Hugh MacLeod over at gapingvoid has revisited an oldie and a goodie of his.  In a “same same but different” way, it reminds me of the improv principle – Start Anywhere. One bite at a time and all that.






Last week I headed south to Melbourne to join in on the joy, goodness and learning that was AIN Downunder 2012  - Thriving in Uncertainty.  Before dinner on the first night, we were treated to four performances. One of these was from  Impro Melbourne who invited visiting actors (Glenn Hall from Just Improvise, Nick Byrne from Impro ACT, Jill Bernard and Andrew McMasters) to join them in the game How About This?

Taking turns to come up with an idea to play with, someone asks “How about this ……………”.  If nobody jumps in to play, the proponent of the idea jumps up and is cheered and clapped as they leave the stage.  If someone does choose to play, everyone works with that person to make it happen.

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you presented an idea that didn’t fly, you received a positive response for putting it out there?  And isn’t it also a good thing when people grab your idea with open arms and run with it as a team?

In a conversation during a breakout workshop the next day, Jason Geary shared why he likes this game so much.  As improv actors, they are trained to be able to respond to anything that’s thrown at them (or offered) from an audience or a fellow actor.  They often have no choice.

Jason explained that the play that emerges from How About This?, where actors can choose to accept (or not) what’s on offer, creates a different energy because one idea lights a spark in someone.  Using this game as a platform, we were treated to a great expo of improv from a very talented group of people many of whom had never worked together before.  Yes.  The spark’s the thing.


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Following my last post and Frédéric Domon’s points about the social nature of learning and how “80% of learning is unexpected, unplanned and informal”, I was happy to fall across this post from Sam McNerney as I was doing a little curating

McNerney on his site, Why We Reason, differentiates between the benefits of solitude when getting on with work and the necessity of a ‘coffeehouse’ setting to enlightened idea generation.  As an aside, I really loved this image that Sam used to illustrate his post.

Coffeehouse picture per Why We Reason

The reality of great ideas is that they require other people.

He goes on, with reference to Steven Berlin Johnson, to dis brainstorming – a process not without critics since the late 1940s.

The problem with brainstorming is its tendency to treat people and their ideas too kindly. Criticism and error are essential in the formation of good ideas after all; brainstorming simply doesn’t facilitate this.


Quoting Charlan Nemeth and others testing the “potential value of permitting criticism and dissent”

The exchange of ideas amongst people is good, then, but an overly agreeable brainstorming session is certainly not”.

So, ideas are best generated amongst groups of people

  • in social and conversational environments
  • who gather informally – over lunch, coffee, sitting on the floor, shooting the breeze, banging tankards on the table
  • in an atmosphere where criticism, debate and turning ideas on their head is encouraged and supported
  • who take responsibility for being in the mix of ideas and helping them develop

Here’s to the unexpected and informal.  And to minds and hearts open to a bit of robust debate and movement in the way we think about the world.


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I’m taking time to catch up on what’s new and/or look in places I haven’t looked before.

iStockphoto image

This week I discovered, when someone ‘scooped’ an item of mine from another blog. It provides and will provide a wealth of ideas and new sources in the future. not only lets you ‘curate’ material you are interested in from your current known sources, it also provides the opportunity to follow other curators and their collections.  As the items come up in newspaper format, it’s more fun to browse than a regular reader. I’m looking forward to refining my sources and perhaps adding new topics to the mix.

This post from Frédéric Domon at the Socialearning blog talks about the social nature of learning and how “80% of learning is unexpected, unplanned and informal” (referencing David A Cofer). Domon includes this 4C model for learning both within an organisation and externally that….

facilitates acquiring and diffusing knowledge within social networks via an iterative and fractal process that can be summarised in four steps.

Image - SociaLearning - Frédéric Domon

I like that it starts with conversation and that the approach builds in transparency across an organisation.

This transparency encourages access to the people and information that we may need to make good decisions. It is the consequence of the open and multidirectional communication made possible by social tools. It can’t be imposed or forced.

Frederic Domon touches on the threat to the “command and control” model that stifles (my word) so much sharing of knowledge.  Social networks, through their ability to open up conversations anywhere are pointing to a new way of working which Domon calls “connect and animate”.

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I’ve been anticipating the release of the film Hugo this week.  So I enjoyed reading this post by David Herbert and his cogitations on horological spare parts.

What if there are no spare parts? What if every part of our biodiversified universe has its part to play? What if nothing or no-one is redundant? While our human drives are shaped by the principles of the “survival of the fitting” our organisational thinking should be challenged by working out the role of the square peg, and not just the round peg for the round hole. Neither round pegs or square pegs are spare parts.There are no misfits. Even the orphan in his secret hideaway in the clock tower is no misfit, but has his vital part to play.

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It’s been a while folks.  The last half of 2011 was full of work and changes.

I’m easing my way back from a break from the blog with a couple of links to posts I liked.  As I settle into a new home, office and year, I’m looking forward to getting back on the blog bike!

Thinking you know the answers can be a barrier to breaking through.  Here’s Ben Ziegler on the value of “I don’t know

And getting to that break through can be uncomfortable.  Viv McWaters explores game and conversation breakdowns. workshops, meetings – Brisbane, Sydney, Australia

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I have owned Gamestorming – A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers for two weeks. Already I know it is going to join my go-to ‘flip and dip’ reference books, as opposed to the occasional ‘flip through and wonder why I bought it in the first place’ book.  A collaboration of Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo, this compilation of games and activities is one of the best I’ve seen.

Experienced facilitators will be familiar with much of the content.  Yet it works really well as a reminder of oldies but goodies and for introducing new ideas and adaptations.

For those not so experienced, it has enough substance and clarity to guide you through your first time with any one of the activities.  The addition of time frames and ranges for the number of participants is also useful. Most of the items acknowledge the originator of the concepts thus providing great source references for those who want to explore more of the same.

Last week I was looking for a way to gently introduce a story telling session at a workshop.   I found it in Gamestorming.  It worked a treat with some adaptations to suit the circumstance.

Head over here for the Gamestorming blog.

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This morning I began to wonder about focus groups.  As I am not a product researcher or marketer, I have only questions.  I’ve found no leads as to how and where focus groups originated.  My instinct tells me that the first of their kind may have taken place in the United States and that they were focused on the effectiveness of particular soap powders or why certain breakfast cereals, jeans or vehicles are purchased.

In Australia today, focus groups are being used to assist political parties to develop policy and national responses to problems much more complex than my preference for a particular brand of chocolate.

Things I wonder if focus groups are held in a political context.

- do focus groups represent the whole community or only those who live in marginal electorates?

- when did we become customers instead of citizens?

- how do people get selected for focus groups?  Is the method different depending on the topic?

- who frames the questions and what kinds of questions are asked, for example, if we’re talking about immigration policy or climate change or aged care

- what weight do focus groups have on decision making?

- do governments ever ignore the outcome of a focus group they have commissioned?  If so, why?

- do focus groups in this context spend time on one issue (focus) on one or many (scatter gun) issues?

- who runs the focus groups and how is the material reported back to the decision makers?

I’d be interested to know.

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I really like this simple and elegant quiz using 6 lego pieces from the team at Gamechangers and the game opportunities presented when 6 people meet and see what emerges from playing together.


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Yesterday when I looked up, this is what I saw.  Today and tomorrow and the next day it will be different.

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