Do you ignore the elephant in the room?

Do you ignore the elephant in the room?

There are sometimes when you plan for things to happen in a training workshop and they do. Other times you don't plan and something quite unexpected happens. A few weeks ago, I was running a Learning Loop workshop for an organisation in York.

The planned outcomes for the 2 days were around learning accelerated learning principles as well as boosting their creativity; something achievable and measurable. Something, that because of the very nature of the Learning Loop game, was beginning to happen.

As the afternoon went on though, something was sticking. In spite of their enthusiasm for seeing accelerated learning in action and experiencing its effects, something was stopping them from believing that they could implement some of the ideas that were growing.

The elephant in the room started to grow and it was apparent who was feeding it. One of the directors could not envisage a major client buying into doing things creatively and making them engaging. Their style was traditional and this was being imposed onto the organisation. What was I to do? Reassure them that their tough issues will get addressed later in the day? Ignore the elephant, hoping it will go away?

Seeing the passion for their business but also the frustration they were feeling, we stopped where we were and used some creativity tools to see how we could "break the rules" that were holding them back. Allowing time to address "the elephant", gave two very busy and successful directors an opportunity to look at things differently.

They would say I fixed something for them, but actually, what I did was give them the space to come up with their own solution. A solution they put into practice the very next day when speaking to a prospective client. The courage and conviction they demonstrated was backed up by the deep seated passion for what they love to do and enabled them to step out in faith that they knew what they were doing.

The point of this story is not so much about what I did or did not do, but one of evolution. Session plans are great, as are focussed objectives, but if you ignore the elephant, it only acts as a barrier to change, no matter how motivated the individuals are.

Now this may already be obvious, but the cartoon for me, symbolises what happens when you don't evolve as an organisation. The differences may not seem so great between a mammoth and an elephant, but they were great enough to allow one to survive. So what is holding you back as an organisation and stopping you from evolving?

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  • Lovely post with a point very well made. I'd be interested to hear what you mean by 'their style is traditional'.

    I'm wondering how much creativity, free flowing ideas and innovation is held back by such a 'style' by people in leadership positions. This is actually touched on as well in Katri's post on knowledge sharing

    • When I say "traditional" I mean where the trainer spends a lot of time presenting rather than facilitating. The learners are passive and have the training "done" to them rather than being involved. It is quite common in technical and knowledge heavy training where the use of games and activities is deemed to be trivial or not serious enough.

      Bearing in mind the retention is likely to be around 20% for this type of training, as opposed to 90% with accelerated learning, it is amazing lots of companies out there are still doing it. Understanding some neuroscience behind AL can help people see why it works.

      Another point around creativity and innovation, where one person is the expert and the others listen, ideas do not tend to flow freely. Give people permission to think and create and they will come up with solutions you may never have thought of!

      • Right with you, I thought it was specific to the leader (Director) rather the Trainer but it works either way :-)

        One of the directors could not envisage a major client buying into doing things creatively and making them engaging. Their style was traditional and this was being imposed onto the organisation. Their style was traditional and this was being imposed onto the organisation

        However it is fundamentally the same output as you suggest but in a slightly different context. If this Director is showing these traditional traits e.g. authoritative, dictator, making decisions based on what they think is best, ignoring the views of others, one way communication etc then this will be the characteristics and behaviours adopted by the organisation and be part of the culture. Not a great culture to be part of.

        The example you give to address this is great and wider afield at organisational level this can be a big challenge as traditional leadership is top down, autocratic and not open or very collaborative. Similarly if you have a traditional trainer e.g. sage on the stage or someone who spoon feeds the only thing people will learn is the shape of the spoon and this non-learning and being able to think critically for themselves will have an adverse affect on progress, creativity and innovation.

        Good to see you mention neuroscience as I've just posted a useful article and ebook on it over here I'm sure you'll like it :-)

        • Actually the Director was frustrated as to the constraints the client had been putting them under and wanted a way out. It was wonderful to see him then have the courage to challenge!

          • Lightbulb moment - got you!

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