Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Adults Rarely Change (Without Their Own Help)

David A. Kolb's Model of Adult Learning
The older we get, the tougher it is to change. This is common knowledge in most circles. Adults learn and change at a very different rate than children. Yet, the most common way adults are trained in  work settings is eerily similar to the way we teach children in traditional education settings.

Enter co-creation.

When you need to make a major shift in a mostly adult environment, it is critical to use co-creation as a tool for change. Much like the model above, co-creation counts on experience and reflection as a key driver for movement.

To get an adult to change his/her behavior, you must first change the way he/she thinks or sees a situation. The easiest way to move someone's thoughts is to engage them on a personal level. It's the old radio station analogy - what channel are most folks tuned into? WIFM - "What's In (It) For Me?" Once folks can tie something directly to their own actions or environment  - in the near term or the long term, you have a chance to change them. People need to believe that they matter especially as it relates to work or activities they spend lots of time doing.

Co-creation fills this need by actively soliciting the experiences of all participants who will be affected by the final outcome of the desired work. Co-creation takes collaboration to the next level.

Merriam-Webster defines collaborate as: to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something. When you collaborate, you are "working together" but collaboration alone does not define the "how."

Think of instances where you were "collaborating" with someone who was determined to do things a certain way. In the beginning,  there is an implied desire to work toward the goal. However, it is clear when one party has a particular "way" they envision that goal being accomplished. Others in the group can feel pressured or bullied onto a specific path and that is a very loose description of collaboration. Co-creation, by it's very definition, comes at a challenge without knowing what the result will be.

Co-creation combines collaboration and facilitation. Co-creation occurs best when there is a neutral facilitator guiding the process. This facilitator does not always have to be a professional facilitator but they do need to be someone who will not be affected by the challenge you are intending to solve.  The neutrality allows the facilitator to guide and control the discussion without interest or ulterior motives - their goal is to ensure a robust non-partial discussion of ideas. The facilitator will also be instrumental in forcing prioritization, again without any ties to the outcomes.

Co-creation gives everyone a voice. When people have a voice, you have your best shot at implementing change.

The next time you need to change a group of adults, you may want to take a step back and allow them to co-create the change you want implement. Especially if you want that change to stick.

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