Hats or Flags?

How one killer question highlighted the difference between consultancy and training design

I received a sharp reminder today of how easy it is to lose sight of a need when you’re focussing on a solution.
I’ve been designing learning solutions for many years, but I admit I am still prone from time to time to slip into the pitfall of solutioneering.
I’ve been spending too long at a desk, remote from the people and performance I’m attempting to modify. In short I’ve been shamelessly breaking my own rules.
I began to be impressed by my own surge of creativity. I would cause my group of learners each to take part in co-facilitating a face-to-face session. The roles of timekeeper, recorder, keeper-of-the-flame (and so on) would be shared amongst members of the group and rotated at the end of each session. I’d use some device to make it clear to me and the group who had assumed which role. The device had to be culturally neutral but easy to see from across the room. I chewed on the end of my pen and pondered. Then Christopher, a retired occupational psychologist hove into view and I said, “Hi Chris; hats on heads or flags on tables? What do you think will work best?” I was thinking flags on tables. Immediately Chris asked the single most important question after “Who’s it for?” and “What do they need to be doing?” And I’m guessing you would like me to tell you what he asked, but I’m not going to make it that easy for you, If I do, I shall be acting like a trainer and I prefer to assume the role of a facilitator. So you tell me – what was the question he asked, and which solution did I finally prefer?

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