Mental acrobatics

Gerry Kitchingman reviews an interactive thinking experience that kept
everyone on their toes

What do you get when you cross a war correspondent with an expert on the
future of work? In the case of the business agility programme delivered at the
Training Solutions event held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham
in June, the answer was breathless participants taking a bumper harvest of new
approaches to mental agility back to their workplaces.

The war correspondent in question was Giles Trendle, with his wealth of
experience derived from his time in the Lebanon at the height of the hostage
crisis. The futurist was Helen Vandevelde, whose combination of raw energy and
serial insights lived up to the billing for the event as ‘fast and furious’.

The session began with an animated case study discussion with Vandevelde
taking the lead, in which participants split into groups and acted as
communications consultants for – of all organisations – the Vatican. Using
source material that must rank as among the most impenetrable messages ever to
appear on any website, participants had the task of coming up with text that
would actually connect to its intended audience.

Trendle led the second case study. This highlighted highly-offensive
advertising material for a product with a well-known global brand. The
advertising material had been fabricated by middle eastern saboteurs with a
long-standing grudge against the company. Participants worked through their strategic
responses to the integrity of the brand.

However, it was only towards the end of the session that Vandevelde and
Trendle shared the true purpose of the session. This was for individual
delegates to score, and then reflect upon, the extent to which they had applied
10 key agility traits to the interactive work they had completed.

As a killer punch delivered at the end of a learning experience with more
twists and turns than a Harry Potter screenplay, it was masterly.

Delegates left the session discussing their performance and looking to apply
it back at work.

And how might trainers engage with this original and frenetic programme? My
view is that such a multi-faceted programme has a huge amount to offer in terms
of organisational development and individual performance.

The whole session quickly turned into a trampoline for ideas. Delivered
in-company, it has the potential to unblock organisational arteries and to
unleash a powerful surge of creativity.

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