“A technique is a trick that worked.”  –  Gian-carlo Rota


Like many gen x-ers, it took a lot of convincing to get me into social media.  Where was the benefit?  Was it safe?  Yammer is the main online collaboration tool used where I work, so when it started, my questions were answered.  Because we have had it almost five years, it has been the best source of education of how to use social media for good ends.  After two years of nothing but ‘lurking’, I finally acted on my urge to post.  I remember it; it took a good two hours to draft and re-draft the two sentences! 

The seeds of my insecurity were my brand and reputation were going to be out there for over 10,000 registered ‘yammerati’ to see, and in perpetuity.  Also, taking a risk is often not the default behaviour in a bank’s compliance culture.  Thankfully, Yammer has helped create a few ‘intrapreneurs’; two years on and I now post frequently, often at all hours.  I’m addicted to the collaboration.

Late last year I got struck by an idea.  Yammer has two types of groups: ‘public’ (open to all) and ‘private’ (open to selected people).  I wanted to use the private groups as a means of collaborating around a single workshop.  So I coined the idea of the ‘Sandpit’ private group, bounced the idea off a few of my colleagues and set one up on Yammer.

The Sandpit is a thing of real beauty.  Some of the things it achieves are:

a)      A repository for in-the-moment facilitation experimentation.  My personal mantra has been to try something new every workshop that I run.  Sometimes there’s only time to write these experiments down on a scrap of paper, or take a photo on the smartphone, before dashing for the airport.  What the Sandpit allows is for these ideas to be shared via the Yammer app directly into the private group.  So step one, it is housed somewhere; and importantly the idea is not forgotten.

b)      An ability to get instant feedback.  As soon as something is uploaded to the Sandpit, whoever is a member can give an opinion or ‘like’ it. The people that are invited from the outset as members are facilitators, designers, content owners, stakeholder managers, subject matter experts and any regular guest speakers.  This enables a single connection point for whoever has a vested interest in the success of the workshop.  Workshop participants are not invited, as it would be confused with official materials.

c)      An archive of the evolution of the workshop.  The ideas and resultant discussion can be organised (even after the fact) with hashtags.  It can then be utilised by each type of member for different purposes.  For instance, a designer might go back at the last few months’ contributions and perform regular maintenance on the materials.  A subject matter expert might add in a current story that can be used by the facilitators.  A new facilitator might look at all the experiments, make their own choices as to how to interpret the material for themselves and accelerate their up-skill.  A content owner might use the Sandpit to announce a change to the logistical delivery of the workshop.

Facilitation can be a lonely gig if you don’t get access to others’ great ideas, and if you don’t get to share your own.  What’s your version of the Sandpit?

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