Simplicity on the other side of complexity

Whilst working on the Praxis symposium this year I found myself thinking about what is it that I am really doing when when I am designing a workshop or learning experience.

I have written about this before (see How to cultivate conversation, The Craft of Improv) but I still keep learning. Which in itself is fabulous – one of life’s great joys is to find you can keep on learning about something you already know well.

Back in June, as I was thinking about the Praxis event, it came to me that in effect, there are only three things you have to think about – how you organise people in time, how you organise them in space and what you give them to do. That’s it. There are an infinite number of possibilities under each heading and they obviously interconnect, but in essence that is all you have to think about.

I love this. It was a really helpful insight. It gives me clarity and simplicity but also acts as a creative stimulant. It gives me confidence, but inspires me to invent. It seems to be a great example of how simple patterns can underlie complexity.

It reminds me of Heisenberg (the quantum physicist not the character in Breaking Bad) who said:

“I would give nothing for the simplicity on this side of complexity; and everything for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

Perhaps (at last?) I am approaching the simplicity on the other side of complexity…?


Collaboration in Cambodia

I am in Cambodia this week, working on collaboration.

I was invited only last week, to work with a co-facilitator I hadn’t met, for a client I don’t know in a field I am completely ignorant of (disaster relief management). It has been fascinating. In particular what I am noticing is how the way the invitation was made demonstrated an open-ness, a willingness to let go that made it almost impossible for me not to accept.

Many people might have worried that making a last minute invitation would come across as disorganised. But on the receiving end, it felt incredibly confident and positive and that inspired me to think that this would be something worth doing. So the way I was asked was itself a great example of how to inspire collaboration, the theme of the workshop.


Name calling

On Friday, one of the group I was working with in Oxford asked me what “the trick” was for remembering names. I often get asked this. There isn’t a trick. And that’s the trick.

I had spent most of the day sitting in a lecture theatre listening. Everyone was sitting in named places and I had all day til my session began at 330pm. The “trick” is simply to regard it as worth making the effort.

Most people, including my questioner on Friday, say “I am no good at names”.  Which is true but useless. I don’t think anyone is naturally good at learning names, it always takes effort and concentration, but that’s all it takes.

I wonder how many other things we prevent from happening, simply by telling ourselves that we don’t know what ‘the trick’ is?