Author Archives: Jeanine ONeill-Blackwell

About Jeanine ONeill-Blackwell

As the President/CEO of 4MAT 4Business, a consultant group that delivers learning solutions to organizations, Jeanine O'Neill-Blackwell is passionate about education. Jeanine's belief that “the company that learns the fastest, grows the fastest” has guided her career. She is also a partner in a school management company that leads one of the largest networks of Aveda cosmetology schools in the world. Her background includes 15 years in sales and distribution, serving as a Sales Trainer, Corporate Trainer, VP of Human Resources and President of a corporate university. At the top of Jeanine's credentials is her role as life-long student. She has recently co-authored with Bernice McCarthy, 4MAT: 8Steps to Designing and Delivering Effective Training.

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.

CIRCLES AND LINES FACILITATION INSTRUCTIONS

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
Description:

  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