A workshop is a “training class or seminar in which the participants work individually and/or in groups to solve actual work related tasks to gain hands-on experience” according to BusinessDictionary.com. The way in which a workshop is designed can intimately affect the direction in which the process goes. Many other factors influence this design process so how does this effect the learning of everyone involved?
To shortlist, here are some on the usual ingredients of a workshop: a trained facilitator, materials which participants can interact with and a group of individuals who will be individually or co-creating and some sort of result that the facilitator wishes to guide towards.
This result might be to have the participants deliver a design framework, or to have a ‘next action’ to perform on a complex project. To the facilitator, the success of a workshop isn't in what the participants produce on the day in the workshop, but rather the frameworks they learn and are able to take away with them. Teaching new frameworks that the participants can use when they encounter future problems.
The materials used in workshops can vary considerably and can give wildly different outcomes in terms of creativity, co-creation and serious play. Whether it be LEGO, pipe cleaners and card or purpose-built materials supplied by the facilitator; these mediums of modelling will have a huge impact on the deliverable the participants create.
Co-creation vs Individual Creation
Co-creation is described by Vargo & Lusch (2008) and Barile and Polese (2010) as the joint creation of value where customers and organisation work together both offering resources to improve the outcome of the design process.
Even individual designs can vary rapidly. In a recent LEGO™ Serious Play workshop, Vasilis described the result of two participants creating representations of the same idea:
“Participants never come up with the same thing. They will use different blocks, it will be a different design entirely. Even if you tried to encourage it people would never deliver the same outcome.”
Co-creation is inherently different from guiding individuals in the design process. The competing opinions, the hands-on experience and the different interpretations of all the materials can all contribute to a fundamentally different interpretation of what they have created.
Co-creation in Action
"Personal experience promotes this. A geography teacher once asked our small class to create a short video he could use to show future students; about the formations of headlands, stacks and stumps in coastal erosion. I became the director and really felt the mission to do a good job so that future classes would be able to learn from our short video. Now that I recall this, I imagine he didn't actually set us this task to share with future students but actually to engage us in the learning. And to be honest, this is one of the only bits of the course I could confidently teach someone else."
The nature of co-creation then, arguably goes beyond just learning a framework. If ‘no idea is a bad idea’ then several individual ideas can be harvested and joined together. Hearing one thought from one person can trigger a game-changing idea from another. It can be these thoughts which can be seen to be the jump from single-loop learning, to double-loop or even triple-loop, where changing the perceptions of an issue can often be the only way to solve it.
Gamification re-imagines the entire process of design thinking. Not only the aspect of cooperation, but gamifying the workshop process can change an idea from just being written in pen on paper to having a fully-fledged solution to a problem. Purpose built materials can be reutilised in-house which can assist them in problem solving time and time again. Learning about something, is different from experiencing something. When you experience new ideas, it can make you more creative in the process.
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