Intimate Inspirations: Breaking free from the meeting and workshop cult
January 12, 2019
January 12, 2019
We humans are social creatures. From the very moment we are born we begin to develop deep connections with the people around us. As we grow we thrive on our connections with others and we love to call them our friends. Most of us can agree that we look for friends who are genuine, fun and likable; they challenge us to be better people with their intelligence, positive vibes and balanced opinions.
Science has shown that as social creatures, social interactions with these people can make us feel less stressed and anxious while reducing depressive symptoms and boosting feelings of calm and happiness.
These genuine human connections can also be a powerful tool to help us harness our creativity and push our thoughts to new boundaries. As Peter Lindbergh, one of the most iconic photographers of our time, said:
“A lot of people have creativity but they don’t know how to access it.”
Here’s an exploration of how we can harness human connection to unlock our creativity and really get the most possible from our workshops which are, after all, built upon human connection.
Striking the balance to make your workshop a success
Workshops are all about balance. There are social factors at play which can transform a stale and awkward workshop into a highly creative and inspiring social experience. Research has discovered that there are two key areas which must be in harmony as well as a range of other factors that contribute towards team creativity.
A workshop is all about the participants and if they’re on form, the workshop is almost guaranteed to succeed.
Studies have shown that participants need to be open to new experiences upon entering the workshop. This will help them to open up their minds and discard conventional ideas.
What’s more, the workshop needs to balance participants in terms of the “innovators” and “adaptors” in attendance. Innovators are seen as those people who have a tendency to violate established ideas in order to discover novel solutions to problems. Adaptors, on the other hand, are those who are happy to operate within established paradigms without asking too many questions.
These two opposing forces need to be balanced. Going back to the “beer test” analogy, this balance of character stops the conversation becoming too abstract or restrictive.
The participants are incredibly important but they’ve got to have their conversation framed by the appropriate context.
Workshop leaders go to great lengths to inspire energy and motivation into their sessions. When this motivation is palpable, attendees are far more likely to respond and develop creative ideas.
A lot of this comes from the leadership, which needs to be both supportive and emotionally positive while providing non-judgemental feedback and encouraging new questions.
The leader also needs to read the situation in order to foster a creative environment through either cooperation or competitiveness. These are two important energies and both play an important role in helping people to achieve their best.
Whichever energy is chosen, it’s important that there is no negative critical judgement and the leader avoids opinion centrality.
Why workshops fail and what you can do about it
There are a variety of reasons that a workshop may fail. Here’s an exploration of the key reasons:
Lack of Stakes
We all thrive on having a “why”. This reason for being is essential and if the “why” is important enough it also motivates us to perform certain tasks despite the difficulties. Nietzsche wrote “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
You should make sure that your workshop has a clear purpose and intention. This will inspire attendees while those workshops which fail to articulate their value will fail.
Lack of Motivation
You will certainly have had moments of low energy – we all have. In those moments, an in-depth conversation with others may seem like torture.
This is why it’s so important to try and create energy and enthusiasm in your workshop. Low-energy participants won’t be able to contribute much so creating energy is the best way to get the most from every participant.
Lack of Trust
How often do you think of something interesting but wouldn’t dream of mentioning it to somebody else for fear of it sounding strange or bizarre?
For many people this is a daily occurrence but they’re free to speak their mind when talking intimately with somebody that they trust. If you are capable of fostering that same feeling of intimacy and trust in your workshop, you’ll encourage people to open up their minds.
This doesn’t only improve the workshop results but it’s also very liberating and positive for yourself and your attendees.
Lack of Ownership
For participants to be engaged they must feel as though they have a vested interest in the workshop and its results. A big part of this is establishing a “why” as mentioned earlier, but it’s also incredibly important that each and every attendee feels engaged and involved.
This can be achieved by establishing a sense of ownership. Be sure to emphasise the important role of each attendee and acknowledge individual contributions to excite and engage your participants.
Harness the power of conversation
In life we gravitate towards those who can offer intriguing conversation and help us to enter that wonderful state of flow between two people. We’ve all experienced it: when the conversation seems to take the lead and we discover unpredictable and surprising avenues of thought.
To inspire a truly fruitful conversation consider leaving the office, going for a walk and having your conversation that way. This time away from the office helps you to riff and inject randomness into the conversation in an organic way. Without attempts to move the conversation in a particular direction we are able to emulate and harness the chaotic process which takes place in our brain.
Walking is a truly special way to pursue unique thoughts and science has recognised its potential again and again. Nietzsche recognised its potential when he wrote that
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
Bringing another person along for the conversation is a great way to kindle creativity and push open new doors which lead to your own creativity.