Do more with less

June 7th, 2011

We have a message. We know this message can change lives. But how can this message be as engaging as possible?

Here’s the problem: when we know a lot about something we tend to share too much. The result is that the people who could benefit most from the message disengage from it, or don’t engage deeply enough for the message to shape their behavior.

With this conundrum in mind, I designed and implemented with a group of teens an unconventional approach to engagement. I imposed the following limits on myself:

1. My notes had to fit on one side of a single sheet of paper.
2. I could only make two points during the hour and ten minute class period. The rest of the content had to come from the teens.
3. I couldn’t use any other resources (slides, books, etc.).

This is good time to emphasize just how frightening it can be to challenge the far reaches of our comfort zone. I knew that what transpired would be either dynamic or awkward and clunky. I had no idea which. What happened surprised everyone in the room. Especially me.

I filmed the demonstration and will post the footage in short segments throughout the summer. For now, I wanted to share the development process so that you can experiment and interact with it.

So here is what I did:

Step 1: Answer the following question with a single statement:

Question: What do I want to do?

At the top of the paper I put a summary statement: “Demonstrate tools of engagement.”

Step 2: Answer the question:

How am I going to accomplish step 1?

I wrote down all of the skills and practices that make up this engagement model which I had been collecting on 3” x 5” cards: Use of divergent questions, reflective listening, synthesis, curiosity, etc. These I wrote down on mini-sticky notes.

Step 3: In what sequence will I do these things?

I arranged the sticky notes in a progression that I thought would flow best.

Step 4: I transcribed the sequence into my single sheet of paper with one column for each of the two days I would be there.

With my single sheet in hand I was ready to put my engagement model to the test. What would you put on your single sheet of paper?

A reporter from the local paper observed the presentation. Click here to read the article.

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