Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fun with Story Weaving

I can't imagine I'm writing a blog after such a long break! Well, what did I do during this period? I attended a workshop by Kathalaya ( which was one of the best trainings I've attended so far. Also been busy lately designing and improvising upon an experiential workshop on "Storytelling in Business" oriented to capture and share critical tacit knowledge of employees and teams centered around achievements, project milestones, improvement initiatives and of course, multiple dimensions of cost savings!

So, I'm back with lots of fun and exciting activities on storytelling and creation, some of which I'm trying out in my organization as well. One very interesting and effective method to get people into the storytelling mode is through the "Story Weaving Activity". This can be done with a group of about 8-15 people. Conduct this activity in a training hall with seating arranged in circular fashion so that everyone can see each other. Also, arrange for a ball of twine thread/rope/ribbon/wool. Further, prepare some chits depending upon the number of participants with some keywords written on each. For instance - performance, teamwork, achievement, nightmare, memorable, support etc.

This can be used as an ice-breaker during the beginning of the workshop. Once all are seated, give them basic instructions about the activity. They will be required to pick up one chit with a keyword mentioned on it. Based on this keyword, they need to narrate a personal work-related experience. Their story should begin with an attractive title and conclude with a key take-away/learning. If they have difficulty narrating their own personal experience at work, you can encourage them to narrate someone else's story or even a fictional one that they might have heard or read somewhere.

Once everyone has picked their keyword, give them 10 mins to prepare for their story. No paper/pens/laptops etc. to be used during this. Once all are ready, ask one person to volunteer to be the first. Handover the ball of thread to that person. Once s/he completes, that person has to hold one end of the thread and throw the ball to another person in a random order. The person who catches it, has to then start with his/her story and then hold one end and throw the rest to the third and so forth. Once all have completed narrating their stories, you will witness a beautiful web in the middle of the circle - and a web of stories!

You can make it little more complex by introducing reverse recall of the stories. So, the person who is last to narrate the story, hands back the ball thread to the person before him. This person has to recall the title, summary and learning shared by the last person so and so forth.

There are objectives acheived through this activity:
1. It helps the group get started on storytelling breaking away from inhibitions.
2. It gives them a sense of confidence "yes, I too can do this".
3. It helps the group know each better thereby automatically helping in team bonding.
4. It infuses lot of fun while learning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Knowledge Sharing through Storytelling

Lately, I've been trying to explore the potential of storytelling in capturing and sharing tacit knowledge in the corporate settings. Stories have numerous advantages - they entertain, they are light, they stick in minds of people for a long time since they have an emotional aspect and moreover they are a creative act.

Being involved in the design of a behavioral skills workshop on corporate storytelling for knowledge management, I've been hunting around for interesting stories and games that I could use in the workshops. One game that I found hosted on one of the blogs seemed quite fascinating and relevant.

Game Description:

I ask the participants to think of a time when someone shared important knowledge with them that allowed them to do their jobs better. If they can't think of someone who shared with them, ask them to think of a time when they shared knowledge with someone to help the other person. Give them some examples -- like their favorite uncle who taught them how to ride a bike, like a project manager who gave them the reasons for a decision to the point that they understood why it had been taken, like the time they taught their child how to fry a sunny side up egg. I have found that when people get in touch with their own experiences of knowledge sharing, they begin to see the qualities that are needed to make KM happen. And if they say they are not storytellers, ask them to pretend they are 5 years old. They would all say they can tell a story at that age. Now if the group is large, or even if it is over 6, put them in small groups of 4 or 5 to tell their stories. Then ask the small groups to each talk about what they learned about sharing knowledge through the stories they just heard. Put time limits on the stories (2-3 minutes max) and have them process this for about 10 minutes after the stories are told. To make it easier on everyone, set some ground rules. (1) When someone is telling their story, everyone else listens until they are done; (2) assign a time keeper in each group who will signal when the teller has 30 seconds remaining; and (3) for those who can't think of a story, they will listen carefully to the stories told and allow their minds to remind them of their own story to tell. As facilitator or instructor, it is helpful to give time alerts at the approximate middle of the exercise and then at 1 minute remaining. Be prepared to tell your own story at the beginning to help them see how much can be said in 2-3 minutes. Be sure that you practice your story ahead of time so that it fits the objective and the time limit. I think you will be amazed at how much the group will understand about KS by the end of the exercise.

Madelyn Madelyn Blair, Ph.D.

Pelerei, Inc.Turning Vision into Reality


Would like to know if anyone else has used this game or anything similar in their organizations. Also, how can we measure the effectiveness of such an initiative?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Using Role Plays for Evaluation

Got back from a workshop from Hubli where my friend was conducting a technical session for faculty members in an engineering college. I came across a very interesting and innovative approach of role play that she used during the beginning of the workshop. Our objective was to evaluate how much the participants remembered from the last workshop that was conducted few months back and also to learn what they took forward into their classrooms and what they could not.
Three groups were formed randomly and assigned three concepts/themes that they needed to demonstrate in the form a role play. Group 1 was asked to enact a scene of a staff room which had a discussion between a set of faculty members who had gone through the workshop and those who had not. Group 2 was asked to enact a classroom scene in which one of them had implemented a technique and it was a big hit. Group 3 was asked to enact a scene in the classroom in which one of the faculty member had tried out a new technique but did not give the expected outcome/failed miserably.
I realized that conducting such an activity helps not only bring out what happened in reality but also inner thoughts, attitudes, fears and interpersonal challenges involved in experimenting with something new. This approach is well-suited for any change management programme which involves a follow-up of a previous training programme before advancing to the next level. It can also be used in order to understand inner thought processes and mind set challenges of participants prior to adopting the change process.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Ball Games

As trainers, we are always interested in reinforcing certain concepts and reviewing key messages/learnings of previous day's training session. Three interesting games come to my mind which can make reviews easy, effective and fun. One among these which I conduct without fail is called "catch and throw". This can be played effectively with about 15-20 participants inside a room.
Ask the group to form a circle and you as a facilitator stand in the middle of this circle. Take a soft ball or make a ball out of paper by crumpling it. Inform the group that you will randomly pass on the ball to anyone in the circle and whoever is closest to where the ball lands, that person has to catch it instantly. Once the ball is in his/her hands, s/he has to share one learning that s/he will carry back or implement in daily life or classroom (if it is a group of teachers). Once it has been shared, that person has to randomly throw the ball towards someone else. This time, the second participant who caught the ball has to share a different learning. The ball cannot be passed on to a person in the circle more than once. All the participants have to share one unique learning based on the previous day's session. I have personally found it to be a good warm up to start the new day and helps make the review/recap fun.

Another game that can be used in a similar way is "pass-the-parcel". The only change here is that once a participant has shared his or her learning, they can be asked to move out of the circle to avoid repetition. Music from mobile phone or a ring tone itself can be used during the game.

Finally, if there is enough space and if the chairs are movable chairs, musical chair game can also be played. Do try these techniques and post back to me with your experience.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Late for your class? Did you try clapping?

Once when I was conducting a session for a group of faculty members in one of Bangalore's engineering colleges, a senior faculty member, Prof. Raghu (name changed) had an interesting revelation to share with me. After lunch, while we were waiting for participants to get back into the session, he was keenly observing the behaviors of all participants. Before leaving for lunch, we had agreed to assemble back at 2PM. But, it was already 2:05 and 80% of the participants had shown no signs of returning on time. He said to me "when we are conducting a class, we expect our students to come to class on time and promptly complete their assignments. However, now I realize that when we are learners, we are also behaving in the same way that our students behave!" This was one important learning for him and I hope he is now more empathetic towards his students.
During the next tea break, I decided to introduce a clapping ritual. Since we had decided to gather back by 3:45 PM after tea, I suggested to the participants who got back to their seats that whoever comes late, we will all clap for them. When the first late comer entered, all of them started clapping and laughing. The person who entered was quite surprised, embarrassed and confused as to why everyone was clapping. With more people coming in late, the clapping only increased in intensity. We also decided on the winner for that day...i.e. the one who came last. There was a record keeper who noted how delayed the last participant was. Before leaving for the day, we said this ritual would continue for the next 4 days of the workshop.
Next day morning, I noticed faculty members literally rushing in to not only avoid embarrassment of being clapped at but mainly to clap for the others. While we had decided to meet at sharp 9AM next day morning, I found that all of them were in the room by 8:50AM!
This clapping ritual works wonderfully in disciplining the learners without directly punishing them.

Games People Play!

Few months back, I attended an outbound training program. I participated in an interesting game which I still remember very vividly. It was not only fun but was an absolute energizer that pepped up the whole group leaving us wanting for more.

The game was pretty simple. We were a group of 25 people. We were asked to form a circle with the facilitator standing in the middle. The game is called "BANG!". The facilitator shoots at one person standing in the circle loudly saying "bang" and enacting as though shooting with a gun. The person being shot at needs to immediately go down on his/her knees while the other two standing beside this person need to instantly turn towards each other and enact as though shooting at each other shouting out "bang" aloud. The actions have to happen instantly. If the person being shot at makes some other gesture or shoots instead of going down on his/her knees then s/he is out. Similarly, if the other two persons go down on their knees or do some other action rather than shooting at each other then they are also out of the game. Any delay in the required action also renders them to be out. The facilitator can randomly shoot at anyone and if the desired action does not happen, they are out of the game. It gets more and more exciting as the no. of participants reduce to just two people.

This is a very fast paced game and is ideal as an energizer. It is best to use this at the beginning of a training to improve attentiveness and energy or during a post-lunch session if there is a likelihood of the learners dozing off due to a heavy meal and information overload.

Try this and let me know your experience of using this with different profiles of participants.

When did you last appreciate yourself?

One of the key insights that I gained by attending the Dale Carnegie "High Impact Presentation Skills" training program was about the difficulty of appreciating self and others. As human beings, criticism comes most naturally to us. In fact, we often tend to criticize ourselves more often than we criticize others. What qualifies as a good feedback is one with a balance of appreciation and suggestions on how certain aspects/areas could be improved further.
During feedback sessions, identifying areas of improvement came easily to me while I had to think hard about reasons to appreciate. Moreover, it is not simply about appreciating. It is about appreciating genuinely and supporting it with valid facts. It is a lot easier to be generic and superficial while appreciating someone. Therefore, we need to keep the following points when appreciating someone:

1. Being genuine - Don't try to fake appreciation as it can be easily detected by the other person. Therefore, it does not acheive the desired effect.
2. Instead of mentioning superficial reasons for appreciating an attribute, it makes better sense when we explain the implicit meaning or relevance that the attribute has for you. For e.g. during a presentation, if you want to appreciate the presenter for highlighting a benefit (among ten others) of adopting a new process or method (that was most relevant to you), you could say something like "Thanks for mentioning these points. I was particularly concerned about benefit (for e.g. no. 4) for which you have provided convincing reasons. I highly appreciate it".
3. Timing - Don't wait for a 'right' time to appreciate someone. The more spontaneous and immediate it is, the more convincing it becomes.
4. Being very specific and validating this with facts/data makes the appreciation further valuable.

Though most of us might be aware of the value of appreciation and its positive impact on our relationships, we seldom remember to appreciate our colleagues, friends and family members. Moreover, it is very rare that we appreciate ourselves on a daily basis. While being critical about ourselves helps stay grounded and focused on goals, it is equally important for us to indulge in a bit of self-appreciation everyday to keep ourselves charged up. Apart from appreciating ourselves for doing the 'right' things, appreciating ourselves for not giving up during tough times or failures can also make a difference to bring success in our lives.

So, everyday, think of one reason to appreciate yourself and also make sure you appreciate one friend or colleague or family member who needs a much deserved praise.