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  Skill of the Week

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0122 | October 14, 2003 | 9,000 Subscribers

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picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.From the Publisher: 

Dear friends,

This week's article was submitted by my friend Norman Patnode, Professor of Program Management & Leadership at the Defense Acquisition University. "Making Connections" explores uncovering the learning in every experience using an Experiential Learning Process. Anyone who does teaching or training will find this model very useful.

Upcoming Teleclasses:

Our next "Random Acts of Facilitation" Teleclass starts Wednesday, October 22th and meets once weekly through Wednesday, November 12th, from 7:00-8:30 PM EDT. Please see details below.

Ask Campaign

We continue to receive great questions via our "Ask Campaign." Feel free to give it a try yourself. What's the single most important question you have about facilitation? Click here to just ask and we'll do our best to reply with some helpful comments. Thanks for playing!

If any of you have had interesting experiences with groups as either
a participant or as a facilitator, please tell us about it. We are always on the lookout for great case studies and techniques that will benefit everyone for our future issues.

Thanks for your support!
Steve Davis


Logistics Skill

Making Connections
Uncovering the Learning in Every Experience

The Point

As I read Steve's recent issue, Spellbound, where he took a paragraph of gibberish and from it produced some powerful insights about facilitation, I was again reminded of the power of the Experiential Learning Process.

As facilitators, we often create experiences to help our participants learn, but if we stop there, we've picked the fruit before it's ripe. The real learning happens afterwards, when people reflect and "process" their experiences.

Every experience has the potential to help us learn. But the learning often remains hidden unless we look for it. That's our job as facilitators - to help our participants find all that's hidden in each experience.



Hunting for the unknown, even in unfamiliar territory, doesn't have to be a confusing trip through the house of mirrors. Not if you use the Experiential Learning Process.

Experience. Start with what life hands us over and over again every day - experiences. Because they come in so many shapes and sizes -- struggling with a problem, searching for a creative solution, answering a question from a coworker, even reading a paragraph of gibberish - it's easy to get started. Just choose one.

Since every experience provides a portal to new learning and discovery, we need to help our participants open the door and explore. We do this by asking questions that guide them through the learning process.

Analyze. The first step of this exploration is to understand the experience, to "analyze" it, so we'll want to ask questions such as:

  • What happened?
  • What worked? Why?
  • What didn't? Why?

It's important to ensure our understanding of the experience is accurate and complete, especially if we've shared this experience as a group.

Generalize. When we're confident we understand the experience, our next step is to "generalize" the experience by relating it in some way to something else in our lives that matters - to something we care about.

For instance, after reading that people can make sense of a paragraph of gibberish as long as the first and last letter of each word are correct (the rest of the letters just need to be in there somewhere), Steve then asked himself how he could relate this to facilitation (a subject he cares a great deal about).

To help us generalize our experiences, try asking:

  • How does this relate to . . . ?
  • What else works this way?
  • What else could work this way?

The key is to look for connections, so open your mind and reach for new perspectives. This often results in "surprises" as we discover connections we didn't expect, and haven't seen before.

Most importantly, Don't give up! Be persistent - you don't want to leave this step too soon. Finding connections can be as exciting and rewarding as uncovering a Pirate's hidden treasure chest.

Even if we don't find a buried chest of treasure, if we're persistent, and open our minds, we'll almost always find one of those exciting insights or ah-ha's that makes us want to tell everyone else about it, and those are more valuable than a handful of doubloons.

Apply. But it's not enough to just find the treasure. We have to put this valuable learning to work by asking how we can "apply" it.

Again, questions can help us take this step.

  • How do we put this to work?
  • What do we need to DO differently?

Of course, as we take these actions they'll lead us to new experiences, and if we continue to look for them, more learnings.

Overcoming Resistance. Overcoming the "they'll never sit still for this" reservation about your proposed activity, exercise or "game."

Even the most conservative, reserved participants will do off-the-wall things if they see a point to it. The trick is to help them see the relevance of the activity - how it's going to help improve the performance of the group. You can use the Experiential Learning Process to show the group how you're going to make the connection. Share the process with them up front so they know where you're going.

If you still find strong resistance, even as you start your activity, it's often best to "interrupt" the activity - stop the action and put it on hold while you use questions to take the group through the analyze-generalize-apply steps of the Experiential Learning Process. Make it quick. Make it relevant. The point is to show the participants that there is value in doing the activity. Then resume the activity, or if it's more appropriate, restart the activity from the beginning. Either way, be sure to take the group through the Experiential Learning Process after they finish the activity so you can help them squeeze all the learning out of the experience.

Once you take them through the process, their reservations will disappear.

About the Author:
Norman H. Patnode is a Professor of Program Management & Leadership at the Defense Acquisition University and is passionate about learning facilitation.

Would you like to republish this or other articles from the journal? You are free to do so providing you follow these guidelines.


Practice the Experiential Learning Process yourself by reflecting on an experience. (The experience can be anything! Reading a book, laughing at an e-mail, kicking a soccer ball around with your kids) Just pick something and go through the analyze-generalize-apply steps. Have fun exploring. Any ah-ha's, insights, personal revelations? We'd love to hear about them, so please email us your comments.

What's New?
MFJ "Ask" Campaign

We're trying something new here at MFJ in our efforts to tune into what our readers are up to and what they need to support their facilitation work.

What's the single most important question you have about facilitation?
We'll do our best to reply with some helpful comments. Thanks for playing!

Your Name
Email Address
My single most important questions is...


About the Publisher
Steve Davis helps facilitators, coaches, consultants and leaders who are struggling to
present themselves confidently, empower their groups, enhance their facilitation skills,
and build their businesses on and off line. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. If you'd like to reprint this article in another publication, you are free to do so providing you follow the guidelines here. Thanks for reading!

In the Spotlight

Teleclass for facilitators and change agents.

Discrete skills and attitudes for the new and experienced facilitator who wants to get their group into serious motion.

Random Acts of Facilitation Teleclass

This class will meet for four consecutive Wednesday's, October 22nd through November 12th, 2003 at 7:00-8:30 PM EDT (NY Time) to cover 25+ discrete facilitative actions you can take to empower and move groups forward. This course is for facilitators at any level or group members that simply want to know more about facilitation so that they can make the groups they are a part of more effective. Being discrete acts of facilitation, they also lend themselves to being taught to your group members who desire to become more self-facilitative.

How the Training works...
1. You dial into your class every Wednesday from October 22nd through November 12th for a 90-minute focused training segment using a telephone conferencing bridge.
2. You work a 25-point checklist during the course (about an hour a week of study and field work).
3. You will have the opportunity to discuss issues on the subject matter with the instructor and your classmates via an online listserve during the course.
4. During the week, you may access the instructor via email for help or situational questions.

Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the course...

Class 1
Introduction to the Facilitation,Self Facilitation and Relating Skills.

1. Set the Stage.
2. Share the Dream.
3. Get Facilitation
4. Juggling.
5. Me First.
6. Be Ignorant.
7. Make Smiles Happen.

Class 2
Relating and Group Dynamics

8. Hold 'em High.
9. Acknowledge the Elephant.
10. Turn on Your Crap-Detector.
11. Build the Container.
12. Build trust.
13. Mine the Unexpected.

Class 3
Group Dynamics, Organizing and Presenting yourself

14. Evolve Your Team.
15. Honor the Process.
16. Facilitate Full Participation
17. Prepare for Success.
18. Get Real.
19. Make Experiences, Not Speeches
20. Be your message

Class 4
Intervening to shift group energy

21. Tame the Tormentors.
22. CareFront.
23. Use the Struggle.
24. Break through barriers.
25. Facilitate from Within.

Benefits to you of participating from the Random Acts of Facilitation Training...
1. Get a great introduction to the concept and practice of facilitation skills if you are contemplating becoming a facilitator, team leader, board member, manager, mediator, etc.
2. Learn some "easy to remember," discrete tools you can use to empower any group.
3. Learn how to challenge and empower every group you come in contact with.
4. Learn to appreciate and use surprises by getting comfortable dealing with the "unexpected" in your groups.
5. Gain reinforcement for the facilitative work you're already doing and learn some language and theory to back it up.
6. Collaborate and learn from a community of your peers, who are all passionate about empowering groups.

Also included with your training...
In addition to the training described above, you also receive:
1. Free access to the participant-only website (lots of resources, forms, etc.).
2. Free access to the RealAudio version of the training.
3. Free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value).

The full cost of training/access is only $79 for MFJ readers ($89 for the general public) including a free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value). Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee.

October 22-November 12, 2003, 7:00-8:30 PM EDT (NY Time)

Please click here to register. Immediately upon completion of your registration, you will receive an email with instructions to access the course and free article bank. This course is limited to 20 individuals, first come, first served.

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case. (Why? Because we are sensitive to the fact that you are buying an e-course/product from us and we feel that if this package isn't EXACTLY what you expected or wanted, that you should be able to get 100% of your money back. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.)

Real Audio Testimonials
Click here for a one-minute audio testimonial from several participants on the final day of the teleclass.


Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look for your next issue on October 21, 2003.


Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved