Thiagi on facilitation…

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Here at the Improv conference Thiagi has just presented a great day long session on training/facilitation. He covered a lot of ground, so I just wanted to blog a few points that most interested me.

He referred to research he’s done on how much people learn whilst listening to lectures. He set a test at the end of a short lecture and found that people scored only about 19% after a normal lecture. Then he tried something different – using the same lecture but interspersing breaks. During the breaks, the audience formed groups and had to set questions for a quiz, based on the lecture, with which to test other audience members. In another variation, he actually ran the quiz too. With the question-setting built in (and without actually doing the quiz), the test scores soared to 82%. Actually adding the intermittent quiz moved the final results to 96% – so just the exercise of setting the questions had the most impact.

At the very least, a great way to improve attentiveness to a lecture, and a good example of the importance of creating interactivity in learning.

Another anecdote also resonated for me. He decided to try to determine the key skills of facilitation. To do so, he did a thorough behavioural analysis of 10 highly-rated facilitators, hoping to find common elements. And found none. Then he tried taking just one facilitator doing 10 different sessions – and still found no common elements to their practice. Finally, he had the same facilitator do the same session with ten different groups – same result. His conclusion – the only common factor in great facilitation is flexibility. I have to say I like the sound of that.

Perhaps it won’t be a surprise to learn that Thiagi is very critical of over-preparation for facilitation, as it is likely to undermine the flexibility (responsiveness to circumstance) that seems to be the key to success. So his facilitator training gives people experiences of varying all sorts of factors – eg speed, degree of personal revelation, level of activity etc. I don’t think that this can be the whole story – but I think an ability to vary style can be very important.

And a nice fun exercise for a group to learn new behaviour. Get a few volunteers to play a few rounds of “The world’s worst…” – a game you might have seen played on Whose Line is it Anyway. So if the subject is, say, skilled ways to check out assumptions with people, get the team to come up with lots of examples of doing it really rudely… and then have the audience discuss and uncover what doesn’t work – and so learn from each other what does. Nice one, I hope I get the chance to try it myself!

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