s an underlying architecture to different performance types, just as there’s an underlying architecture to facilitation approaches. If you go to improv classes to learn or hone your improv skills, also consider facilitation classes to hone your facilitation skills. The combo is pretty irrisistable, and the skills are so complementary. For example, you can learn the skills of giving instructions to a group, of asking debrief questions, the role of intention in selecting activities, how to traverse the ‘groan zone’ and how to make the best use of your improvisational skills.
Status is your best friend
Trust me on this one, most facilitators know nothing of status. Bringing a deep understanding of status from improvisation to facilitation is probably your greatest advantage. You can use status in facilitating to establish authority with a group, to build relationships, to diffuse status attacks, to encourage participants to do things they would not normally want to do, and to get out of all sorts of sticky situations. For example, I will often use high status body and voice early on in a workshop, and when I want people to do an activity switch to low status body language combined with high status voice. Seems to work every time!
Let them do the work
On the stage, you’re doing all the work. After all, the audience are there to see you perform, they want their money’s worth. This is the biggest trap for facilitators – doing all the work on behalf of the group. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn. When facilitating, it’s important not to be the centre of attention. In improv terms, you are the chorus for the main players – the participants. You might kick things off by giving some instructions, by having an overall arc of experience designed for the participants, but they are in charge of what happens. They will create their own ‘show’.
And remember it’s theatre, but not in the theatre
Facilitating is performance. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have stumbled into improvisation and discovered the principles and practices that now are integral to my approach to facilitating. There are so many gems to bring out of the theatre context and share with the world – especially around staging, design, participant experience, and being changed by the experience. A trip to the theatre, attending a facilitated event – both are a diversion, not business as usual. We can use what we know about the experience of the theatre to enhance the experience of a conference or event.
Why this matters
Coming together is highly valued. We can stay connected, build relationships, plan how we will change the world, hear and read what people think, through our devices. Yet it’s still not the same as being physically present with others. There is something about being in the same time and space that creates a different sort of magic. We can combine our skills in improvisation and facilitation to create that magic.
Your turn. What facilitation tips would you suggest for improvisers?Facilitation, General, Improv | Comments (4)
Over many months I’d planned to attend this year’s Applied Improvisation Network Conference in San Francisco. I’d booked early to get the best price, organised flights and accommodation. Yet it was something completely unplanned, surprising, spontaneous and lucky that gave me goose bumps.
This reminds me to notice what’s going on around me. And to always be prepared to be surprised. Otherwise I might have missed the space shuttle flyover of the Golden Gate Bridge.General | Comment (0)