Viv is out in Papua New Guinea doing facilitation training. We sometimes do this together and I know it’s harder doing it on your own. It’s not surprising we agree on lots of things, including this:
If I’m learning to be a facilitator, I probably want to learn the how (processes, techniques, tip and tricks) first. Then I’d want to know about application, when and why I would use one and not the other. Problem is, learning is not linear. It happens in loops and leaps, in small moments of clarity, in confusion and messiness. In other words, learning, and meaning, emerges. It can’t be structured in a way that makes sense to everyone because everyone learns differently (and no, I’m not thinking learning styles – that’s been well and truly debunked).
I think most of us were brought up in education systems that fed the fantasy of linear learning. Standard sized chunks of content, delivered in predictable order, measured in orderly ways, to tidily organised numbers of people of the same age. The notion that things should go in straight lines is hard to shake off.
In corporate life, training often conform to a similar stereotype. We’re tempted to focus on the juicy chunks of content (‘you will learn, blob, blob, blob’).
The thing is, if someone’s interested, they can suck down no end of content from the web, without having to pay a trainer to dress it up for them.
As Viv says, people come to these trainings hoping to learn techniques and that’s fair enough. They also want to have the recipes for all the tricky situations they’ve experienced in the past or fear in the future. The temptation to serve up recipes, and perpetuate the teacher trance, is strong.
It should be resisted.
I find in the end that participants are more relieved when I say there is no magic formula and that the job is inevitably confusing and stressful sometimes. That feels like reality, and most people can deal with reality ok. But if they think there’s a holy grail, then the search will exhaust them.
If you want to talk with people about how to work with people, I reckon the running order is unimportant. Start anywhere. It’s all connected anyway, and in much more interesting ways than any “five steps” formula of finely honed agenda.