168 Nine Lessons for Trainers and Facilitators

YES! AND… Collaborate. Innovate. Transform – Creative Gorilla #168

 What lessons did you learn in the last 12 months to help you in future? 

9 Lessons for Trainers and Facilitators

Out walking

“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.” Leonardo Da Vinci

Out walking recently, I thought back over the last twelve months and concluded it had been really enjoyable and interesting business year for me, with three projects that stood out.  As I walked, I considered new lessons I had learned or old lessons reinforced from those projects. Here they are; I trust they might provoke some thoughts for fellow Gorillas.

Revenue and bid course

I co – designed and facilitated a three – day course for sales and marketing people on revenue awareness and responding to tenders. I ran this for a client in several Asian countries, sometimes with multi-cultural groups, sometimes single culture groups.

Lesson 1 – Building the right climate works for all cultures

If you encourage people to collaborate quickly, you help to avoid cultural issues. Whatever course or workshop I facilitate, I use a similar process to that you can find in Creative Gorilla 164. While this article focuses on building an innovation climate, you can use the method to build a micro culture in any meeting or course. As my experience in many countries and now Asia proves to me, it works in single and multi-cultural groups anywhere.

Lesson 2 – Accelerated learning works globally

Accelerated Learning (AL) actively involves the whole person, using physical activity, creativity, music, images, colour, and other methods designed to have people become involved more deeply in their own learning.  It works across cultures. The principles I use are:

  • Foster collaboration (As Lesson 1 and throughout a workshop)
  • Create a stimulating physical environment
  • Build a great learning climate
  • Engage the participants
  • Inject variety
  • Involve the real world.

I explain these further in Creative Gorilla 14. The physical climate in Asia was not always the best and sometimes overcrowded, but the lesson here is to work with what you are given, focus on the other points and you can still succeed.

Solution Focus SOL Event Germany

This was a very successful three-day international event I helped run in Germany for 120 Solution Focus (SF) practitioners. Working with four others we planned the event using an SF approach and designed and ran it on SF and AL principles.

Lesson 3 – Stand in their shoes

With your team, walk through an event you are organising (or any customer experience), from the moment an attendee arrives in the town (by aircraft, train etc.) to the point they depart. Imagine what they are thinking and feeling at each step. Think how you can improve on their perception. Keep doing this through the organisation period and through the event. Take some risks. Some will not succeed, many more will.

Lesson 4  – A successful team might not be a happy team

I have worked on many successful teams but have not always been happy. On this successful team, I was very happy. I reflected that there is no perfect formula to create a successful team, but to be happy on a successful team you must share and live similar values.

Lesson 5 – A happy and successful team is a virtuous circle

Working happily on a successful team is inspiring and motivating for many people. Or is it that being inspired and motivated makes for a happy and successful team? I think it is a virtuous circle. The two feed on each other. This is one reason for using the “small steps” approach we use in Solution Focus, having the team take a small step to motivate them and start the virtuous cycle.

Team Impetus

Last year I created a model to give teams impetus, based on my experience with Solution Focus and facilitating teams. When asked to run a training course in Belgium, I designed it around the model. While nervous about presenting a course for the first time to experienced SF practitioners, the workshop was a career highlight.

Lesson 6 – Follow your intuition and the team

There was a difference of opinion towards the end of Day 1 when some participants suggested they preferred to elicit much more detail about a team’s description of the future than I had done, (I tend to leave detail for a later step).

Rather than ignore their concerns and follow my agenda, my intuition told me to address the issue. Overnight, I came up with another exercise to meet their needs and it worked well. Though the lost time gave me some difficulty, giving the team what they needed created a very positive climate.

Lesson 7 – Words are just descriptors

I was nervous about presenting the model and spent much time refining the words for each step. Half way through the course, I realised that no matter how long you spend refining a description, someone will interpret it differently. Just keep the words as simple as possible to reduce the risk of misinterpretation.

Lesson 8 – Encourage questions to elicit innate knowledge

I gave detailed written instructions about the tools and how people could use them. While the group appreciated this, people spoke to me afterwards and told me how valuable they had found my responses to questions. I realised that no matter how much we try to share our experience explicitly, we have innate knowledge that often needs questions from others to elicit. What we think is unimportant may be important to others.

Lesson 9 – Involve others

After drawing my first model I showed it to a few practitioners who gave me some good insights. I amended it and took it to a conference where I workshopped it with 20 people. This gave me fantastic insights and I completely redesigned the model. The model is a 1000% better than when I started. “Involve others” is such a great creative principle. Yes there is some risk but the benefits far outweigh them.


Think back over the last twelve months.. Write the lessons you learned.

To Close

Hundreds of students went through my OU creativity residential school weekends. Some are very memorable for their enthusiasm, love of life, warmth or other quality. Literally half way through writing this article, I received an e-mail to inform me that one of these students had succumbed to illness, though she achieved her MBA. The note stopped me in my tracks.

Although I had only known Doina for a few short days at the school and a subsequent workshop, she was full of life and curiosity.  Her husband linked me to a deeply moving short video he had shot of her, “The Princess”. It won a prize at the Disposable Film Festival in 2011 and you can view it here, but be aware that whilst inspiring, it might be hard to view if you have lost a friend or relative to cancer.

It was a painful reminder and my first lesson for this year  – make the most of the time available to you, especially the next twelve months.

John Brooker I Collaborate, Innovate, Transform.

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