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This BBC profile of Brian Eno was broadcast last Saturday afternoon on ABC Radio National’s Into the Music program.  There’s so much in this 50 minutes of listening – about creating and spontaneity, on letting go of categories and labels, about what emerges (or doesn’t) from exploring and experimenting.  David Bowie, David Byrne and others talk about collaborating with Eno in his years as a music producer.  Then there’s the highly sought after Eno as consultant, demonstrating the value to organisations of a creative and playful mind.

Here are some of the ideas that caught my attention as they might apply to facilitation and writing.

on remembering thoughts that you have and using them

Very early on, Eno wrote down his thoughts in a list to capture them.  The paper list became too large to manage, so he created a set of cards which he called the oblique strategies.  Whenever he was stuck for inspiration, he’d grab the card and do what it told him to do. What are you really thinking about just now.  Incorporate – In total darkness, in a very large room, quietly – Who should be doing this job?  How would they do it?

on mistakes

Eno’s first oblique strategy was Honour thy error as a hidden intention.  “Working fast [as he did] there is a danger of overlooking interesting accidents. [Instead] … it’s an accident. I’ll pay some attention to it and see what emerges”.

on control

You can “be almost on the edge of control”.   The process is not chaotic, not completely lost, but “not so over-controlled that I’m bored by it”.  Eno likens it to surfing – the skill and unpredictability of being just on the edge of falling over.

on being asked to talk to people about ideas – his consultancy work

“The focus of having to articulate something to a group of people really makes you think about it. If ideas are just rattling around in your head without ever having to be articulated you can think you understand a lot more than you do”.

If you are the least bit interested in playing with ideas and thoughts and seeing what emerges, listen.  Some great music history is a bonus!

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

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This afternoon I’ve been preparing for a workshop. The agenda was written and agreed with the clients some time ago. It feels right for these particular objectives and will be flexible enough to suit the group’s needs once we get started.

At this stage of a process, preparation is about:

· exploring ways of achieving stated outcomes on the agenda. Sometimes this is going back to favourite activities or processes. Other times it can be applying a new idea or something I’ve read that feels as though it will work for the group and for my style.

· imagining those activities happening – will this work? what if I adapt it? do they balance?

· going through my standard checklist of what to bring to the room. Do we need it? Or, this might come in handy if …? I developed my detailed checklist as a work of art when I facilitated my first workshop in another country. It’s a balancing act to make sure you haven’t left something essential behind and that your bag comes in underweight at the check-in desk.

· drawing up any charts that can be pre-prepared

· packing enough for everyone including markers, individual activity items, labels

I’ve been reflecting on the time it takes me on the final preparation. I find myself going down burrows that may be unnecessary. I’m sometimes asked to facilitate workshops at very short notice. At those times, I seem to do less thinking about what’s required and act more on instinct. There’s freedom in responding to a last minute request. It gives permission to dance on your feet, trust what you know and respond without over‑thinking things. Often, it’s where the best work comes from.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

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