July 7, 2015
Words to live by when you’re a facilitator preparing for a meeting.
Why do facilitators prepare ‘fun’ activities at a meeting? Why do they make you fly airplanes or play with building blocks? Why does this happen at offsite meetings? Serious money is spent on offsite meetings, shouldn’t we be focused on serious things?
Neuroscience tells us that our brains easily traverse old neural network paths. These well traveled paths keep us safe; warn us of threats and are in part the reason why we drive to work ‘in a fog’ and get there safely. The neural connections are deeply embedded and regularly traveled. This is also why we are good at post-mortem analysis, forensic examinations, and deductive reasoning – because our brains have been there before.
Solving new problems, creating new ideas, delving into long term visioning, or imaging future states is much harder work for our brains. Our brains need to create new pathways or connect old pathways in new ways which takes a great deal of energy and requires a different catalyst.
Have you every had a ‘eureka’ moment during your morning shower? or during a run? Have you woken up part way through the night with a brilliant idea. Have you been talking about something and suddenly experienced a flash of insight on an unrelated matter? How often have you woken up in the morning with the distinct sensation that you have a solution just below the surface that you can’t quite access… but you know its there. If you can find a way to re-enter that state of semi consciousness you might find it again.
We’re all familiar with the movie cliche where the brilliant inventor has a massive aha moment, doing something quite fun, or completely unrelated to the problem to be solved. (There’s a great moment in a bar scene in The Imitation Game).
What you are experiencing or witnessing is examples of new connections being made in your brain; the catalyst has been something that had nothing to do with the subject at hand. A common scenario is that the brain is in a relaxed or calm state and is free to expel energy on new connections.
Generally, work environments are not very calm. Humour and fun at work allow us to relax, thereby reducing our defensive instincts. When we are less defensive and more relaxed, there is space and opportunity for new connections to be made, for eureka moments to be had, or even more simply, to be open to an new perspective.
Facilitators know this and work ‘creative space’ into meeting planning. There is method in our madness when we ask you to make a paper airplane or build a duck from building blocks. A single exercise may have multiple purposes.
Offsite meetings are serious money and serious outcomes do need to happen. A bit of fun can create a climate for serious ideas to emerge.