Learning missions, reflections on learning design, tango ideas, book recommendations

How to socialize research findings through an Insights Activation Journey

When you do a qualitative research study, you get close to the people you're researching. You start to understand them, you start to really care about them. Interviewing someone is actually a very intimate experience. As you develop your report, you can really see how your client could be helping them. You get excited about the potential. 

And then, you deliver your debrief. Maybe you simply email a PowerPoint, or you give an in-person presentation. For most researchers, that's the end. I encourage us to see this moment as the beginning. Because all the those great findings are now the input into a socialization and integration journey — the actual journey where real change starts to happen.  

When you care about a project, you want to know what happened to the insights you shared in your debrief. You'll wonder and hope your client was able to integrate the thinking, to find new ways to serve. But without a structure, it's difficult to facilitate that process and stay part of the dialogue. Often, researchers simply move on to the next thing. 

It's great to see more research consultancies offering Insights Activation workshops. Yet, as a learning experience designer, I see that change needs time to unfold. No matter how well a workshop is designed, most teams will also need a structured period of activation following that — a few weeks during which they are facilitated to have the many conversations that help them wrestle with findings and implications together.

To address this need that I've heard from so many insights colleagues, I've drawn on my work as a peer-to-peer learning facilitator to create the Insights Activation Journey. Please let me know if you'd like to integrate this journey into your next project. I'd love to work with you to bring it into being. 

Why don't education brands do insights-driven branding?

I have a foot in two worlds. On the one hand, I'm an artist and arts educator, designing and facilitating learning experiences that transform learners and their relationships with one another and the world.

On the other hand, I'm a brand and marketing strategist, using insights from qualitative research to help companies connect more easily with their audience. 

Recently, I've been struck by how few educators use the power of qualitative research to inform their branding and marketing activities. There are many reasons why they don't use these tools. There may be a cultural bias against marketing research. But often, it comes down to lack of time, money, and skills. 

To address this need, I developed a simple, lightweight basic research skills training to help non-profits and mission-driven educators learn how to interview prospective learners so they can build stronger brands.

If you have an incredible, transformative learning offering, course, certificate program or degree and are wondering why people aren't banging down your door to enroll, the issues may lie in your branding, marketing, or website. Please reach out if you'd like to get your team trained in how to easily integrate a baseline of friendly marketing research into your work. 

Silences that let us access deeper ideas

Photo by Boris Smokrovic, Unsplash

Photo by Boris Smokrovic, Unsplash

Many meetings are a blur of nonstop talking. We arrive, chitchat, we get into the subject, some talk more and some less, we wrap things up and head right to our next meeting.

A colleague recently told me about Amazon's Silent Start protocol. Brilliant! I imagine that creating a spacious interval for people to connect with themselves, and their deeper responses to the material, dramatically increases the quality of their interaction.

My own experience of the power of silence in groups began when I took Otto Scharmer's course on awareness-based systems change. Each person's sharing was followed by a timed period of 2-3 minutes of silence, for everyone to integrate what was shared. I always found this helped me listen more fully, and respond from a deeper place.

When people meet to work in pairs, silence is uncommon. But, my own experience is that it can be highly productive in this context, too. That's why so many learning missions that utilize structured, timed AB sharing also include timed silence. A pattern that works in many contexts is:

  • 3-8 minutes - Person A shares in response to a probe or question
  • 1-2 minutes - Timed silence
  • 3-5 minutes - Person B reflects back what came up for them during the sharing
  • 8-10 minutes - Timed dialogue
  • ~20 minutes - Repeat, with roles switched

We know that silence is good for the brain. Let's find ways to bring it consciously into our conversations, too. If you'd like to learn more about structured ways to bring the power of silence into your organization through peer- and mission-based learning, I'd love to chat...and share silence, too!

Facilitating a culture of appreciation

Photo by Diego Ph, Unsplash

Photo by Diego Ph, Unsplash

At the end of every meeting, every dinner party, or every learning session, my friend Andrei calls for appreciations.

The format is simple: Each person, in turn, says one thing they appreciate about themselves, and one thing they appreciate about each of the others who are there.

It's genius. It helps everyone leave feeling really, really warm and happy. It provides a mirror where we each learn how we contributed to the experience of our peers, whether they be friends, acquaintances, or colleagues.

In this context, the opportunity to share "one thing that I appreciate about myself" also adds a special dimension. I have the opportunity to highlight a dimension that others may not be aware of. For instance:

  • "I appreciate that I rallied and made it out even though I was tired."
  • "I appreciate that although I felt frustrated, I didn't get defensive when I heard your feedback."
  • "I appreciate all the preparation that I did to make this meeting go smoothly."

Appreciation can be a rich well of interpersonal learning, if intentionally incorporated into a learning culture. As you explore the potential of bringing peer-to-peer learning into your organization or learning ecosystem, remember the power of structure reciprocal appreciations.

There are many ways to incorporate these and I'd be happy to share my experiences and help develop the kind of learning chrysalis that helps new cultural ideas like this become the norm.

How a library of peer-learning missions can build your team

Photo by Nik MacMillan, Unsplash

Photo by Nik MacMillan, Unsplash

Let's say you're ready to bring the power of peer-to-peer learning to your organization or inter-organizational ecosystem. And you have a cohort that's ready to test it out.

A library of learning missions that people can self-facilitate, that help them have rewarding conversations and build deeper connections, can support a long-term p2p initiative that has transformative, ongoing benefits.

Learning missions (as I call them) provide a light and flexible format built around structured reciprocity. Many people I've worked with find that learning missions help interactions be more consistently rewarding.

The benefits of using missions for 1:1 interactions

I've learned that many people have a hard time listening fully and deeply, while also simultaneously finding ways to contribute meaningful ideas to a conversation.

Also, many people have difficulty accessing their own intuition — their subtler, more refined thoughts, that are more likely to have transformative effects — while either person is talking.

Elements like timed AB sharing solves this. Here is how it works in the context of a mission. In this particular 30-minute mission, which I call "Integration Session," the purpose is for the pair to explore the implications of new insights. One of the participants is responsible for time-keeping.

  • 10 minutes - Both read the new content (memo, slide, article) and write reflections
  • 4 minutes - Person A shares their response to the content (thoughts, feelings, ideas)
  • 2 minutes - Person B reflects back what they heard A say
  • 2 minutes - A adds clarifications, corrections, or additional ideas
  • 2 minutes - B sums up what they now understand, that they didn't before
  • 10 minutes - Repeat the 4-2-2-2 in opposite roles

Toward a more empathic culture that honors diverse communication styles

It's very likely that your organization holds huge diversity in how people engage with others — and that each person's capacities to connect are highly context-dependent.

And, it's critical to remember that past trauma can deeply constrain what kinds of thoughts, ideas, and fluencies are accessible for someone when they are in interaction with others.

As you work to create more a empathic and co-creative culture, remember that completely unstructured conversation just isn't that comfortable or productive for many people. Consider how a set of tailor-made learning missions can help your team reach its fullest potential.

I've developed and tested scores of missions through my exploration of a wide range of modalities, including authentic relating, nonviolent communication, contact improvisation, and even Argentine tango. Please contact me if you'd like to explore how this resource might help you get your mission library started!

Simple ways to pair people for learning

Photo By Aleksandra Mazur, Unsplash

Photo By Aleksandra Mazur, Unsplash

When you start bringing the magic of peer-to-peer learning to your organization or community, one of the first things you encounter is the puzzle of how to pair people up.

When a facilitator pairs people up, instead of having them find their own partners, it removes awkwardness and wasted time. It connects each person to someone they can learn from and with quickly. It optimizes the whole group's learning.

Over thousands of tango workshops I have facilitated these past fifteen years or so, I've experimented with dozens of methods to pair people up. Some work far better than others!

For organizational learning contexts, it's important to be aware of the larger outcomes you have in mind. Here is a very simple approach:

  • Is your goal community building? Pair people up using a random strategy. Use any random method, like drawing names from a hat, or a tool like RandomCoffee, Coffee Roulette, or S'Up.
  • Is your goal skill development? Pair people up using a resonance strategy. When people are learning new skills, it can helpful to work with peers who are similar to them in some ways but who have more skill in the area being developed.
  • Is your goal transformation? Pair people up using a dissonance strategy. To drive cultural transformation and many change initiatives, maximum growth and learning comes from pairing people who come from different worlds.

There is a lot more detail I could add about how we might define resonance vs dissonance, and what factors to consider, which I'll address in a future article.

In the next piece, I'll share some examples of learning missions for each of these contexts. If you'd like to learn more about bringing peer-to-peer learning to your organization, please contact me or have a look at the Learning Chrysalis work I do.

Just the beginning of peer-to-peer connecting - what's next?

Photo by Blake Wisz, Unsplash

Photo by Blake Wisz, Unsplash

It's been great to see a flowering of facilitated peer-to-peer connecting. Organizations and their leadership are really seeing the power of one-on-one conversations to build culture.

Most people would like to have more social contact than they do. Most peoples' work can be enriched by thoughtful connecting. Simply facilitating 1:1 conversations can reduce isolation and fragmentation, build empathy and understanding, and help ideas and creativity flow.

My favorite instances of facilitated 1:1 connecting:

  • Random Coffees. People in an organization who opt in get randomly paired up with someone they don't know to have coffee together. I first found out about these through Ryan Holmes' piece, which links to lots of fun similar initiatives.
  • S'Ups. Ilya Kavalerov built this app that generates fresh random triads every week, bringing people from different parts of the organization together for a 20 minute "standing meeting" that sparks fresh connections and builds community.
  • The People Walker. A guy in Hollywood offers his services to go on walks with people, helping them enjoy movement and social contact. It's grown quickly - now there are People Walkers all over LA!

Now, I see these as the start of something bigger and deeper. What if pairing (or trio-ing) people up is only the beginning? My experiences with authentic relating, nonviolent communication, and, yes, Argentine tango show me the incredibly co-creative potential that people in pairs can access, if they have the right structure and facilitation.

In the next few articles, I'll share how we can tap this potential more fully in an organizational context.