Storylistening versus Storytelling?

This week’s chat2lrn is a post from crew member Fiona Quigley, who works for Logicearth Learning Services based in Ireland. 

I just love stories; it was an integral part of my Irish upbringing – two Scottish grannies and family of singers tends to make it that way!

And over the last few years, I’ve had a bit of a hobby collecting stories. I’m not a great storyteller myself, but I do love to listen to others’ stories and to collect them. Over the last few years, I’ve collected more than 1500 women’s career stories. Some are short – a couple of paragraphs, while others go on and on for pages, reaching a eureka moment at the end.

This ‘hobby’ started off very innocently. I kept reading about the pay and gender gap, and also read various statistics about women’s prospects in the workplace. The so-called glass ceiling seemed as far off as ever. I sent a few emails to friends asking for their career stories and in particular to reflect on any transitions or decision points they encountered. These friends also kindly sent emails to other women and before I knew it, I was getting lots of stories from all over the world.

I’m lucky to know lots of strong, capable and ambitious women, so I was intrigued when many of the gender/pay statistics hadn’t seemed to have changed in the last 10 years. The decision points in the women’s stories ranged from going for their first promotion, getting married, to having children, and dealing with personal or family illness. All impacted their careers – some in a good way, some not so good.

The stories are precious to me, and I won’t ever share them but I have learned a lot from them.

So what did I learn?

Well often the most important storylistener needs to be ourselves. We go through day-to day life, almost automatically at times. We get caught up in our own and many other people’s narratives; the dutiful wife/husband, the diligent worker, the stressed out commuter and so on.

By narrative, I mean a set of related stories. We live our lives as an evolving set of lived experiences – or unfolding story. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether we are living the story or the story is living us! Due to on-going life and work pressures and the general busyness we get caught up in, often we flit from narrative to narrative either giving away our power or not realising what power we have to create better story endings for ourselves.

Many of the 1500+ women’s stories that I have collected so far, made this same point – they haven’t had the chance to sit down and collectively reflect or join the dots between all their career experiences to date. They’ve missed patterns and repeating bottlenecks, simply because they haven’t had a chance to listen to their own stories. Worse still, no-one else had listened to their story to help them confirm or validate it.

Which brings me to one of the often forgotten points about stories in general – we learn from others’ stories precisely because stories give us a chance to reflect on lived experience and join the dots in our own lives.

What has all this got to do with chat2lrn?

Stop rambling Fiona I hear you say! There is a point to this, I promise…

I wonder if, in the workplace, we helped others to pay attention to their own stories or narratives, would it make a difference to our workplace relationships and how we collaborate and share knowledge? What If we were able to just slow down or stop for a few minutes each week and ask each other to share a career story or how we overcame a difficult challenge? And no I’m not advocating tree-hugging or therapy for all, I’m just thinking about re-tuning the radio of our lives from busyness to a few moments of quiet reflection. If, according to the 70:20:10 model, we learn most from others, then surely listening to others’ stories has to be a part of that?

If you understand the concept of tacit knowledge, then it is easy to see that we all know more than we usually express. Giving our staff time and space to reflect is the first step on the way to freeing that knowledge. As a final example, I asked a colleague to reflect on what learning meant to them. I was writing a blog on workplace learning and I kind of knew what answer I wanted back (we all do that don’t we?), but I was blown away by her response. Helen is a keen mountaineer and reflected on learning like this:


How many other rich answers are we missing from our colleagues just because we don’t give them time and space?

Getting more practical

I tried this exercise a while back with a few friends and I was surprised by how much they enjoyed it. They have since tried it in their own workplaces and have told me that it has improved some of their workplace relationships as well as revealing some interesting insights.


Are your ears twitching?

So what do you think? Could you give this a go in the workplace? What might stop you? Join us this Thursday 21st May in chat2lrn to continue the discussion.

Revolutionize Learning and Development

#Chat2lrn is delighted to have a guest post from Clark Quinn. Clark Quinn, Ph.D., is a recognized leader in learning technology strategy, helping organizations take advantage of information systems to meet learning, knowledge, and performance needs. His approach is learning experience design, combining what we know about how people think and learn with comprehension of technology capabilities to meet real needs. He combines a deep background in cognitive science, a rich understanding of computer and network capabilities reinforced through practical application, considerable management experience, and a track record of strategic vision and successful innovations. He is a well regarded speaker and author on human performance technology directions. You can follow Clark on Twitter: @Quinnovator. See more of Clark’s views on this subject in his book Revolutionize Learning & Development.Revolutionize Learning & Development , Clark N. Quinn


Is Learning & Development achieving what it could and should? The evidence says no. Surveys demonstrate that most L&D groups acknowledge that they are not helping their organizations achieve their goals. It’s worse than the cobbler’s children, because they at least got others shoed, but here we’re not getting ourselves effective enough to help anyone else. Where are we falling apart?

My short answer is that we’re trying to use industrial age methods in an information age. Back then, one person thought for many and our training was to get people able to do rote tasks. There wasn’t a real need for knowledge work, and we were happy to filter out those who couldn’t succeed under these conditions. In this day and age knowledge work is most of what contributes to organizational success, and we want to foster it across the organization.

To succeed, there are a few things we need to get into alignment. The simple fact is that much of what is known about how we think, work, and learn isn’t being accounted for in L&D practices. We use courses to put information into the head, but there’s clear evidence that our thinking is distributed across information in the world. It’s also hard to get information into the head. So we should be focusing on putting as much information into the world as we can. We also now know that the way to get the best outcomes is to get people to work together, and that silos and hierarchies interfere. If we want the best outcomes, we want to facilitate people working and playing well together. Finally, we know that learning should involve models to guide performance, be emotionally engaging, and have sufficient, appropriate, and spaced practice. All of this is antithetical to so-called rapid elearning.

Underpinning this is the fact that we’re measuring the wrong things. We’re out of alignment with what the business needs; when we’re measuring how much it costs per seat per hour, we’re worrying about efficiency, and we’re paying no attention to effectiveness. It’s taken as a matter of faith that ‘if we build it, it is good’, and that’s empirically wrong.

Quite simply we need a revolution; a fundamental shift in what we value and what we do. It’s not redefining what we do completely; e.g. courses are still a viable tool, but they’re just one part of a bigger picture. There are two things organizations need: optimal execution of those things they know they need to be able to do, and continual innovation to adapt to the increasingly complex environment. Courses are only a part of the first, and essentially irrelevant to the latter. We need to incorporate performance support for one thing, and sponsoring innovation is about facilitating communication and collaboration. That comes from using social media (all of it, not just technology) in appropriate ways.

The upside is big. We can, and should, be the key to organizational outcomes. We should be designing and fostering a performance ecosystem where people can work in powerful ways. We should be shaping culture to get a workforce that is motivated and effective. If we do so, we’re as fundamental to organizational success as anything in the business. I suggest that this is an achievable goal and emphasize that it’s a desirable goal.

To get there, you need to ‘think different’. You need to shift from thinking about learning and training, and start thinking about performance. You need to take development to mean facilitation. L&D should be Performance & Development, or even Performance and Innovation. That’s the promise, and the opportunity. Are you ready to join the revolution? Your organization needs it.

Let’s discuss in #chat2lrn this week.  See you on Thursday, May 7th 8:00 am PDT / 11:00 am EDT / 4:00 pm BST.

Getting Started with Mobile Learning

This guest post comes from Nick Floro. Nick is the president of Sealworks Interactive Studios. Nick has over 20 years of experience developing e-Learning solutions, applications and web platforms. He has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies to help them understand the technology and develop innovative solutions to help their teams and customer base. In 2011, Nick designed and launched a new web application,, to help developers and designers simply project management. Nick has won several awards from Apple and Fortune 500 organizations for productions and services. Nick is passionate about how technology can enhance learning and loves to share his knowledge and experience to teach, inspire and motivate.

We’ve seen mobile learning gaining steam over the past couple of years due to the growing popularity of our smartphones and tablets. Most of us can’t walk too far without making sure we have our phone or favorite device with us, whether we’re at home, work or traveling. As of January 2014, Americans used mobile apps more than PCs to access the internet with 55% of internet usage. Source CNNMoney Feb 2014.  As of October 2014, 64% of Americans owned a smartphone. Source PEW Research Center Mobile Technology Fact Sheet. As a learning professional, instructional designer or learner we need to pivot and with any new project or development, if your organization supports mobile, you need to start planning, testing and allowing time for mobile delivery of your learning.

Personally, I believe we should be able to use any device wherever and whenever to access content. We should not limit our users to a desktop or just mobile but we can enhance or optimize for each device when appropriate. The primary challenge is understanding how to develop content with the flexibility to view on any device or add to the experience based on the device that is being used at that time. When starting a new project, you should consider whether you want to support mobile, provide an add-on or content that can be optimized to compliment your learning course or classroom. For example, if we have our learners taking an online course to prep for an in classroom training, can we create any support or content that can be viewed on their mobile device to enhance the experience.

One of the big learning trends today was discussed in last weeks #Chat2Lrn about microlearning. You can view the curated transcript at or post at Many L&D professionals connect the mobile movement with mircolearning because we often grab our device when have seconds or minutes in between other tasks. I think that is great but we have also seen a growing trend where our participants are using mobile devices as their primary device.Pasted Graphic What does that mean? If you haven’t started already, you need to start to develop a mobile strategy or better yet a content strategy which allows your content, tools, or support add-ons to work across multiple devices based on your audience.

There are a lot of exciting ways (and buzz words) that we can use for mobile learning, such as performance support, location based learning, responsive design, personal learning plans, and designing an app to provide a unique experience for your learners. For the purposes of this #Chat2Lrn I wanted to get everyone on the same page by providing a foundation and then in a future chat we can continue to grow the conversation based on your feedback, needs and experiences.


Defining What is Mobile for Your Organization

A first step in getting started, is to define what  mobile learning is to your organization. Do you want to support phones, tablets and desktops or do you want to create unique content, apps or add-ons for each device type? Some questions to share with your organization, development team and audience to better define and understand where you are at and develop a strategy.

  • Does your audience use mobile devices? What percentage?
  • What types of devices are we using?
  • How do we create content today?
  • Do our tools support HTML output or a app?
  • Which platforms do we want to support? (iOS, Android, Windows, Other)
  • How often do we update our content?
  • What is the normal lifespan of our content or course object?
  • Does your LMS or Learning platform support mobile devices?


Your First Mobile Project (or your next project)

At the start of every project, we always start with understanding three key factors:

  1. Define who is the audience? Who is the primary participant, do they have a mobile device, where will they use it and how will they use it?
  2. Document what technology will your audience use to interact with the course, content, app or tool? Will they have a slow, fast or possibly no bandwidth based on their location?
  3. Create a user story that explains how the average participant will use your content, course, or tool.

Pasted Graphic 3It is important to document each answer, for each project and have each stakeholder agree with what is discussed and the plan. Ask WHY, when appropriate to better define and understand each factor and response.



HTML5/Browser vs Native App Delivery

With any project, you need to consider the time frame, budget, resources, and type of delivery. When you consider mobile delivery there are 2 primary way to develop a solution:

  1. HTML5 / Browser Based Delivery requires that you export or develop your content in HTML format and requires a internet connection to download or interact with your content. The biggest benefit to this format is that you can create one primary content set and use responsive design to optimize for each type of device requires less time to develop a custom solution then for each platform. Content resides on a server, so each time a participant accesses the information they automatically see latest version.
  1. Native Apps provide an amazing experience but typically require more time, budget and optimization or custom code for each operating system that is required to support. The primary advantage is the speed and experience is optimal and a internet connect may not be required if all content is pulled into the app. An alternate format is a Hybrid App which combines the native code on the mobile device but will pull in the content from a server when requested.

If you are using a software package to create your learning, such as Captivate or Storyline or one of the other amazing tools on the market, it is important that you test your concept in the software product prior to starting a project to understand how it works, what features are supported and consider how will you distribute the content. You also may want to consider learning HTML5 or adding a resource to your team if you want to create custom experiences or better control the experience on each platform.


A Few Ways to Get Started?

1. Start Small & Measure – Launch a small, manageable initiative to measure what devices and how your audience is using the content. How? This can be done in a lot of different ways but to get you thinking and started you can email or provide a link in a upcoming course where the learner can download a document in PDF document and suggest they view or use it as a resource on their mobile device. You can also provide a audio, video or link to content. Make sure to test prior with a small group and gather feedback to insure the best outcomes. You can design a pdf with interactive hotspots using just about any tool today from Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote or Adobe Acrobat to add links over your content. You can actually simulate or use a PDF to provide a simple interactive guide or tool to quickly link to content so that the learner can use as a resource or to dive deeper. You can deliver the PDF by emailing or providing a web link or share via a cloud service such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

Look at adding Google Analytics, if you are not currently supporting it to measure the web link, what type of device was used to interact with the content or site. If you are not familiar, you can learn more at It’s free and requires you to setup a account and then you can add a custom code to any html page to help you measure results.

Below is a example report displaying the browser that was used to interact with the sample site over the past week:

Pasted Graphic 5

This view demonstrated the break down of mobile device that interacted with the content:

Pasted Graphic 62. Upgrade Your Tools or Add a New One – Do your current tools and development team support creating mobile content? If not, start to think about which tools you want to utilize and how you can start to incorporate mobile into your development process. Remember start small and look at creating a road map where you scale up your solution.

3. Observe, Capture & Brainstorm – Think about what your favorite app whether its a tool, utility, game or resource and consider how you might apply that concept to your learning. Two great examples:

Pasted Graphic 7Zite, a knowledge browser that customizes your viewing to your personal topics and learns from what you like and dislike. Its available for free for iOS and Android and if you haven’t used it, take it for a spin. Imagine a app for your audience where they can customize the content or learning they want to focus on, provide feedback, share and automatically see the latest when launching the app. Download and play at 64a382abd3a6724d1493bf529a6f54a6

Yahoo!Weather App is a great visual example, using imagery and animation to provide you with the current temperature with the low and high of the day. If you want o view more information, such as the hourly breakdown or next couple of days simply swipe up and it allows you to dive deeper into the weather (content). This is such a simple but beautiful design and experience. For homework, think about how you might apply it to your learning.

4. Prototyping a Concept – Got a idea or need to demonstrate a concept to your team? Checkout a great mobile app, which you can download for free, used to prototype your concept called Prototyping on Paper or POP. This tool works on your iOS or Android device to capture your sketches of a idea, allows you to add hotspots and then demonstrate on your device how the concept works or share a link and a team member can view in their browser. Learn more and download at

I hope you found this post helpful and we got your brain thinking about the possibilities. Join us on Thursday, April 23 at 16:00BST/11:00EDT/8:00PDT to dive deeper into Getting Started with Mobile Learning on #chat2lrn.

Much Ado About Microlearning

MightyMouseMicrolearning (1)Much is being made of the concept of microlearning these days, and perhaps rightly so. Microlearning products and collections, assembled and offered by learning and development organizations, fit into available time slots and busy work schedules. If available on mobile devices, they can also be used in performance support applications at the time and place of need.

From the producer’s perspective, they are also relatively quick to produce, and both easier to create and maintain then their larger, more complex e-learning counterparts.

But microlearning is not new at all. Countless how-to videos on YouTube have helped millions of people repair appliances or learn to better perform tasks or even hobbies. More interestingly, most of these products were created by people with no instructional design background, and yet we learn effectively from them.

So how can learning and development organizations use microlearning products to meet the needs of organizations? What can we learn from YouTube to encourage the participation of large numbers of employees? Discuss this and more about microlearning products in learning and development at #chat2lrn Thursday, 09 April at 16:00BST/11:00EDT/8:00PDT.

Challenging some L&D myths (aka fads and fancies)

L&D mythsThis week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @JudithELS

Are we like moths to a flame?

What is it about L&D that makes it behave like a super-charged magnetic for attracting all manner of fads and fancies? I know that all learning sectors have their trends, but over the last 25 or so years it has never ceased to amaze me just how many L&D has managed to attract. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for advancement and for trying out new ideas in a sensible and controlled fashion, but the over-whelming tendency by many in the L&D profession to jump on any passing bandwagon and, seemingly without question, to embrace it whole-heartedly with an almost Messianic fervour, has always intrigued me.

Some examples

For example, over the years the conversations of L&D people have been peppered with references to and support of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), accelerated learning, brain-friendly learning, emotional intelligence, learning styles, leadership styles, Belbin, Myers Briggs, body language, un/conscious in/competence, Fish, Johari Window, role playing, transactional analysis, to name but a few. So many L&D ‘courses’ are now deemed to be incomplete without a dose of ice breakers, energizers, koosh balls and games. For some the road to success is paved by fire walking, outward bound courses, rope courses, embracing the theories of Maslow and Hertzberg, doing Brain Gym exercises, hypnotherapy, and using actors and music.

What’s the harm?

Whilst some of L&D’s fads and fancies wax and wane, like transactional analysis which was a big thing in the UK back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, others, like ‘learning styles’, seem to stick around for much longer, where their longevity is often a direct relationship to the number of advocates they attract. This is not to say that any of the above are dangerous, with the possible exception of fire walking, about which I have extremely grave doubts, it is more a matter of L&D professionals using them without question on a regular basis, simply because they believe that this is what L&D is all about and, perhaps more significantly, needs.

Harm to the L&D profession

Even when these fads and fancies are shown to be myths, eg learning styles, there still remains a hard-core set of believers who react in an absolutely amazing way and deny that what they hold dear could ever be questioned! This is where I get seriously concerned, because when an idea or theory is proved to be incorrect, then why continue to cling to it? Such a stance, I contend does great harm to the whole L&D profession.

If you have time, just Google any of these fads/fancies and check-out the evidence against them.

How do we challenge such L&D myths?

For me this is the essential question. If our colleagues believe in something which is subsequently dismissed as pure bunkum, then how do we go about helping them and supporting them to put aside what they once held to be so true and to move on?

So, where do you stand on challenging L&D myths? Join in the debate and discuss this and other questions on 26th March 2015.  09.00 PST 12 EST 16.00 GMT

The Business of Learning Evaluation

#Chat2lrn is delighted to have a guest post from @AjayPangarkar.  Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA is founder of and He is a renowned employee performance management expert and 3-time author most recently publishing the leading performance book, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley 2009), award-wining assessment specialist with Training Magazine, and award-winning writer winning the 2014 prestigious Readership and Editors’ Awards for the Top 10 most read articles. Help him start a, “Workplace Revolution” at

Learning practitioners are under tremendous pressure from business leaders to demonstrate that their learning efforts and initiatives are worth the budget they allocate. This has to be one of most daunting challenges facing those involved with any aspect of workplace learning.

There are many reasons why learning practitioners are unable to connect their efforts with actual workplace applications. One that stands out is that learning practitioners focus on the “learning” rather than on how learning “results” impact business performance.

Reality Check

Learning practitioners like to talk about being ‘accountable’ but behind the talk is an unfortunate reality where, like the three monkeys, this pesky ‘accountability’ issue will go away if we do not speak, see, or hear it. What learning practitioners really want to say to business leaders is, “Leave us alone to focus on the learning and stop bothering us with your trivial business issues!”

Regretfully, many learning practitioners remain under the impression that if proper learning takes place then everything else will take care of itself. Intuitively, this makes some sense but this causal relationship is too weak to be effective. Following this logic is the same as saying that, if you eat ice cream you’ll be cold; possibly, but there are many other reasons that also apply.

“If proper learning takes place then everything else will take care of itself is similar to saying that if you eat ice cream you’ll be cold; possibly but many other reasons also apply.”

Those involved with learning discover early to integrate and apply Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation. Yes, your organization explicitly hires learning practitioners for their expertise with level 1 (develop effective learning) and level 2 (learning retention). There isn’t one business leader that expects anything different. What’s more, however, is that they also expect their learning practitioners to ensure that the first two levels contribute to improving job performance (level 3) that will lead to business improvement (level 4).

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Here lays every Learning Practitioner’s challenge…getting employees to learn the right skills and, ultimately, apply these skills to the job, again, ‘accountability’. In an attempt to answer this need, there are those proposing what appears as relevant solutions to this dilemma including measuring learning’s “return on investment” (training ROI) and how well learning meets business expectations (ROE). Again, the shortsightedness of these methodologies is just like the analogy of “ice cream making you cold”. The causal relationship is too weak to prove and too often inappropriate or irrelevant.

These solutions fall short to actually measure and evaluate how well learning contributes to on-the-job effectiveness and its role to achieving business objectives. With a growing need for innovation, creativity, and managing continuous market changes, business leaders are also under tremendous pressure to foster a knowledge-driven business environment. Leaders are increasingly depending on organizational knowledge to develop a strategic and business advantage that will help them to maintain relevance, let alone survival, within their market space.

“Rather than being viewed as a secondary role, workplace learning has quickly risen to the top of many business leaders to-do list.”

Rather than being viewed as a secondary role, workplace learning has quickly risen to the top of many business leaders to-do list. Furthermore, even though this is a learning practitioners dream, it also comes at a price…the need for accountability. So, what should learning practitioners do? How can they prove that their learning efforts actually improve employee and business performance? Is there anything currently available that works?

Let’s discuss these and other related questions to measuring and evaluating workplace learning impact at our next online gathering of #chat2lrn, Thursday 27 November at 16:00 BST / 12:00 EDT / 09:00 PDT. Come prepared, we look forward to seeing you!

Conflict traps for the learning and development professional and presenter

#Chat2lrn is delighted to have a guest post from @NeilDenny.  Neil is the founder of allLD LTD Learning and Development.  He is a speaker and presenter specialising in conflict leadership skills and dynamics, delivering workshops, keynotes and one to one conflict skills coaching across the UK, Europe and America. Neil is also the author of the conflict resolution book “Conversational Riffs; Creating Meaning Out Of Conflict”, you can download a free PDF copy by going to” . Neil can be contacted at  

A recent conversation on Facebook caught my attention. The original poster was explaining a challenge he was facing. He had recently delivered some leadership skills training. As part of the program he explored mirroring and matching as a way of building rapport.

He went on to explain that “Some of the more religious Christians” in the group fed back that they thought the methods were “Morally wrong, manipulative and deceptive.”

In summarising his post he asserted that he had always seen himself as being “A highly moral person” who “Believed in doing what is right for people” before inviting responses.

It has so far received over 70 responses!

The conversation covers various areas – the use of NLP, delivery techniques, framing and such like. In this article I want to focus specifically on presenters and trainers can encounter conflict in our work and how we tend to perceive, react and respond to conflict.

Here was my original response:

You know there could be some neat conflict dynamics at play here but then I would say that; some delegates report that they find a technique – not you, a technique – to be manipulative and possibly immoral. You respond by defending your own character not only as a moral individual but, look, Highly Moral. Are you sure you were ever being criticised? We then also see a degree of fundamental attribution against the critics – you attribute their criticism, it seems directly to the fact that they have not only a Christian faith but, again, the inflated characteristic – the *more* religious Christians. So some folk don’t like mirroring and matching and feel uneasy about using it? Some folk didn’t like a part of what you presented? That too is just fine. Keep going.

Transference of criticism

Note how the feedback is seemingly against the content but it has been interpreted as an attack against the individual.

Concerns are expressed that the techniques are dubious and that has been acutely felt as a personal attack.  In an instant the criticisms levelled against the content have been taken on by the presenter.

And note the response – a reflex defensive counter assertion and that delightful over assertion at that.

See how language very quickly becomes exaggerated and inflated.  We often use this inflated and absolutist language (always/never) as it seems to make our positions clearer and more immune to attack. 

The invocation of indignation

I love the invocation of indignation.  We can recognise it very quickly in the utterance “How dare you!” and it is brilliantly demonstrated in that classic adolescent educational video Withnail and I.  Here’s a clip which is always worth shoehorning into any article (warning: its potty mouthed stuff)

The invocation of indignation is a neat device by which the indignant speaker can snatch back momentum and forces the recipient onto the defensive.  The result is that original complaint is quickly lost by the effective distraction created by the vehement indignation asserted by the other.

In fairness the post did not assert “How dare they call me immoral…” but you can see that it is intimated.

Attribution Bias

Attribution error or bias is a recognised cognitive dysfunction.

It sees us, when conflict arises, explaining the actions of another person by attributing motives or characteristics to that person.  These motives and characteristics will usually be unattractive or malevolent.

In this article an attribution appeared to have been made as follows:

“The reason they were objecting to the material was because of the characteristic of being “The more religious Christians in the group.”

When we attribute characteristics in this way then we explain away the feedback or incident.  We also risk dismissing the protagonist along with their concerns.  This can be very difficult and create seriously soured relationships between you and your delegates.

When we attribute characteristics then we create a sense of “Otherness” between us and them.  We render them as being different to not only us but the rest of their group and peers.  A very high risk strategy.  You will either successfully isolate them from their peers causing acute embarrassment and distress or their peers rush to their defence and reclaim them as one of their own… and you as the outsider.


The very posting of this discussion was also interesting.  It can be seen as an attempt to recruit likeminded people to our side of this conversation.   Note the role of the language used in doing – the over assertions as to morality, the designation of tribes based on characteristics as discussed above.  The 70+ responses then become fascinating in their own right.  Many commentators are happy to play out that invitation, supporting the original poster in a possible desire for affirmation that “It’s not me is it?”

This recruitment technique can be seen in presentations and live events when the presenter looks to the delegate group to back her or him up, again with possibly disastrous results.

5 tips on receiving challenges

  1. Be clear on what is being challenged. Chances are it is your content, not you.  Hold your content lightly.
  2. Be mindful of conflict dynamics. Particularly watch out for attribution bias – the impression you form of them in that split second after they have given their feedback or asked their question.
  3. Know when the knife goes in. Acknowledge to yourself that the comment made by the other person hurts or, at the very least, feels uncomfortable. Doing so will put you on guard that you need to be really careful right now. Try making your discomfort explicit, calling it out to the rest of the group. Some of my very best experiences come from doing just this.

    “Oh, ow. That’s an interesting point isn’t it?  So what I’m hearing is that this might not actually work here, is that right?  In what ways might it not work or not apply here? What would make it work or what would need to change?”

    These responses are key facilitation skills and also invite the delegates to build upon their existing knowledge, building your new content upon the platform of what they already know, believe and experience in their own context… and how valuable is that

  4. Smile to yourself as you recognise the temptation to invoke indignation.  And then choose not to!
  5. Give up on your need for them to learn.  Your need is to deliver the very best that you can and to make the learning (by them) possible or even, heck, likely.  The learning is their responsibility and choice.  You cannot make them learn.  I think there is something in always aspiring to deliver brilliant work that will enlighten, equip and enable others.  As long as you know that you have acted out that intent honestly then we can start to let go of our dependency on them blessing us with their learning.  The funny thing is that when we stop pushing the learning and instead join them in wrestling with the material (“Heck, this is really difficult isn’t it…?  I didn’t explain that very well did I?  Somebody help me out here… what am I missing do you think?) then the learning experience flies – even after it has just crashed and burned after a particularly barbed response.