Insights from Spontaneous Co-Creation

A walk on the beach led to an idea and several days of spontaneous co-creation ensued.

When was the last time you were suddenly in a situation in which you shared an idea with another person and yet had no process for moving forward?

As my friend (whom I have known the longest in life) and I walked along Folly Beach, SC, I was reminded of a beautiful mandala I had seen in San Sebastián, Spain. I saw “our” beach as a potential canvas…

I shared my photo and made the suggestion that we attempt such a feat. We set out to find tools/sticks, and began to talk about possibilities. I’ve made many mandalas in my day (I love The Mandala Guidebook and The Art of Mandala Drawing: Create Geometric Patterns). Nancy had never made one before. 

We both wanted to share in the creation, so we talked briefly about what we knew about mandalas. I didn’t want to share a lot because I didn’t want to influence how she came to this experience. We talked about taking turns: each of us drew a layer of the design, building on what had just been completed. Sometimes we weren’t sure what to do next. We would each offer up a few ideas and then whatever struck the fancy of the person responsible, became the next layer.

How do you approach co-creation when there’s a significant difference in the knowledge and skills of the people involved in the project?

No doubt, the import, and nature of the project, plus the timeframe are factors in how to proceed in the developing process of co-creation. We had the luxury of knowing that enjoying our experience was paramount and therefore we felt no pressure about achieving a particular result. 

We both encountered challenges with our tools and resources. The sticks were of varying widths (which became an interesting design element), and the sand on our first and second days was the same consistency across the diameter of our design (perhaps 8 feet). On day 3, in the same area of the beach, we were confronted with the sand so wet that it altered the strokes that we created. 

How do you work with a variety of tools, resources, and unexpected challenges? 

We finished our first mandala and were delighted! We approached the next two days with enthusiasm and without any plans in our minds. In part, that was the charm of our experiences.

I know that during this time together, we were in flow. The late afternoons at the beach were one of the highlights of my days.

What are some everyday experiences from which you have harvested insights? 

I was very conscious of letting go of what I knew about mandala design and creation. I wanted us to approach this as equals. And truth be told, the majority of the mandalas I’ve drawn have been, at the most eight inches in diameter, so working at this scale was a new experience. 

A few folks came and visited us every day, to ask questions and share their delight in seeing what we had created. On the first day, a man said to us, “This must not be your first rosette.” Nancy was excited to tell him that in fact, it was the first time we had worked/played together in this way… and that way we have been lifelong friends. Now that’s memory!

There are insights to be gained from all we do. I would love to hear some of your insights from similar experiences!

Learning &  Feedback—for Learners & Trainers (Facilitators & Coaches)

As a learner, I love sharing my thoughts and feelings about my learning experiences. Giving feedback is a gift.

As a trainer (facilitator and coach), I’m always interested in hearing from those with whom I work. I take people’s thoughts, questions, and future-oriented suggestions very seriously. Receiving feedback is a gift.

How do you ask for feedback and how do you use the information you receive? 

Just last month I attended a multi-day intensive online training. The courses and the speakers varied in their quality—the relevance of the content for the audience, the presenters’ styles of delivery, and group facilitation/engagement skills. Upon completion of the program, I happily filled in the Google Doc/evaluation. I endeavored to be open, honest, and forward-thinking – offering suggestions and alternatives, wherever I noted something I believed could be improved.

Just a few days after completing the evaluation form, I gave a Zentangle class. I have been teaching Zentangle since 2103. I LOVE teaching it as it is almost always a really wonderful experience for everyone.

This time there were a number of variables to work with:

  • the pattern was complicated—more so than usual—almost an optical illusion when finished
  • participants’ skills were at quite a variety of levels of expertise
  • people work at quite different speeds (from slower to faster)

It’s rare for me to complete a session and feel that there are a few things I could’ve done better. I say that because my business is being an educator/teacher/trainer. I’ve studied long and hard to hone my skills over the decades. I am very good at what I do. (I imagine you are very good at what you do too… I don’t believe in false humility, do you?) 

When things don’t go as I plan, and I feel learners could have achieved better results or had a more wonderful time together, I am curious about what I can improve and determined to make it so.

I reached out to the participants the next morning to ask direct and specific questions about their experiences. Happily, I received very thoughtful and helpful feedback. I went to work planning for my next session.

Last night we had another class and it was a resounding success. In part, the patterns that we tackled were not as complex, and yet I had also, perhaps, more importantly, re-imagined and changed my approach based on the feedback received. I also talked to the participants about the difference between the two experiences—I love those meta-cognitive moments!

It feels great to recognize the places where I can grow and change to facilitate and deepen learning experiences for my participants.

Over the years I have observed that feedback is often not requested. Is that your experience too? In those instances, I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the individual and/or organization do not seek to assess the quality of their work — to discover what is particularly effective and what might need some adjustment. It is disappointing—though only slightly less so than when feedback is requested and then not used to improve experiences. 

Whether you’re a trainer, facilitator, coach, or truly anyone working with others, here’s my question for you: How do you solicit feedback about your work? What do you do with it when you get it? How do you grow and change through the process? I’d love to know!

PS: If you’re interested in tangling/learning about Zentangle, a meditative, relaxing art form, visit this page to learn more, and this page to see the classes that I am offering. 

(Mental) Space—the Final Frontier

I am in the middle of a really aggressive learning/training program.* My time is scheduled from the morning til way past sundown for 10 days. I am feeling it. 

  • Can you remember the last time when you worked with what was in front of you because that’s what you had to do, yet it felt big, good, and challenging? 

Happily, I had a break in the middle of this 10-day marathon. In that brief respite, I literally felt a sense of spaciousness in my mind. I had the opportunity to think beyond the immediate task to imagine possibilities. It was AWESOME! I felt on fire and couldn’t find a piece of paper or a device fast enough sometimes to capture my ideas… even great ideas can slip through my fingers like water if I get distracted by a phone call or even another thought.

  • When was the last time you felt the juicy expanse and immensity of space for dreaming, imagining, designing, planning, and more?
  • How did you take full advantage of the opportunity?

Now that I am returning to my practice, after the intensity of travel, work, and play in the US and abroad plus my 10-day learning extravaganza, I am seeing the elements of my work from a new perspective—I am shaking it up. It’s exciting!

I’m thinking that I need to take this insight to heart. “Dreaming time” needs to have a special place on my monthly calendar and not left to a delightful, perhaps serendipitous, alignment of the stars. It tantalizing to even think about scheduling those dates with myself! I’ll keep you posted on my progress with this new habit. And, if you want to join me, I’d be happy to have a buddy on this path. Lmk!

*Written last week… when I didn’t make a minute to post it…