Posted by: phynbarr | August 11, 2008

Learning right from the wrong

Sorry, you’ll have to re-read the title when you’ve read the blog.  It really is a dreadful pun.

 

I read somewhere recently  that the human brain copes better with concrete examples that abstract ones.  And the trouble with having feeds from so many blogs is that I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it.

 

Suffice it to say that it made sense.  It also made sense of the use and advantages of facilitation techniques such a Lego Serious Play because some time ago I was hauled in to help with a really senior managers meeting  (which meant, in fact, that I was just a dogsbody.  And thank goodness too, I would have done it very differently!) and they were grappling with changing from an organisation that provided bespoke remedies to whoever came knocking on their door to one which provided (much as Microsoft does) where you get what it says on the box and you’ll get an upgrade when they’ve developed one.

 

Among all the issues that change encompassed was the fact that you actually needed a very different style of individual to create your bog-standard Microsoft-type package to the one who create bespoke.  But the group who had been sent away to come up with a form of words to describe this (and how they would deal with it) were struggling.

 

Which is where I wished that I had had my Lego Serious Play (or any other Lego, come to that) to hand.  Because it would have been quite easy to demonstrate that building your specialised Lego is very different from rolling our black Fords off a production line

 

However I, as usual, digress.  How does this fit on with “learning from the wrong”?

 

We’ve all sat in “bad” meetings and workshops.  We all know what “bad” looks like.  And one of the most memorable bits of facilitation training I ever experienced took place at the IAF Conference in Baltimore in 2006.

 

The session began with 4 facilitators coming in the room and setting the scene.  Two were wearing white tops and were the “Goodies”.  Two were wearing black and would be the Baddies.  The premise was that the baddies would set off and being to run an appalling workshop (you know, like the ones we’ve all endured at some time) and at pre-scheduled times, the Goodies would halt the workshop and an exposé of the preceding events would take place.

 

Thus ensued one of the most hilarious and educational events I remember.  They did, truly, do everything wrong.  From arguing with each other, to scrawling illegibly on the flipchart.  From ignoring a waving arm to completely mis-interpreting what someone said and writing up something totallydifferent.  They took phones calls, they bickered, they sniped about their (absent!) boss; they assumed previous knowledge and ended up having a stand up fight with a stooge.

 

And we learnt so much.  The discussion was guided – it could otherwise have rambled far and wide – but even without notes, it stays in my memory as a truly educational experience.

 

So why are we all so appalled and scared of learning through failure (and “Yes”, before the Agile Enthusiasts wind up, I know it is a fundamental principle of Agile.  It’s not in education or business)?

 

AND

 

They key part of the learning-through-failure process is good, active, and frequent reviewing. 

 

q  What went wrong?

 

q  Where did it go wrong?

 

q  How did that happen?

 

AND (just to throw a final hobby-horse in with the rest) I am becoming more and more convinced that real learning and reflection often takes place in the gaps.

 

Ask the necessary questions and then allow time to reflect.  It could be minutes, it could be hours or days or weeks.  But you’ll know it’s happened when someone rushes up to you with their insight into what went wrong.

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