Creative Facilitation in Melbourne Nov 26-27

October 4th, 2015

bringingYou might be surprised by the variety and depth of ways to engage people,especially if you’re stuck in a meeting rut, listening to others drone on, and rarely having time to discuss what really matters.

I make my living from facilitating, so I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and better, more creative, and more engaging ways to get the best out of people in a meeting.

I’m hosting a two-day Creative Facilitation workshop in Melbourne on November 26 and 27. You’ll be able to share your reactions and insights with other professionals grappling with the same issues that you are. You’ll spend very little time sitting down, a lot of time doing; and while our appraoches are grounded in behavioural science, you won’t be bombarded with theory. You’ll leave with practical ideas to try at your next meeting or event.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Beyond the traditional ‘facilitator’ role – What does leading a meeting mean in today’s workplaces? How to avoid the mistakes that traditional education teaches us about how people share, learn and interact.

Participatory approaches – Ways of sharing information, gathering ideas, and making decisions that helps a group connect and engage with the content. How to create an environment of open-ness and trust, and getting people to work together.

Beyond words – How to get beyond wordy, and worthy, sometimes meaningless, words to unearth what’s really going on – using photos, action and story.

Bravo! You as a performer – While the group, and the processes you use, are important, what about you? How do you deal with challenges, stage fright, a crisis of confidence? The second day of this workshop focuses on YOU and gives you tips and tools to manage yourself, especially when things go wrong.

Keeping it fresh

September 1st, 2015

With lots of Creative Facilitation training under my belt, the challenge is to keep it fresh. The danger is complacency. Two things happened in today’s training that helped with the freshness. Actually, one happened even before I arrived. I’d decided I’d done enough preparation, so on the train to Melbourne, decided to read the paper on-line. Skipping through politics, economics and sport, I landed on this article about research that reveals the predictors of a successful relationship.

Here’s the crux of the article:

“Say you look out your window one evening and see a huge full moon bobbing just above the horizon. Flushed with wonder, you turn to your partner and say “hey sweet cheeks! Isn’t the moon beautiful tonight?” This, according to Gottman, is a “bid” – a request for a response that will hopefully lead to a small connection between the two of you – an understanding that, on this particular topic, you share the same worldview.

Your partner now has a choice to make – they can look up and say “wow! It is beautiful!” or something similarly agreeable. The Gottmans call this a “turning toward”. (Seasoned improvisational artists like Tina Fey call it the part where you say “yes, and …” to keep a scene moving.)

Or, they can keep eye contact with their computer device and mutter “mm hmm”, or worse, remain silent. That would be called “turning away”.”

Ah-ha, you can see where I’m going with this.

Relationships are at the heart of everything. We might like to ignore relationships in favour of the ‘real’ work. Please do – it will keep me in work for years to come!

Not noticing, ignoring and actively blocking offers is a fast-forward to trouble.

Seemed relevant to the group I was working with today, so I rejigged the non-existent agenda, and incorporated a few activities around making and accepting offers. You can’t plan for this.

And secondly, the flip chart paper I’d planned on using wasn’t available. Rather than stressing, and worrying, I simply decided to do something different. It resulted in a new approach to an activity that I’ve done a squillion times.

Can’t plan for that either.

Seemed appropriate for a workshop on the uses of creative facilitation in innovation.

Nothing is Written – Learning is an Adventure now available

June 1st, 2015

NIW-CoverTo celebrate a whole new month Johnnie Moore and I are releasing the PDF of our new short book, Nothing is Written. It shares eight simple ideas that guide how we work.

Nothing is Written
Emotional connectedness
Experiences over explanation
Shared peril
Avoiding the teacher trance
The value of loose ends
Getting out of our heads
Getting over ourselves

We think it’s possible to create more engaging training that plays to human strengths and avoids many of the cliches found in training rooms worldwide. We hope you enjoy it. It’s free and available from here.

Once you’ve read the book, if you’d like to experience for yourself how we work, we have workshops coming up in Melbourne and London. There’s more information here.

Learning is an adventure

May 30th, 2015

ExperiencesTraining is on my mind at the moment. I’ve always believed in the importance of helping others learn to do what I do with facilitation, and more, rather than build a dependence. The next couple of weeks are chocker block full of creative facilitation training – one of my favourite things to be doing. So it’s appropriate that Johnnie Moore and I are about to release our new book. Here’s a snippet. Oh, and I just love the illustrations created by the amazingly talented Mary Campbell.

Experiences over Explanation

In his book, Friends in Low Places, Dr James Willis describes research in which two groups of people were shown a photograph of a face. After seeing the photo the first group was asked to recall details of the face. The second group didn’t have to do this.

Later, each group was tested to see if they could remember the faces they had seen in the photos.

The second group – those left to use only their innate and wordless ability to remember a face – were twice as likely to remember it.

By attempting to make people’s learning more detailed and explicit, we may be getting in people’s way.

Malcolm Gladwell relates the studies of tennis coach Vic Braden. Braden would ask top tennis players the “secret” of their technique. He found that although they had detailed explanations for how they did what they did, these descriptions were inconsistent and often false. Famously, Andre Agassi insisted that he would roll his wrist as he hit his forehand shots. In fact, stop motion photography showed that this simply wasn’t true. The fancy term for this mistake is confabulation.

Our rational mind invents a plausible explanation for a behaviour, and believes its own propaganda.

Fresh experiences beat old explanations.


Creative Facilitation – New stuff. Yay!

April 23rd, 2015

CF-2day2015Flyer.pdf (1 page)How does a facilitator announce new stuff? A musician brings out a new song or album, an artist has an exhibition of their latest paintings, a writer releases a new book or poem – and a facilitator announces…”I have new stuff to share with you.” Sounds a bit lame really.

Nonetheless, I DO have new stuff to share with you – gleaned from a trip to that other hemisphere where I took part in an improvisation retreat and a learning village, hung out with some seriously cool people, finished a project that’s been on the go for a couple of years, explored street art in Shoreditch (oh, I’m getting distracted now).

It’s boring to talk about this stuff – much better to do it. So I’ll be sharing my new stuff on June 17 and 18 at my favourite venue, the Donkey Wheel House in Bourke Street Melbourne. I hope you can join me. Use the promo code newstuff2015 for a 20% discount. Yay!

Learn facilitation?

January 7th, 2015

IMG_2554Facilitating is like rock balancing – you never know if you can do it until you try.

Everyone’s offering training at this time of the year (let’s face it, everyone’s offering training all year round!) How do you choose? Not sure, but here’s my advice:


You can read all the details about Creative Facilitation: The Basics here and Facilitation as Performance here, and other people seem to have enjoyed the experience, even learned some stuff.

Come along and find out for yourself. Melbourne. February 11 and 12. Use the Promotional Code of CF20 for a 20% discount on registration costs. Shhhh – don’t tell everyone.

And if you’re in London, do a Molly (that’s Australian for ‘do yourself a favour’) and get yourself along to one of Johnnie Moore’s workshops on February 5 and 6.

Creative Facilitation workshops in London Nov 6 & 7

October 1st, 2014

After our success in Melbourne and Amsterdam, we’re now bringing our Creative Facilitation workshops to London.

There’s two one-day workshops on November 6 and 7. Do one. Do both. They stand alone, and they complement each other.

Bringing meetings to life: The Basics! We cover the basics of getting more from meetings, with lots of ideas to get people engaged, active and productive. Facilitation as Performance explores ways to keep your cool when in front of a group, how to calm your nerves and what to do when you don’t know what to do.

Early-bird registration until October 10th.

Research, MOOCS and what’s next?

September 29th, 2014

While I blog to keep track of my own thinking and ideas, I’m conscious that there’s others out there who read what’s here.


It was nearly exactly (I know, that’s nonsense and what I really mean to say is ‘almost’) a year since I decided to do some research, the reasons of which are still obscure even to me. I’ve blundered around exploring ideas, reading, interviewing, spent some time at Oxford, met lots of great people, am becoming more and more curious, and less and less focused. I think.

It’s odd, this feeling of ‘isolated connectedness’ – that’s my term to describe how it feels. Maybe it’s how all researchers feel.

Anyway, this post is to alert you, and remind me, that I often make sense by writing, and writing here on my blog is where I do that. So I won’t be offended if you find something better to do.

I’m excited by the intersection of three MOOCS I’m doing, all offered on the FutureLearn platform. I can feel a whole lot of threads coming together, in fact, I’m impatient for that to happen, and grateful that the weekly pacing of the MOOCS enforce a much slower pace. I’m practicing patience, and giving my brain a chance to make connections that I’ve yet to think of. Impatient, excited, uncertain. Yes.


On being a novice – again

August 18th, 2014

edge.001There’s an activity I sometimes use with groups to find out what expertise is lurking amongst the participants: it asks people to nominate themselves as a novice, practitioner, expert or ninja for a particular skill or knowledge of a particular topic.

There’s a lot of kudos given to being an expert yet for me I revel in being a novice. That’s because it means I’m learning something new. It also reminds me what it feels like to be a novice. I’ve written before about the Curse of Knowledge here and you can read/see an explanation here. When I’m training people in facilitation skills, it’s worth remembering what it’s like to be a learner, to be unsure, and a bit tentative.

I’m learning a new way of facilitating ‘inhabitable’ games. I’ve read a lot, I’ve taken part in the games, I’ve attended training, I’ve spoken with others, I’ve gathered my materials, written my own notes. I’m now ready to do it – the only way I know to really learn something new.

It’s both exciting and daunting to be a novice – again. And I love that feeling of being on my learning edge. That’s where all the greatest discoveries happen.



Change, and strategy, and creativity – another take

July 29th, 2014

I love this! Change as creating. Did I mention how much I love this?

Congratulations to Karen Dawson, Julie Huffaker, Ian Prinsloo, Sarah Moyle, Andrea Grant and Leonardo Spinedi, and Laila Woozeer. Lucky people to have had the opportunity to work and play with each other and at the fabulous Banff Center in Canada. Jealous? Just a little 🙂