I often observe people in meetings, seminars, or workshops. It is my job to do so. For steering the process, I am regularly taking the temperature; I need to know how involved participants are. Engagement is visible and can be felt. On some occasions, the room is filled with a babble of voices and laughter; on others, the quiet and focused atmosphere suggests that participants are in deep thought.

What does it need to create this level of engagement and commitment?

A shared purpose is indispensable. It needs a compelling invitation and the right people that bring with them diverse experiences, insights, inspiring stories, ideas and questions. It needs a well-framed space and a collaborative atmosphere. An inspiring place is a great support. It needs all that; and still I wonder what else is needed. When I look back at the many workshops I experienced as participant and the ones I facilitated there are some that stand out. My favourite is a 3-day digital storytelling workshop: I never left a workshop with something so valuable and meaningful in my hands.

So, what differentiates good workshops from great workshops?

When I read Ian Pinsloo’s blog post Moving Beyond What Is Currently Possible: Creativity, Risk Taking, and a Sense of “Promisingness” I found the missing piece: Great workshops are based on a creative challenge. A creative challenge is real and not fake. It matters. A creative challenge engages, pulls us in and takes us on a discovery tour. Responding to a creative challenge is like the hero’s journey of accepting a call, going through the process of revelation and returning with deep insights.

When addressing a challenge that is not only beyond our current ability but also beyond what is currently possible, we still must find a way to act. We cannot know exactly what to do because no one has done it before; therefore, we necessarily make decisions with insufficient knowledge. Likewise, each action we take constrains the next (…). As we build our way forward in response to an unprecedented challenge, we take risks with each step.
Ian Pinsloo

By responding positively to the call, we signal our readiness for adventure. The safe workshop space gives us the freedom to explore and co-create something new together. We stretch our knowledge and capacities; and move into the unknown; we explore the edges of our fields. We create jointly something we can carry with us in our hands, our hearts and our minds. That could be a prototype of a new service, a rough design of a new project, a new model that works for everyone, a visual roadmap supported by all, a social report of our learning journey or a joint digital story.

In all fields of life we live at edges
between known & unknown worlds […]
#serendipity can help us explore these edges.
Lennart Björneborn

People are hungry for creative challenges.

What is your thought about this?

PS: This blog post was number 100. I started blogging with Hungry for communication on May 18, 2012. Many thanks to all my readers for your loyalty.

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