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.






Say yes in response to an invitation to spend the day walking and talking.

Show up at the appointed time and place.

Try something new to remember people’s names.

Spend a day without a plan.  Start anywhere.

Make mistakes. Laugh off the signs you miss.

Keep moving. Change your vantage point and refresh your mind.

Pay attention - to names, to stories, to landscapes and weather.

Take care of each other - the small gift of a spoon may mean the difference between breakfast or no breakfast for someone.

Look for ways to play together (and notice the joy it brings to those who may be watching).

Welcome newcomers who drop in.

Be committed – finish what you start and do it with style.

Be average – don’t even think about it.

Wake up to the gifts - of art, of conversation, of each other.

Go home a new way.

With thanks to Matt Moore and Johnnie Moore who made the offer and to everyone who showed up to share the ride.

HT to Patricia Ryan Madson for excerpts from her book Improv Wisdom – Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up.

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Last year, I heard and read Viv McWaters talk and write about her “favourite mantra of the moment – conversations, then relationships, then transactions”. It made sense to me immediately and has become one of my key thinking elements in the design and facilitation of workshops.

I have been playing with it – sometimes openly and other times without specifically using the term – and find that it really makes a difference, particularly for groups who want to go straight to the ‘action planning’ piece – you know – “why we’re here in the first place”.   It’s not purely linear.  Some of those conversations can also lead to the realisation that transactions/agreements won’t take place until there is more understanding of x, y or z.

I am also realising ways that its application (or not) applies personally.  I can’t expect others to step out of their comfort zones unless I’m willing to go there too.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia




Another gem from Hugh MacLeod’s through his daily email cartoon.  You can subscribe here.  Hugh says Ask yourself, have you been inspired today? If not, don’t you think you should do something about it. Like… right this VERY minute? Serious question.


We set out this evening to take advantage of a break in the rain and explore the city during the Vivid Sydney festival.  There’s a celebration of Lachlan Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth in Macquarie Street (where else).  It is 200 years since he arrived in Sydney and, among other achievements, implemented a visionary public works program across New South Wales.

Old Conservatorium

Photo acknowledgement:  University of Sydney – Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

The Conservatorium of Music building (originally stables and servant quarters to Government House) serves as one of the palettes for the beautifully executed Macquarie Visions light show.  Here are some snaps of the Conservatorium building taken from my mobile phone.

St Mary’s Cathedral, Hyde Park Barracks, the Mitchell Library and the Old Mint are also on display.  After dark, Macquarie Visions is on until 20 June.

Lynn Walsh – workshop facilitator – Sydney

Lynn Walsh – workshop facilitator – Sydney

Lynn Walsh – workshop facilitator – Sydney

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I cut my facilitation teeth years ago on a program that brought communities, designers and artists together to enhance their public spaces. Social Spaces reminds me of those years and the power of bringing people together to explore and create opportunities for their community.  Social Spaces’ Idea Cards include this photo of New York’s High Line project, a wonderful example of community and using what you have.  Ten years ago, two people wanted to save a disused railway line from demolition.  That initiative created a public park and has blossomed into so much more.  Thanks to Erin Kreeger for the link to Social Spaces.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

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                   Saturday morning

                   Cool weather garden colour

                   Sydney autumn blooms

I spent a day last week with a group of people who were happy to begin the day with no agenda.  The starting point was “A conversation about who we are and what matters to us is an action”  from Peter Block’s book  The answer to how is yes.

During the day, the team explored six principles of improvisation starting with a series of quotes from Robert Poynton’s Everything’s an Offer – how to do more with less, and Patricia Ryan Madson’s Improv Wisdom – don’t prepare, just show up.

The six principles were: Start anywhere - Use everything - Notice more - Let go – Be average - Say yes

Here’s are some snippets that emerged from their conversations.

Start anywhere

“Improvisers … distinguish between action and activity.  If someone is changed by what happens they call it action.  If not, it is activity.  … Embracing change in this way is not an attitude many people habitually adopt.  Yet how can an organisation learn, or create action, if the people in it don’t.” Robert Poynton

I plant supposedly impossible seeds in conversation, then if something comes of it, we get going.

We said – let’s go see [….a person…..] and see what happens.  Something did happen.

I realise that my presentations are becoming more ad lib – I am getting better at just turning up and starting anywhere with a new group of clients.

On [one large project], we knew and trusted the formula, so we just set the date and went for it.

Use everything

“The focus of the conversation (could) be “what can we make with the idea of a ……. .” instead of “Do we like a …… or not?”   Thus seeing things as offers leads to the kind of conversation which automatically generates new actions, ideas and energy.  And think of the effect that this behaviour has on people around you.  Who would you rather work with, talk to, or go on a journey with?  Someone who consistently looks for ways to use whatever is happening? Robert Poynton

The [….] project began out of nothing.  All we had was our networks and contacts.

A recent conversation switched from “what are we going to do without this” to “what do we have – as the list started to flow, energy levels changed.”

I think we use everything every day.  We just don’t notice that we do.

In future, we could notice everything we have (skills, knowledge, resources) before we act, including opportunities that we haven’t seen yet.

Notice more

“Being present allows you to pick up the clues that enable you to choose the path to take through the territory you have prepared”. Rob Poynton

As a team, we’re good at noticing what’s important to our clients and their needs, because that’s our focus.

What if we missed THE conversation by not noticing it, by being caught up in our own thoughts?

We could take care to notice that we are working with a shared focus and not at cross purposes.  For example, are there operational anomalies getting in our way?

We could notice where we are making assumptions that get in the way of us understanding where the needs of our service are.

Let go

”Are there times when you have avoided speaking because you thought that you lacked preparation or didn’t know which words to use?  When the human heart has something to say, saying it is always timely.  Improvisers always speak without a plan.  Discover the freedom that comes when you trust that you have what you need.  Remember, there is always something in the box.” Patricia Madson

Before, we used to introduce process changes to our clients. Now we ask them to let us know what they need.

In IT, we let go of old ways constantly when new applications and new software are implemented.

We could let go of expectations and assumptions we hold.

Be average

“Giving up on perfection is the first step; the next is to stop trying to come up with something different.  Striving for an original idea takes us away from our everyday intelligence, and it can actually block access to the creative process.  There is a widespread belief that thinking “outside the box” … means going after far-out and unusual ideas.  A true understanding of this phrase means seeing what is really obvious, but, up until then, unseen.” Patricia Madson

The […] is a great example of offering an ‘ordinary’ service to the client base.  It has made an extraordinary difference to their lives.  That was ‘giving the obvious a try’.

We could be careful with expectations of ourselves and of others.  Those expectations may be blocking us and them.

We could get the basics working well.  It’s not about getting things perfect.

Say yes

“Saying yes (and following through with support) prevents you from committing a cardinal sin – blocking.  Blocking comes in many forms;  it is a way of trying to control the situation instead of accepting it.  We block when we say no, when we have a better idea, when we change the subject, when we correct the speaker, when we fail to listen, or when we simply ignore the situation.  ….. Saying no is the most common way we attempt to control the future.” Patricia Madson

Showing up is like saying yes.

This is hard.  We could help each other be aware of when we are blocking and help each other to be more open to offers.

We’ll use new question starters, like “What can we make of the idea of …..?” when proposing new ideas.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney- business and strategic planning – team conversations

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Today ABC Radio National’s Artworks broadcast a story called Hyperbolic crocheted coral reefs.

You can find out more about the Coral Reef project here at The Institute for Figuring (IFF).  It started when mathematician Dr. Daina Taimina discovered a technique of crochet that mirrors the geometry of coral.  IFF directors and sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim created a project to crochet the Great Barrier Reef. Since 2005, the project has expanded to produce beautiful examples of what can be created when there is cross-fertilisation across seemingly disparate disciplines and skills.  The IFF website link tells the story beautifully. Here’s White Spire Tube Worm by Evelyn Hardin.

I don’t pretend to understand the high science of this intersection of mathematics, art and marine biology.  What’s exciting for me is what can happen when people look outside their specialties and see the broader possibilities that combining knowledge brings.

Breaking out of those silos of our specialities – our known knowns if you like – can produce surprises.  It can happen in facilitation practice when individuals in groups come together with an intention to discover rather than to preach.  I’ve seen it happen when engineers and artists come together to create new infrastructure in public places.

Strange bedfellows sometimes come together by accident.  Other times because they’ve been forced into a situation.  Others with a pure intention to see what they might create together.

Do you have any examples of magic that’s happened through combining two or more apparently different knowledge bases to create something new?  What activities might we as facilitators use to generate cross-silo thinking?

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitation – Sydney


iStockphoto - gordian knotPatti Digh asked this question on Twitter.  “What do you do when you are unsure?” and followed the question with  “Doubt can be as powerful and sustaining as certainty….”  (from the recent film Doubt)

Last night I was reading actress Sheila Hancock’s Just Me, the second of two books she has penned since the death of her husband John Thaw.  It’s about her experience of creating new ways of being after losing someone you love.   Quotations begin each chapter.  This one particularly resonated given the thoughts provoked by Patti’s question.

Neither look forward where there is doubt, nor backward where there is regret.  Look inward and ask yourself not if there is anything out in the world that you want and had better grab quickly before nightfall, but whether there is anything inside you that you have not yet unpacked.

From the play Resident Alien: Quentin Crisp Explains it All by Tim Fountain.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

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