Where Do You Start?

Practice Group Report

Several years ago I was talking with Penny Tompkins and James Lawley about creating workshop activities, when one of them said that there are only four possible starting points for any ‘change’ activity:

  • A resource
  • A problem
  • A remedy
  • A desired outcome

For some reason, this conversation came to mind last week, along with an activity that Zannie Barrett told me about, also some time ago, and which also came from the Penny and James ‘stable’. This activity starts with a resource, but to make it a change activity, the client first thinks about a problem they have. They write that down on a piece of paper and then put it away…

This is the activity we did in last night’s practice group. First, I shared some information from When the Remedy is the Problem where Penny and James talk about these four starting points. There was a brief discussion of the main idea in the article (when the remedy is the problem) and the example we came up with was that of attending a weight loss group and not actually losing weight.

Then everyone duly wrote their problem down, folded it up and put it away. Then we worked in pairs, developing a resource. This could be any skill, attribute or quality that we have and want to keep.

After the break, we then got our papers back out and facilitators asked, “And when [description of resource metaphor], what happens to [problem]? Some of us shared the problems, others kept them private.

There was a mixed response to this activity. Some group members loved it and found it very useful; others said that when they are in the problem they have no access to the resource and vice versa, and that structuring the session in this way did not work for them.

My experience as client was of taking two seemingly unrelated things (resource = being able to learn new software very quickly; problem = being overweight) and finding there to be quite a lot more overlap between them that I had been unaware of. The person I worked with  [resource = sense of humour; problem = no ideas for blog posts] had a similar experience and we both came out with some ideas for new approaches to our problems.

Others made the following observations:

  • starting with a resource means the client is in a good state for when the problem is introduced;
  • as client, I was thinking about my problem while I was modelling the resource and finding links between them even at that stage
  • putting the resource and problem adjacent to one another meant I was predisposed to find links between them
  • the activity would have worked better if we’d had longer to strengthen the resource before introducing the problem (we had 15 mins each on resource and then 15 mins each on problem)

Tags: practice group, remedies, problems, penny tompkins, james lawley, desired outcomes

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About the author

Marian Way

Company Director & Trainer, Portchester, Fareham
A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be... #DramaFree. Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She's trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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