Too many cooks in the learning kitchen?

June 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So our 100 day action learning challenge is fast approaching crunch time – the teams have been working hard and we can feel the momentum, energy and stress rising steadily! It’s been a great learning experience for everyone involved so far but as with any type of project there have been glitches..namely we’ve had too many cooks in the kitchen these past few weeks.

What does this mean? Well..you know how it goes – you have a wonderful dish bubbling away, you add a bit of spices..not too much because it’s cooking and it needs to do it’s thing. But then wham! the other cooks in the kitchen come and give it a stir..and maybe throw in some extra spices. What does this do? Totally changes the culinary experience – the outcome won’t be the same!

This is similar to what happened recently with our programme. We have 3 teams, all handed the same task and tools. The way in which they reach their goal is totally up to them. We can expect a few things: first of all there is the natural development of the group (Tuckman’s theory of group stages is very evident http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forming-storming-norming-performing) this means that each group may (and prob will) function differently – their processes, speed of development, methods used to make decisions etc will be different – and as facilitators we need to respect this and give them the space to do that.

There is a lot of informal learning going on – which he participants may or may not be aware of (and this is the beauty of a learning project like this one). What happened the other week is that as facilitators we stired the pot – told one team that they were falling behind and not performing the same as the other two teams. Now what does this do? What happens if we expect the teams to all proceed at the same pace and in the same fashion? We are intruding in the natural learning process and ultimately influencing it.

This is not good. If we start telling the teams they have to do X or Y, or that other teams are at Z stage and they should be too then this puts undue pressure on the team and also starts to shape their learning. The environment becomes more regulated, the learners feel watched and the pressure starts to mount. This all has enormous impacts on the learning process. We are now creating a contrived learning environment.

The goal of this programme is two-fold: the achievement of the task (Action) and also the learning (Reflection) – the key is to give the learners enough space and freedom so that the learning happens in the way that it happens – the pot of gold is at the end when we look back and reflect on what actually happened, how and why and what we can take away from it, how we grew and what insights we now have.

So no stirring the pot while it is cooking! I’ll let you know in 2 weeks how it all panned out 🙂

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