Posts Tagged ‘facilitation’

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idea generation tools for the lonely head

January 3, 2014

Two heads are better than one. Yes. Sometimes that is correct. But other times, there’s only one head to think of ideas or solutions. So what’s that head to do?

Creativity can be taught, nurtured, and enhanced. We are all born with it. In fact, the right brain part  – responsible for ideas, intuition, love and absorbing information fast – is developed faster in the fetus than the left brain that is in charge of rational, linear or logical thinking. Geniuses are no different than any of us. They are not smarter by birth, but they know how to balance logic with play and therefore think smarter, a tool anyone can learn

Luckily, there are hundreds of tools to generate ideas. Sadly, not many people use those tools regularly. There is a strong correlation between the quality and the quantity of ideas. There’s a need to try many ideas in order to generate something groundbreaking. My intention here is to showcase some simple tools, each can be done in 5 minutes or less, and require nothing but a pen and paper to produce a lot of ideas to solve one problem or challenge. And remember, just like Einstein claimed, sometimes imagination is more important than knowledge.

CHANGE THE WORD

A simple change of words or the order of words in a problem statement will stimulate your imagination by adding new dimensions of meaning, as an unobservable process in your mind has initiated and may lead to a new thought or idea, says Michael Michalko  in his book, Cracking Creativity. Suppose you want to increase sales. See how you can change perspectives by changing the verb:

In what ways might I increase sales?

In what ways might I attract sales?

In what ways might I develop sales?

In what ways might I extend sales?

In what ways might repeat sales?

In what ways might I stop sales?

Notice the last question has a negative aspect. By thinking in the opposite way, you can rid your mind from all the reasons why you cannot make sales. And when you set to plan, plan the opposite.

Using the same exercise, try to change the words in your challenge. If you look at the opening between two rooms and think door, that’s the only idea you will get. But if you consider another word like passageway, air curtain, tunnel, or even a hole in a wall, you will bring your thinking into a different lateral level.

PROVOCATIVE STATEMENT  

Deliberately ask stupid questions to shock your mind out of its original patterns. Then suspend judgment and use that statement to generate ideas. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make a statement (examples: people should fly to work, we should eat for free in restaurants, people need to sleep standing up)
  1. Examine it
    1. Consequences of the statement
    2. What the benefits would be
    3. What special circumstances will make it a sensible solution
    4. Principles needed to support it and make it work.
    5. How it would work moment-to-moment
    6. What would happen if a sequence of events was changed

The more outrageous your statement is, the more creative your ideas to try and make it work. It’s worth a try.

CONCEPT FAN

Take a step back to look at the bigger picture.

Place your problem in a bubble (draw it) and then produce the ideas or solutions that you can think of for this problem. Next, move that problem into a bigger area or category. Come up with ideas or solutions for that bigger issue. Repeat another time if needed and then choose the level at which you find an inspiring solution.

concept fan

5 WHYS  + HOW

Are you solving the right problem? Or is it a symptom of it? To find out the right level at which you need to focus, do the 5 whys method. Write your problem down, and ask yourself “why” do I need to do it. Write your answer down (so now you have 2 sentences written on top of each other). Then ask again, why (for the second statement) and write the third response and then ask again, why. Do that 5 times and each time you will reach a higher level of abstract thinking. Make sure to write your answers on top of each other with the “why” in between each sentence.

Then go for the “how” and next to each sentence you wrote, ask “How” and give an idea or two on how you can solve the problem at that level, and at each level consequently. Once you’ve answered all 5 hows, you can see your problem, and some initial ideas on different levels of abstraction. Choose the one you are comfortable with to try out and continue from there. Here’s an example. The first “steps” WHY are in blue, the second steps HOW are in orange

Choose the level which you are comfortable (and able) to work with and generate as many ideas as you can to solve that issue.

how how

DECOMPOSITION BY SEQUENCE

There are a number of ways to decompose a challenge to smaller more workable bits. One can decompose it based on sequence of events. If it’s a product to be used, then what are the steps to use such product (from needing the product, to looking for it, finding it, using and then releasing or archiving it). If it’s a service, then those are the steps to accomplish it. Note down the sequence of steps as a diagram and then work on each one to generate more ideas on how to improve that step. For example, how to make our morning routines go smoother and maybe faster. We note the steps and then we find a way to combine, shorten or eliminate unnecessary ones

decompose sequence

IMAGINE YOU ARE YOUR PROBLEM

What if you were the very same idea you are trying to come up with. What if you were the project you’re trying to complete at work. How does it if feel to get close to a “dead” line? How could you be easier to handle? Who do you need to speak with when you are happy? When suffering? Imagine yourself a watch or a chair. How could you become more attractive? More comfortable? How can you make others want to be around you, and you only?

CREATE A METAPHOR

Roger von Oech advices in his Creative Whack Pack that the key to metaphorical thinking is comparing unrelated concepts and finding similarities between them. What similarities does your idea have with cooking a meal? Conducting an orchestra? Building a house? Raising a child? What can you compare your idea to?

SIMPLIFY

Explain your problem to a 5 years old. What would you say? Explain it to your great grandmother. How would you relate? Simplify your language to get a clearer image of what you’re up against.

PUT ON A HAT

write a random list of jobs that are as far from your immediate life as possible. A nurse, a truck driver, an architect, a fire fighter or a winter sports olymian. State your problem as you see it, then re-state it thinking how would that person in one of those professions see it. Then generate ideas from his/her point of view.

For example, if your problem is manging the overloaded sales for a particular product, you can ask, how would a nurse manage  an overloaded ICU unit, giving each patient what they need, when they need it? how would a truck driver manage an overloaded vehicle or an overloaded street? how would a fire fighter mange to take care of a full “overloaded” building that has a fire alarm set and no sign of fire, yet. Write ideas for each new hat you are wearing, then re-group all ideas and see which ones you can alter or change or use as it is for your overloaded sales problem

NATURE’S PROBLEM SOLVING

Use what you know about nature in imagining your problem from its perspective. Choose an animal you are familiar with, and ask yourself how would this animal solve your problem? Do the exercise another time and choose a plant, and then a third time and chose an insect. Repeat.

…….  Now that you have a number of tools to work with, let me know which one did magic for you and which was lame. I will add more tools or ideas to help you out whether you are a long, or with a group of people, anything from 2 to 200 people. Good Luck. Cheers!

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Bringing facilitation into the classroom

February 22, 2012

The word facilitation comes from the Latin facilis, which means to make easy. While normally, facilitation is used in organizations and companies trying to figure out solutions to their problems, it is alos a skill, if applied correctly in a classroom environment will help students learn through self-discovery using techniques that encourage sharing group’s knowledge and experience. It is a learner-centered method of teaching. You share control with students and let them decide, with you, on the path the class should take.

Process vs. Content

The facilitator is the process expert, and not necessarily the master of knowledge; the one who’s responsible for keeping track of logistics, timing, idea flow, and group development.I say  not the master of knowledge because he or she normally would not concern themselves with providing information directly, but rather the group members’ involvement in learning all the data themselves. This position of neutrality must be understood and practiced by the teacher if the students’ potential is to be fully reached. And with a position title as “Instructor, Lecturer, or professor”, this is not always easy.

In an ideal classroom that uses the facilitative method, the content would be the subject matter, the facts, data, and background information are the responsibility of the students who have the freedom to decide to get more information, continue to work with what they have, or choose a different area to focus on. It will be their job to bring and study the material, put their thoughts in it, and make decisions on the subject matter. The teacher in such a class simply leads the process, guides the students through it, and brings to their attetion where to locate the information and which is the most important.

Personal Experience

Teaching studends about the principles of design and ordering in the Architecture Design Studios at the undergraudate level fits the profile of the environment that requires a facilitative teacher. The students were given a suggestion of a book that taught the basics, but they were free to bring other material. They learned about the subject and experimented in class on their new findings. There were no lectures per se, it was more like bringing all the information to the same table and sharing it. Every class had different information, material, and pictures to share. The basics were always visible to all. My role was certainly just to help them go through the design process, from understanding the situation, researching the facts, sketching out initial ideas, developing the promising ones, and finaly making decisions, all the while continuing on prototyping their solution to perfection. As you imagine, in such a studio, it’s easy to apply such a role, but what about “theory” classes?

With some imagination, one might be able to pull out a facilitator mode every now and then. By definition, these classes require an “expert” giving the informaiton and explaining the theories. But what if the students were required to pre-read before class? then perhaps the instructor can offer exercises for them to experiment with their newfound information straight away. What if they could be given contrasting or un-true facts?  This might be a good job for them to debate it in class and find the right answer.

Designing your course

Many educators make the mistake of thinking that their extensive knowledge makes them good at helping others learn. Although what you teach is a cornerstone for students at college, it will make little difference if you do not know how to engage the minds of your audience effectively. Words alone will not ensure transfer of knowledge to others. To really take advantage of student-led methods in teaching, be careful not to assume the role of “expert” automatically and continuously during the course. For active learning to happen, use activities that will force students to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities in passing their grades. With all the resources available at your fingertips, there is little reason for you to do all the work in stimulating learning. You want your students to think, discuss, feel, and act using as many senses as they can engage. Rather than giving them answers, provide the theory, tools, support, and an opportunity for them to resolve issues.

Anne Davidson writes in The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook about three levels of the process. First, process designs structure the whole facilitation or a major portion of it. This addresses the students’ purpose for taking the course, their goals after completing it, assignments and projects to assess their knowledge, etc. Methods are more specific processes used to move the group through a series of steps (for example using the Design Thinking or the Creative Problem Solving models). At the most micro level, tools represent discrete activities used within a method. To emphasize divergent and convergent tools for example, one can use brainstorming or card sorting, consecutively.

If you’re thinking of changing the format of your next class, try one of these methods:

Open ended questions: encourage input and feedback

Small group learning: form small groups to address parts of the problem

Teacher-led discussions: Use dialog to draw from the collective knowledge of students.

Group learning: When you need to get consensus or teach a theory

Team activities: Exercises, Games, Role plays all enhance class time

Peer Coaching: out-of-class practice or rehearsal can provide feedback.

Individual learning: out-of-class work to ensure the full value of the course is met

Participant teaching: Presetations are an excellent method of a practiced skill.

The above were examples adapted from Robert Lucas’s The Creative Training Idea Book. Take the time to choose appropriate learning techniques as you design your course. Mix up the format to provide variety, contrast, and stimulation for yourself and your learners. Most importantly, have fun with it.

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Design thinking for the mass.

November 11, 2008

 

Yesterday was day one of the Design Thinking for Social Innovation workshop.

The group was very diverse, vibrant and simply brilliant. We have about 14 in the class plus 3 facilitators, Helene was leading the workshop, and me and Deborah as side kicks. It was hosted by the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, Canada

 

What was different about it this time, that it was the first time I am engaged in offering Design Thinking to an open group. Usually it’s more like one organization or a group of people who want to tackle a certain issue and we go through the process together. Having the group come from different backgrounds and experiences was refreshing to see as the evening evolved and topics were covered in the shortest time I’ve seen them before. Yet, isn’t this how it’s supposed to be?

 

Since the age of time, or even longer, architects and other designers have been teaching their students how to use sketching and drawing not only to translate their ideas for others to see, but also as a mechanism to work out certain details that help in solving their problems. Now the world is “discovering” those Design Studios, embracing their mechanism and finding ways to adapt it to their everyday lives. Something both challenging as well as exciting for those non-designers among us.

 

So here it is, design thinking for the mass.

 

I’ll build on the workshops’ material and focus on one model at a time. Let’s start by the d school model in design thinking and work our way to others as needed.

 

Cheers

Randah