January 5, 2017

Moment of spontaneous progress

Sometimes you don't expect progress but it still happens. These are interesting moments which are useful to analyze.


Moment of progress

During a training session, not long ago, we started of with a getting-into-it exercise which we called Moment of progress. Briefly, the instruction for this exercise is as follows: "Form duo's. Tell the other person about a recent moment in which realized that you had made progress in something which is important to you. The person who listens encourages the other person to tell more and listens curiously until he or she gets a clear picture of what happened. Each person has 5 minutes to tell about their moment or progress."

The nice and useful thing about such a way of starting a training session is that everyone can become active and get into contact with their fellow participants. Also, the topic of the conversation is useful. By bringing back into their memory a recent moment of meaningful progress, participants get a focus on what is important to them. Also, they focus on something they which worked well which gives them energy and possibly some good ideas for further steps forward.

Plenary discussion

After the exercise we take some time to discuss with the group whether it was interesting or useful. What is usually striking is that often interesting and unexpected things are said. What participants often sat is that they found thinking about recent meaningful progress was interesting and pleasant and that they really should do it more often. The reason for saying that is that the exercise helps them to get a clearer picture of the progress they are already making in their work and also of how they have done that. In addition to this they get more energy and optimism by thinking about achieved progress.

The specific content of what they say about how they managed to make progress is also often interesting. Often listening to their conversation partners and acknowledging what they have said is mentioned as useful for making progress. Another thing which is often mentioned is to keep a clear focus on goals while in meetings and conversations. These are just a few examples of things which are often mentioned.

Spontaneous progress

Another thing we have noticed is that there are two categories of moments of progress. One category consists of moment in which the person has prepared something and deliberately executes this successfully. We might call this planned progress. The second category might be called spontaneous progress or unexpected progress. These are situations in which people are not deliberately trying something to make things go right. Instead they do something and notice to their surprise that ti works well.

Sometimes it people even do something with very low expectations of it being successful and see it working well. An example of this which I recently heard is of a team leader who felt in a meeting that the meeting did not go well at all. The meeting proceeded in a rather chaotic atmosphere and the team leader did not know how to deal with the situation. She felt irritated and experienced a sense of powerlessness. She did not intervene confidently and strictly and just let things go on as they did.

But after some time her perspective shifted. She noticed that team members were more actively involved that usual and that some good ideas were brought forward. Again a bit later some good conclusions were drawn and appointments were made. Also, everyone present seemed to be reasonably satisfied. Afterwards one of the team members came by her room and praised the calm and supportive way she had led the meeting.

Even though moments of spontaneous progress are unexpected or unplanned they can be very useful. By realizing what worked well in the situation we can learn something useful which we can apply in later situations.

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