No, this post is not about workshops on the topic of the Antimatter Principle – although I’m happy to discuss with you the possibility of conducting one with your team, group, or company.
And it’s definitely not about workshops on the topic of Antimatter.
This post is about using the Antimatter Principle to create better workshops – on any topic.
I’ve been to more than my fair share of workshops and the like over the years, and I’ve never been to one that was worth even the time it required to attend, let alone the cost in terms of hard cash. No, wait. Let me restate. I’ve never been to a workshop that was worth the time for the learnings it provided. I have been to many workshops where the social dimension – getting to meet people, doing things in concert, sharing a common interest, etc. – has been wonderful.
I don’t think it’s just me, either.
Aside: This post is about workshops, that is, events where groups of people come together, bounded by time, space and subject matter, ostensibly to learn together by doing. I contrast this with “training”, where the doing element is mostly conspicuous by its absence. I have no enthusiasm at all for the idea of training per se.
Workshops, at least, I feel may be redeemable as learning events, albeit with some major overhaul of the basic framework.
Here’s some of the problems I have with workshops as they currently exist:
- The expert
Most workshops get led by a subject matter or domain expert, eager to share their knowledge and experience.
- The agenda
Most workshops follow an agenda laid down by the “facilitating” expert. This (detailed) agenda is derived from the broader agenda of the sponsor. For in-house workshops this generally means a senior manager. For public workshops this generally means the expert, or the organisation for which he or she is working.
- Passive engagement (i.e. little to no engagement)
Many folks attend workshops with little interest in the subject and little enthusiasm for being there. The reasons for this are various but can include being told to attend, having spare training or professional development budget, and wanting to accrue CPD credits.
All the above lead to workshops having a low correlation between the needs of the participants and the content of the workshop. And to outcomes which fall short of expectations, and way short of what might be possible, given a different approach.
What is a Better Workshop?
For me, as a facilitator, a better kind of workshop would be one where folks had a real opportunity to meet their own individual and collective needs, be that for learning, for social interaction, or for other things.
And for me as an attendee, much the same criteria seem relevant too.
Applying the Antimatter Principle
So, to the application of the principle:
“Attend to folks’ needs.”
Firstly, do the prospective attendees have needs which correlate with the headline subject matter / topic? If not, maybe it’s better those folks don’t attend.
Then, there the agenda itself: Does it include a list of expected “learning outcomes”? Maybe it’s better not to do that. At least, unless the prospective attendees have created the list themselves prior to the event. And in those cases where this prior work is problematic, maybe it’s better to defer creation of the list until the event itself.
Yes, I suspect many people would prefer to have someone else set the agenda, structure the workshop, list the outcomes. And yes, it’s harder to sell workshops absent an outline, agenda or list of expected outcomes.
I do wonder if better workshops that no one gets to attend are any kind of improvement over what we have already. Maybe you’d be willing to share to view on this dilemma?