Submitted by Nate Folan, Experiential Trainer & Facilitator | Author | Consultant

"At a certain point, I suppose you do have to let go and trust the people you are working with." 

- Madonna

I presented a pre-conference workshop at the Association for Challenge Course Technology Conference. The workshop was titled "Co-creating a Collaborative Learning Experience" and focused primarily on program design. I utilized the concept of Human  Centered Design and the Design Thinking process popularized by IDEO, an innovation firm based in California, to offer a more collaborative approach to program design.

During the workshop, I wanted to provide the attendees with an experience of collaboration. The focus was not necessarily on the idea of working together towards a common goal, but rather the feelings we may have or stories we tell ourselves as we create or produce something together.

For example these feelings or stories may manifest in questions or thoughts such as, "What are they doing?" "Why are they doing that?" "I wouldn't do it that way." "That's not what I was thinking." "Hey, you wrecked my idea." Overall expressing "ugh," the feeling of frustration or holding on to something, just before holding on tighter or letting go.

The hope with the following activity was for attendees to practice letting go, laughing, and creating something they never could have imagined or intended to create alone. Ultimately, the hope is for group leaders - teachers, counselors, corporate trainers, camp counselors, group facilitators, etc. - to integrate this practice into the design and delivery of unique learning experiences for people they work with. Learning to let go, perhaps laugh, and truly co-create a collaborative learning experience with the people the experience is intended invites empathy, engagement, and outcomes unknown, yet often of emergent value.

The activity I chose to use is called Collaborative Drawing. To prep, provide markers, paper, and a hard surface such as a table or clip board, to draw on. To play, divide your group into pairs or small groups of 3-4 people. Explain that each person will take turns drawing a line or shape on a shared piece of paper. Each person should draw for a few seconds while the other(s) observe, then pass the marker or writing utensil to the next person for their turn. Continue alternating turns for a set amount of time; 5-7 minutes seems to work well. Playing music, perhaps Jazz, adds to the learning experience and inspires creativity.

During the workshop, I showed the following video to introduce the activity. Click here to view the video.

Once time has expired, invite each partnership or small group to courageously share what they created. As each imaged is shared, invite the participants to reflect on the experience and share what the experience was like for them. Ask:

How was your experience? What was that like for you?
What feelings, thoughts, behaviors, or stories emerged as you were drawing? 
What feelings, thoughts, behaviors, or stories, emerged as you observed? 
Did you notice moments when you chose to let go or didn't let go? Laughed or not? Were surprised about what was being created?
How did those feelings, thoughts, behaviors  or stories serve you? Your partner(s)? And/or the experience?  

Perhaps this exercise is an opportunity for you to explore how you collaborate with others. Or an opportunity for groups you work with to explore their relationship with collaboration. For me, I have experienced collaboration  with both effort and ease. It seems ease comes when collaborating parties let go, laugh, and allow for the co-creation to emerge; often an emergence of wonder and value.

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