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Anna Carlson

Kaospilots masterclass: the art and craft of facilitating learning spaces

Last week I attended a 3 day masterclass at the Kaospilots business school in Arhus, Denmark. The course was advertised ‘for higher education teachers on the subject of using learning spaces to increase the creativity and innovation of students’ – and attracted an international group from education and other organisations like NixonMcInnes who facilitate learning journeys (like change, transformation programmes) in their work.

The Kaospilots is a hybrid business and design school, a multi-sided education in leadership and entrepreneurship.

Within the course we worked on designing real world programmes for lucky three volunteers from the group who had a live project that they could implement after the course. Within this we were taken through a learning journey ourselves, experiencing different ways of learning and facilitation.

Here are just a few of the key themes / considerations we learned. If you’re at all involved in working with groups, these are some valuable practices to bring into to the way you work together:

1. Learning arcs

The importance of learning arcs: setting them off, landing them, having a balance.

When designing a learning journey (which I think a change programme is) design the arcs. And it’s vitally important to launch and land each arc, not set too many arcs at once, and have a balance throughout the programme. When you feel motivation drifting, confusion from groups or interest waning later down the line, is it because you had a load of arcs at the beginning and less towards the end? Or did you properly land (end/close off) initial arcs you launched? Or have you started an arc without properly launching it?

2. The importance of reflection

Our facilitator Simon explained to us that one third of the focus in the Kaospilots learning programmes is reflection. Reflecting on what was learned, what you learned about yourself, allowing that learning to really land with yourself. This really resonated with me – how often do we move from task to task or project to project without reflecting on our learnings? And how often do we hear that an organisation struggles to hold on to what it learned, and not repeat the same mistakes again and again?

3. Creating connection and developing trust amongst the group

Trust and connection are essential to working well together, because they provide a sense of safety and warmth. When team members feel safe with each other, they feel comfortable to open up, take appropriate risks, and expose vulnerabilities. And when they feel warmth and connection, they have more empathy and are able to be more supportive of eachother.

Without trust there’s less innovation, collaboration, creative thinking, and productivity, and people spend their time protecting themselves and their interests – this is time that should be spent helping the group attain its goals.

Right at the beginning of the three days we did a number of exercises that were designed to create connection and trust amongst the group. It was mind-blowing how much trust and connection there really was amongst the 16 attendees even just by the end of day one, and it stood us in good stead for creating brilliant things together in our groups.

A nice everyday practice to use: check-ins and check-outs

We’ve been doing check-ins for a while now, and if you’ve worked with us chances are you’ve checked-in and out of a meeting or workshop with us. Check-in / outs are a useful practice to help focus a group in the moment, to ask each individual to reflect there and then on what they are bringing to the room and, at the end, what they’re taking away. It helps with creating connection, mindfulness and is a great way to get feedback at the end of a session together.

And here’s one of my favourite exercises, that was simple, fun and really worked as an icebreaker:

The portrait drawing exercise

All participants are asked to take a handful of A4 paper and a marker. Music is then put on, and while the music is on they are asked to walk about, find another participant, introduce themselves, then both draw each other without looking down at the paper.

Once you’ve both finished your drawings, write the person’s name on it, and a question for them, then give them the paper.

Keep moving around the room doing these 10 second drawings with as many people as you can – and until the music stops.

You can use this exercise to lead into a check-in – asking the participants to pick one drawing of themselves, and in the check in explain why you chose it and what it shows about what you intend to bring / be like in today’s session.

The powerful thing about this exercise is that it gets people looking in each other’s eyes – a way of acknowledging the other person’s presence and developing trust. It’s also really fun – it creates a great energy in the room from the off.

And finally…

I was keen to go to understand the Kaospilot experience. I’m a big massive fan of the Kaospilots and all I’ve seen / heard of them. Both Charlie and Max have facilitated workshops at the school, Charlie having been involved with it for over ten years. And I wasn’t disappointed – the course facilitator, Simon, created a great space and had tonnes of experience and wisdom from his years of facilitating and teaching. The group of 16 of us who attended really bonded with and supported eachother. I came away with a happy glow and with the feeling that I’d had a very special few days :)

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One Comment

  1. Belinda

    Hi Anna,

    Really love this. Thanks for sharing. I’m planning on using the portrait drawing exercise to kick of a workshop I’m running on Thursday on collaboration strategy . B

    Posted 23rd June 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink