Monthly Archives: June 2012

3 Ways to Engage Learners in Innovative Thinking

Innovation happens when different ideas and different ways of seeing things combine to create a new, larger perspective.  I am happily immersing myself in all things new while on holiday in Europe with my just-graduated-from-high-school daughter, Madison. I am amazed at how many ideas come forth when we get out of our grind and take time to just “be.”

How can we create more opportunities for ideas, insights and “aha’s” to show up in the 4MAT learning experiences we create?

  1. Get a conversation going. Unhurried dialogue about the big and small are often a trigger for some of the best insights. How can you mimic the magic of a sidewalk table for two, cappuccinos and the luxury of real conversation? Allow learners to get into dialogue. Trust the process — ask THE right question and let it do the heavy lifting. Spend time crafting powerful questions that will stimulate the thinking of the group.
  2. Reflect.  Why do our best ideas come in the shower? For the brain alpha waves to get rolling, we need to relax and to stop thinking about the problem we are trying to solve. Individual reflection, journaling, a walk in nature or a switching of gears are all ways to encourage the arrival of a new idea. My three most favorite and impactful learning experiences all involved these elements. If you can’t get outside of four walls, think about pre- and post-learning reflection exercises which stimulate the brain.
  3. Stimulate with the novel. Our brains are attracted to all things new. New languages (or words), images that we haven’t seen before and the unpredictable all make our brains kick into gear and pay attention. Get away from the predictability of Powerpoint® and systematically include the unpredictable in the learning experiences you design.

Circles and Lines: A Training Activity to Encourage Creative Thinking

This exercise encourages learners to explore the differences in right and left-mode thinking. This is a great kick-off to planning, teaming or creative thinking sessions. You can also use this exercise in conjunction with the 4MAT Hemispheric Mode Indicator® to create an interactive and powerful team experience around the different ways we approach thinking and problem solving. You’ll find more of these types of activities in Engage, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles.


Focus: Group reflection exercise which explores the differences in the way we view the world. Resources Needed:
• Lengths of string long enough for members or each table group to hold the string simultaneously

  1. Share the facilitator script below.
  2. Ask participants to individually reflect on an example of when they have viewed the world as a “circle” and when they have viewed the world as a “line.”
  3. Give each table group a length of string.
  4. Ask learners to hold the string in a line, with each member touching the string. Invite learners to share their example of thinking from the perspective that “life is a line.”
  5. Ask learners to hold the string in a circle, with each member touching the string. Invite learners to share their example of thinking from the perspective that “life is a circle.”
  6. Ask each group to develop a list of the characteristics of both ways of viewing the world to present to the larger group.
  7. Debrief.

Trainer Script:

“Richard Nisbett is a social psychologist at the University of Michigan who leads research studying how humans think about the world. In his book, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why, Nisbett shares a story of a conversation with his student from China. The student told him ‘You know, the difference between you and me is that I think the world is a circle, and you think it’s a line’ (Nisbett, 2003, p. xiii). I invite you to reflect on the difference between circle and line thinking. Reflect on an experience which illustrates when you have approached a situation from a ‘circle’ point of view and a ‘line’ point of view.” Additional facilitator notes: In his book, Nisbett shares how the student elaborated on the differences between these two ways of viewing the world (Nisbett, 2003, p. xiii):

The World Is a Circle

  • Constant change
  • Things always moving back to some prior state
  • Paying attention to many things
  • Information comes from many sources
  • You can’t understand the part without understanding the whole

The World Is a Line

  • Simpler world view
  • Focus on objects or people versus the larger view
  • Knowing the rules will help you control the outcomes
  • Some sources of information are more valuable than others
  • Believe understanding the parts will lead to an understanding of the whole

Great Minds—cool people doing great things with 4MAT

Virginia MeyerMeet Virginia Meyer, co-founder of redCHOCOLATE®, a company providing education and professional development in the professional beauty industry.

What have you discovered lately that has positively impacted the experiences you design and deliver?
VM:  For me it’s all about connecting with people in a deeper and more meaningful way, whether that is in the design or the delivery process.  In our world, it’s all about being able to duplicate success behavior.  So, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can connect people to the big ideas in a compelling way. If we are going to get people to do something differently, we absolutely have to begin with getting them to think differently.  I am the champion of a great Q1 (editor note: 4MAT Connect Step-the first step in the 4MAT Cycle).

What are you working on? How are you using 4MAT in this work?
VM:  I am always working on evolving our training content addressing both the technical aspect of haircolor training and the coaching skills required to improve results.  We are also getting ready to add curriculum in hairstyling.  In our work, we work side by side with leaders and managers who are learning 4MAT as a model for engagement and a system for coaching.  I love their “ah-ha’s.”  The moment when they get that their ability to lead and coach success behavior is the key to their team’s dramatically improved performance.

What’s your favorite quote? Why?
VM:  “Things are only impossible until they are not.”  – Jean-Luc Picard. Why?  It’s everything!

What are you consuming (eating, reading, buying, taking in) these days?
VM:  Anything organic, whole, as clean as possible for food and lots of vitamins. I am hooked on Dr. Saul’s work and the power of vitamins.  My business partner has a huge appetite for music and has recently been playing music based on African tribal chants – which I am loving.  I have two books going right now, one I received as a “must read” from my writer friend and the other (I hate to admit this), Shades of Grey.  My rationale is that anything making that kind of impact is worth understanding.

What do you think that we all should be paying more attention to?
VM: That still, small voice.

What’s rocking your world today?
VM:  Well…I went to a small piano recital.  The  18-year-old pianist that closed the recital did Rhapsody in Blue.  It was nothing short of astounding.  He’s 18, going to medical school on a full ride scholarship, sports champion and an amazingly gifted pianist.  The music was heady.  Even more so, an 18 year old playing with everything he’s got.  Bringing everything to the game – whether 8, 18, or 80 rocks my world everyday.