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Forward From Thinking Rules!

Combustion just returned from a jam-packed coupla days at the Corporate Learning Network Conference in Orlando where we shared our Forward From Thinking™ concepts with L&D leaders from around the world.

The room was a veritable United Nations – with participants from across Africa, Europe, USA, Canada, the Middle East and more. And they were all FABULOUS. I always say that the participants make the experience and we’re just there to gift it to them and it was truly my pleasure to give to this crowd. They were game for all of the crazy stuff we put in front of them and played hard. (Remember – ya got to DIVERGE before ya CONVERGE).

So what is Forward From Thinking you ask? Simply put; learning designed for individual experience and fueled by creativity to minimize brain resistance.

Our experience has shown us that most training or L&D ventures work backwards from desired outcomes – usually ones that expect all trainees to emerge with the exact same skills or abilities. We know that’s just not possible. There are SO many contributing factors to the experience; everything from WHY the training is being mandated, to who is being chosen to train, to the mind and skill set of those individuals. I could go on and on. So how the heck are all of these disparate and unique individuals expected to be changed the exact same way?

That’s where Forward From Thinking comes in. It’s training that allows every person, regardless of the above, to have a learning experience that will support their individuality and move them from ‘here to there’ on their own terms. And using creativity principles to unlock the naturally resistant places in the brain and trick it into wanting to learn and retain is part of the secret weapon.

For the record, FFT principles in no way aim to ignore required outcomes. It’s just a design and delivery theory to get people there in their own unique ways.

At the CLN event, we showcased how we use these principles in the design of C-Lab – our foundational creativity workshop.

Here’s a quick top line of those principles. I’m going to delve way deeper in future posts so keep an eye out (not literally – that would be painful).

FFT Principle #1: Assume nothing. Learn everything 

Anything you think you know in advance of a session is likely to be biased. So either offer up assessment tools that help to understand the individual nature of your participants or simply throw out all bias and start learning the second they come into the room. And make sure your content assumes nothing as well.

FFT Principle #2: Creatively challenge brain structures to build behavior 

The brain resists that which is new and different – which is ironically the purpose of training. So being aware of this conundrum and applying creative tools to minimize brain resistance is key.

FFT Principle #3: Prove what’s possible and then build on the foundation

You can’t simply tell participants to accept new learning. You need to provide experiences that show, prove and then iterate the thinking so they build their own trustworthy foundation.

FFT Principle #4: Infect them as a tribe 

Even when they come from within the same organization, participants don’t have the same ‘world’. So the trick is to use language, memes and behavior to turn them into a tribe with a singular vision of possibilities so they can return to and impact their own worlds with what they’ve learned.

FFT Principle #5: Prove value to their ‘real’ world 

Personal development trumps professional development every time. Make sure the training you’re offering proves value beyond just their ‘job’.

FFT Principle #6: Gift the experience

Regardless of stakeholder, training experiences should be FOR participants. Resist the urge to push requirements. Instead, ensure the training you’re delivering or offering creates an environment for curiosity, desire, trust, engagement and above all, individuality.

Over the next little while, we’ll take a deeper dive into the principles and offer up ideas on how you can integrate them into your own design or delivery. Come on people – let’s start an FFT movement!! Can I get ‘hell yeah’?


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