Why Workshop Fail and How they Win

Tips for more brainpower to rev up workshops

People constantly complain that workshops waste time, and yet rarely work to spark lasting change or innovative improvements. Have you found that to be true? If so you’re likely looking at the kind of workshop format created long before the neuro-discoveries that call traditional meeting approaches into question.

Tips  discovered over 25 years of offering MITA workshops in many countries:

1). Ask more than you tell. Start with laying out your bare-boned plan for the session, and invite participants to add or subtract from your offering. Then toss out  two-footed questions to rev up brainpower, along the way. In larger groups use pair-sharing to address the topic. In smaller groups pass a talking stick so that all have opportunity to add wisdom and offer experiences.  To listen to you gains folks about 5% retention, to teach others as they learn themselves retains about 90%.

2). Vary methods to ensure idea growth. Avoid the ping pong approach to sharing ideas, where ideas all must come back to you before they bounce out again to group members. Technology becomes a trigger for brilliant ideas, when used to segue into human interactions that spark dynamite connections and lead to changed practices. Similarly, theory is a useful prong for change – only if it converts into redesigned approaches. Opportunities to test its claims in practical applications.  Just the novelty of different approaches, can stoke innovative pathways forward.

3). Apply key facts as they emerge. People come to workshops with working memory that engages only a few facts at a time, retains only those insights used, and replaces most information as soon as new facts appear. If you’ve seen wild enthusiasm at workshops, yet very little carryover into organizational change this is one chief reason. New ideas need to hook to experiences, and extend into practices before they can change routines and ruts that hold back many workplaces.

4). Exchange critical thinking for lateral reflection, that leads to application of new ideas. We’ve found that critical thinking gets watered down to criticize all new ideas. Rather than naysayers, bullies or cynics jumping in to demolish ideas when change threatens their insecurities, lateral thinking can extend ideas into innovation and invention. Use terms such as, Added to you ideas ____; Have you also considered _____; In addition to your idea here ____.

5). Follow-up with opportunities to apply and test the ideas. Unless ideas are applied, they cannot create the change people long for to rejuvenate broken workplaces. Feel good meetings may make disgruntled workers laugh or play a bit, but they too often plaster Band-Aids on sore spots,  without nurturing innovative change that current organizations crave.

Tell us how you reboot brainpower to ensure workshops spark innovation and lead to lasting improvements.

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