“Workshops” are the worst

By Flo Sayers

“Get me a glass of wine,” said my friend as she collapsed into a chair. “I’ve been in an all-day workshop.”

This is a common occurrence among my peers. I’ve heard some real horror stories about workshops from them… And I have to admit I’ve sat through some terrible ones myself. But it wasn’t until this particular conversation that I realised what an epidemic of our times the Bad Workshop really is.

So because the only way to deal with these wasted hours is to laugh at them, we made a little compilation of the worst kind of “workshops” we’d experienced…

Boardrooms of people, unsure why they’re there. When you’ve only been invited as an extra body in the room so that the workshop looks “busy” and “productive”. But you have little to no knowledge of the project and therefore nothing to add. Is it possible to be both deathly embarrassed and deathly bored at the same time? Ahahahahah yes. Yes it is.

When you’re not given any prep work. Very Hermione Granger, asking for extra homework. But even if you are involved in the project, it’s likely you’re also involved in another three ongoing projects, and haven’t looked at the notes on this one in a good week. You’re thrown into a room and expected to come up with ideas on the spot. What are we doing again? What’s this about? Can we just spend 5 minutes getting up to speed- oh look, the whole morning has disappeared in a “quick reminder” of the project. #hermionewasright

Powerpoint snooze. Ok, you did some prep and are raring to go, ideas front of mind that you can’t wait to share. You get in the room. Everyone sits down. Someone turns on the Powerpoint. It has 50 slides. And bullet points on each. Every bullet point zaps time, energy and will to live. Wake me up for lunch?

Food problems. Let’s say that despite all this, the group has actually managed to get going into a productive, interesting brainstorm. Some good stuff is coming out and then… there’s a knock on the door and it’s lunch. Everyone stops. You get back from lunch and can’t remember where you were. And the lunch wasn’t even that good. We are grown, professional adults. Why are we letting lunch run the show??

Snack problems. Jauntily placed bowls of M&Ms don’t make you creative. Stimulating material and an encouraging environment do. Stop it.

The Egomaniacs. Those people who think they have all the answers and shoot you down at every opportunity in order to inflate their own ego. You want me to come up with ideas? Stop stamping on them all then.

The workshop as a ‘cure all’. The worst offender – when the host has called a “workshop” in the desperate hope that it will conjure up the answer to the problem they’ve been working on for weeks. But just gathering a group of people in a room won’t magically give you an answer. As the host, it’s your responsibility to run a good process to find that answer. #harshbutfair #thetruthhurts

Here’s the thing – it doesn’t have to be this way. For every terrible workshop I’ve been in, I’ve also been in some fantastic workshops, where everyone leaves energised, inspired and with mountains of ideas for getting the problem solved. I say the only way to deal with a terrible workshop is to laugh at it. How about actually running a good one for a change?

Sword & Stone run a mean workshop. We’ve even got a special guide to our trademarked workshop process, The Idea AcceleratorTM. Pick up your copy.

Sword & Stone Social Impact Unit

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