Inspiring workshops need great people, stimulating questions and the right environment. Making workshops successful is also a design question. Workshops will fly if we take care of three essentials: relationships, joint learning and work. And we need to find the right balance between structure and openness.

ws desgin structure and openness

Looking back to 2013 you most probably attended some workshops or you have facilitated some. Which one was the best one? Why that one?

Many ingredients

There might be many reasons:

  • warm and connecting atmosphere
  • friendly and inviting place
  • delicious food
  • wonderful people – new connections
  • being part of a larger community
  • great time-out from daily work
  • relevant topic useful for your work
  • stimulating learning experience brining new insights and ideas
  • engaging and meaningful conversations
  • opportunities to share and engage
  • time for networking and informal exchanges
  • well organized
  • careful and purposeful workshop design
  • rich harvest, interesting discoveries, answers and new questions

Three essentials: Relationships, co-learning and work

I discovered this map by Chris Corrigan. He uses it as design tool for communities of practice to give equal emphasis on relationships, co-learning and work. This map inspired me; it makes networked learning initiatives and workplace learning relevant.

Chris Corrigan three essentials

#Networks move at the speed of #trust


  • Knowledge networks are based on relationships and trust; we share with whom we trust. Successful workshops take care of the social dimension and create the right atmosphere for people to meet and to connect. Learning is also emotions. Joy and laughter, confusion, struggle, togetherness…
  • Learning is collaborative, we learn jointly. We go to workshops and network meetings to learn from each other, to engage in conversations, to create something new, and to move jointly a step further in our thinking and doing. Co-creating contributes to a lasting learning experience.

We meet to get things done.

Chris Corrigan

  • Workshops with a strong link to the participants’ work and reality are meaningful. Sharing and learning for getting things done really advances our work.

The smart mix makes workshops fly

In my experience the strongest workshops combined the three essentials: relationships, co-learning and work. Make the test: A workshop focusing too much on content is missing the opportunity for people to meet and engage. Why meet if there is no time to connect and engage in conversations? A workshop focusing on sharing and learning without making the link to work and getting things done is maybe nice but not relevant and useful.

The right balance between the three essentials and between structure and openness ensures workshops fly. This is a design question. This is art.

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