Increasingly used by organizations and training professionals across the world, experiential learning is fast becoming one of the most trusted methods of delivering impactful sessions for teams. Its applications are wide, but some of the more popular ones include team building, and learning & development space. The concept is based on the famous Experiential learning Cycle developed by Kolb and Fry and draws on some of the earlier work in the area by Dewey, Levin and Piaget. Yet increasingly, successful teams have been able to merge the powerful concept of “Play” with experiential learning theory to bring out the best learning outcomes in team development.
Observation and Reflection (2) –
Having tasted the experiences, the team would be able to talk about the taste and feel of the experience. Reflection is part of the thinking process; by reflection the team can discover new perspectives and ideas that lead to learning.
Forming Abstract Concepts (3) –
Armed with the learning through reflection, the team can form generic concepts and principles to improve their own individual styles and team environment.
Testing in New Situations (4) –
Forming the concepts and principles without applying them is useless. Any brilliant idea kept in the head is a dead one. Application of the concepts and principles to new situations is imperative to the development of the team.
What is play and what place does it have in the above theory? In Simple terms, play can be defined as any activity which can be enjoyed by the individual without stress or barriers. In its simplest form, play takes the form of children playing with each other, uninhibited expressions of joy and other emotions. However, somewhere down the journey of changing into adults, we leave behind our sense of play and enjoyment (at least most of us do!) So learning becomes mundane, inundated with boring classroom style sessions, starting from school and carrying on to corporate work like with minor differences in the medium of delivery. Is there logic for bringing play back to adults for learning? Instances from various organizations seem to suggest it does. Consider this scenario, in one organization, which uses a fun way to conduct team meetings; Team members enter the meeting; wear a disposable coat which can be written on with markers. All ideas discussed and actionables for the individuals are written down on each others’ back (on the coats) at the end of the meeting. After the meeting, take off your coat, and there are your minutes of the meeting and action items for each individual! Sounds much more fun than normal corporate meetings with tons of presentations and more often than not, no actionable outcomes.
What can a skillful facilitator do to couple these two powerful concepts of experiential learning and Power of Play? Here are a few thoughts on the same
1. Put yourself in their shoes:
2. Engaging Participants:
Is your session engaging the participant in more than one dimension? If it involves only one way flow of information to participants, the outcomes might not be too different from the slide filled monotonous sessions.
3. Speak as little as possible:
Sounds counter intuitive? Try it out! The best communicators are people who can get other people to talk while reining in their own urge to impart wisdom during the session. If the learning has to be imbibed into the work place, the participants need to own the learning, in that; they need to feel that the ideas originated with them.
4. Encourage positive behavior:
While it is extremely important for the participants to have fun during the session, the facilitator should be always mindful of guiding the sessions toward the learning objectives of the session. Setting aside time for team discussion after activities is a good way to do this. “Debrief” as it is popularly called should not turn out to be a monologue from the facilitator. If we can keep in the mind the age old saying” The wisdom lies within the team”, and use our facilitation skills to probe and bring this out, you would have done an excellent job at the end of the session.
Try it out with your team while designing a workshop the next time.