Guest “Lecture” at the Presidio School of Management

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of guest “facilitating” Kathia Laszlo and Alexander Laszlo‘s class, “Evolutionary Leadership, Collaboration, and Systems Thinking,” part of the Presidio School of Management MBA program. I sat in on the first part of the class, where the students did report-outs on Fritjof Capra‘s Hidden Dimensions, followed by a lecture on system dynamics by Ty Cashman. I then took over the remaining two hours of the class, leading them through some exercises designed to tap their collective wisdom about collaboration and leadership. Pictures from the day are on Flickr.    (MLM)

The Presidio School of Management is my kind of school. Kathia and Alexander aren’t “professors,” at least according to the course description. They’re “learning facilitators,” and they’re damn good at it. I met both of them last year on the planning committee for ISSS 2006, where I was struck by how much they knew and how playful they were. They preach what they practice in a way that you almost never see in other academics.    (MLN)

This was evident in their class from the get-go. They didn’t lecture about the assigned reading, Capra’s book. Instead, they had two groups create their own learning exercises for the entire class based on specific themes.    (MLO)

The first group offered some quick commentary on several themes of the book, then divided the class into breakout groups to discuss each theme. Each group had about ten people and about ten minutes to talk. There were some provocative comments, but the discussion predictably lacked cohesion. More on this in a later post.    (MLP)

The second group invented a board game called, “The Web of Life.” One of the creators explained, tongue-in-cheek, “It’s almost like you’ll be competing with each other… in a collaborative way.” There were two alternating sets of questions, which were drawn from Capra’s book. They ranged from multiple choice to charades. (The charades word was “autopoesis”! Stunningly, the team got it right!)    (MLQ)    (MLR)

There were multiple pairs of team “competing” against each other. Each team was assigned a color, and the teams alternated turns/questions. When a team got a question right, it got to draw a colored line on a hexagonal board. When a team closed a hexagon, it filled it in with its color.    (MLS)

The questions were engaging and fun, a great way to see who had actually done the reading, and the creators were surprised to see collaborative behavior emerge from the final game board. First, a group consisting of members from each team self-organized to draw the lines. Second, most of the teams chose to share filled-in colors, rather than occupy the entire hexagon themselves. Perhaps the only sign of outright competitiveness was the purple team, who repeatedly scribbled, “Purple rules!”    (MLT)    (MLU)

In my next two posts, I’ll describe the group counting and other exercises I led in the class.    (MLV)

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