How to supercharge a workshop with Learning Maps


I’m sure we have all been to many workshops and the first thing a facilitator presents is the agenda for the day. If you are lucky this might be on a flip chart or even worse its powerpoint slide 1 of 100. Your initial thoughts, this is going to be a long day.

Introducing Learning Maps

Learning Maps are an interactive and metaphorical way to present your agenda. People learn best through experience so a learning map creates an instant connection to the workshop topics.

Here is a Learning Map I used at a Coaching workshop:

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This Learning Map consists of the following elements:

  1. A metaphor, in this case an island, which allows learners to connect to the topic in a simple way. The agenda is represented by the different places on the island (Coaching Caves, Lagoon…..)
  2. A mixture of words and images which engage different parts of the learners brain.
  3. Blank space for the learner to record their thoughts before and after the workshop which is good for reflective practice. Also enough blank space for the learner to make the map their own.

My inspiration for Learning Maps comes from Sharon Bowman, author of Training from the Back of the Room. In the book she explains that through Learning Maps learners will:

  • Create visual images of important concepts
  • Engage in a variety of ways to learn: visual/spatial, linguistic, logical/mathematical, and kinaesthetic.
  • Use both hemispheres of their neocortex or thinking brain
  • Lengthen long-term retention of important information
  • Remain involved and engaged throughout the entire direct instruction
  • Leave the training with a visually interesting reminder of what they learned.

So next time you are facilitating a workshop why not try out using a Learning Map. They are a really simple but super powerful tool to help boost your learners experience!



Powerful Coaching Questions at Tate Modern Gallery


Asking Powerful Questions is one of the foundations of Coaching.  Asking questions that go beyond what is obvious enables the Coachee to think more deeply about a Goal or Challenge.

The Tate Modern Start Display has some great Powerful Questions inviting the visitor to go beyond the obvious and think more deeply about the art on display. This certainly provoked my own deeper thoughts.

Here are some examples:




Tate Modern + Babel + Mental Models + Dialogue + Agile Transformation


This weekend I took a trip to Tate Modern, London. One of the exhibitions that caught my eye was Cildo Meireles ‘Babel’ (2001)


Babel 2001 is a large-scale sculptural installation that takes the form of a circular tower made from hundreds of second-hand analogue radios that the artist has stacked in layers. The radios are tuned to a multitude of different stations and are adjusted to the minimum volume at which they are audible. Nevertheless, they compete with each other and create a cacophony of low, continuous sound, resulting in inaccessible information, voices or music.

In describing this work, Meireles refers to a ‘tower of incomprehension’ (quoted in Tate Modern 2008, p.168). The installation manifests, quite literally, a Tower of Babel, relating it to the biblical story of a tower tall enough to reach the heavens, which, offending God, caused him to make the builders speak in different tongues. Their inability to communicate with one another caused them to become divided and scatter across the earth and, moreover, became the source of all of mankind’s conflicts.

Agile Transformation and the ‘tower of incomprehension’

Immersed in the installation it dawned upon me that this is a perfect representation of Agile Transformation. The ‘tower of incomprehension’ represented the many different people involved across an organisation and their language of transformation. It was almost like the radios in Cildo Meireles’ installation were the voices of the organisation.

How can we avoid the ‘tower of incomprehension’?

This becomes incredibly difficult in any large scale change journey. A core transformation team might build a strong understanding of the vision, goals and language of the transformation but how does this spread through the organisation. Building a shared vision and mental models as the transformation spreads through the organisation is one strategy that can help. Shared Mental Models is one of the disciplines that Peter Senge highlights in a Learning Organisation. To help build shared mental models Senge talks about David Bohm’s Dialogue:

Dialogue is a way of observing, collectively, how hidden values and intentions can control our behavior, and how unnoticed cultural differences can clash without our realizing what is occurring. It can therefore be seen as an arena in which collective learning takes place and out of which a sense of increased harmony, fellowship and creativity can arise.


Bohm highlights that three conditions are required to enter Dialogue:

  1. All participants must “suspend” their assumptions, literally to hold them “as if suspended before us”;

  2. All participants must regard one another as colleagues;

  3. There must be a ‘facilitator’ who ‘holds the context’ of dialogue. (Senge, p. 243)

Is your organisation creating a ‘tower of incomprehension’?

If so, try experimenting with shared mental models through dialogue which in turn might help to build a tower of transformation.



Do you have an inclusive Kanban board?



Most Agile teams use a Kanban board to visualise their work no matter what Agile Framework they are following. These Kanban boards come in the form of either physical or digital boards.

Recently i’ve been helping teams adopt physical Kanban boards and it was during this we came across an interesting challenge. One afternoon i was helping the team experiment with some colour coding on their board. This was so they could highlight important information, in this specific case, how long an item had been in each column. The team decided to colour code each column and a matching coloured dot would be placed on the Post-It note for each day it was in that column. This would then allow the team to calculate cycle time. It was during this experiment we encountered an interesting challenge. One of the team members was colour blind.

We discovered that the colour coding that we’d chosen between the columns wasn’t going to work. Over the next few minutes we talked about some different approaches and found some colour differences that were notable enough for the team member to see clearly. We’d solved the problem and the team learned much more about colour blindness! You can learn about colour blindness here too here

It was through this situation i reflected; How inclusive are our Kanban boards?

My attention was grabbed even more when i attended an excellent talk from Dr. Sally Freudenberg on Inclusive Collaboration & Neuro-Diversity. In the talk Sal highlighted how to take a more inclusive approach to collaboration by embracing the different needs of people in diverse teams. In particular, she highlighted how Visual Timetables, such as Kanban boards, can provide a highly inclusive approach. Sal explores Visual Timetables more in her book: The Inclusive Collaboration Experiments.

Does your team have an Inclusive Kanban board?

Try this 5 minute test:

1. Can everyone read text on the Kanban Board?

It was through asking this question that a team member revealed “Honestly, i have never been able to read anything on the board during Stand Up. I always have to double check later on.”

2. Is the position of the board distracting for anyone sat near the board?

In Sal’s talk she highlighted that these big bright colourful boards can actually be really distracting. We spoke to people in the visible area of the Kanban board to ask if it was distracting, thankfully not. We also placed a notice on the board welcoming feedback at anytime.

3. Is the use of colour inclusive? Can everyone see the differences? For example Blocker or Bug stickies

We used the different colours as described but you could also experiment with different shapes or symbols.

4. Is the use of the board consistent? Is the flow through the board obvious? Are there written policies?

I also learned from Sals talk that routines can play an important part in the life of someone with autism. Having clear policies on your Kanban can be good for someone with autism and also the rest of the team. I’ve known teams to move stuff around the board without any real consistency of shared understanding across the team of why. Clear policies can help avoid this.

5. Is there a way to add a touch and feel effect to the board?

You can read about the Neuroscience of touch here. Some team members will respond to touch and feel differently. You can add another dimension to your boards by using simple household objects such as lego, pasta (seriously!), pipe cleaners and pom poms. These are particularly useful for Touchable avatars.

I’d love to see some examples of your Inclusive Kanban boards.

For further ideas of how to make your Kanban boards inclusive take a look at the W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines. Many of those are relevant for physical or digital Kanban boards.

 – Toby Sinclair @TobySinclair_

Blog image taken from where you can find more examples of Kanban boards.

5 Brilliant Coaching Models


Barefoot Business and Personal Coaching Course
Module 1
27th – 30th January 2017

Here are 5 Brilliant Coaching Topics i learnt on Module 1 of Barefoot Business and Personal Coaching Course:

#1 – Human Given Needs


Human givens approach is grounded in an evolutionary understanding of human nature. It proposes that evolution has endowed all members of our species, regardless of race or culture, with a common set of innate physical and emotional needs along with a set of innate physical, emotional and psychological resources. [1]

#2 – ABC Model


The ABC Model is one of the most famous cognitive behavioural therapy techniques for analysing your thoughts, behaviour and emotions. [2]

#3 – Locus of Control


Within psychology, Locus of Control is considered to be an important aspect of personality.  The concept was developed originally Julian Rotter in the 1950s.

Locus of Control refers to an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in his/her life.  Or, more simply:

Do you believe that your destiny is controlled by yourself or by external forces (such as fate, god, or powerful others)? [3]

#4 – Self Determination Theory


Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a theory of motivation. It is concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways. [4]

#5  – Iceberg Model


The Iceberg Coaching Model addresses how a person represents themselves in the world (exposed part of the iceberg) and what their motivations are (unseen, submerged part of the iceberg). [5]

You can find more about Barefoot Coaching Business and Personal Coaching course here







How To Achieve Personal Goals Using Given When Then


At the start of a New Year, many people turn their attention to new personal goals, often referred to as New Year resolutions. We all know how these “resolutions” usually end up, forgotten and unachieved. However, there is a strategy that can lead to significant chances of meeting your goals.

One of my personal goals for 2017 is to read 24 books. The first book i’ve finished this year is Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini.

Within the book Robert talks about “If/When Then” plans to achieve personal goals:

“If/When Then plans are designed to help us achieve a goal by readying us (1) to register certain cues in settings where we can further our goal, and (2) to take an appropriate action spurred by the cues and consistent with the goal.”

An example might be:

“If/when, i need to travel by public transport, then i will read a book.”

Whilst reading my attention was brought to the similarities of “Given – When – Then” which is typically used by software development teams to describe some desired behaviour of the product they are building.

Applying Given – When – Then in the context of goal planning might look like this:

Given i need to travel to work

When i travel by train

Then i will read a book

Scientific studies have proven this type of goal planning leads to higher likelihood of goal achievement. One study looked at the common New Year goal of increasing exercise. Half the participants were asked to plan where and when they would exercise each week (e.g., “If it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I will hit the gym for an hour before work.”) The results were dramatic: months later, 91% of if-then planners were still exercising regularly, compared to only 39% of non-planners!

How could you use this type of planning for your 2017 goals?

Here are some more examples of Given – When – Then planning for my 2017 reading goal:

(1) Given it is Wednesday

When I break for lunch

Then i will spend 20 minutes reading a book

(2) Given i’m at home

When i have some free time

Then i’ll read a book

(3) Given i’m at home

When i realise i’m aimlessly browsing the internet

Then i will read a book instead

(4) Given i ‘m currently reading a book

When i feel that its boring

Then i will stop and select another book

(5) …

You can track my 2017 reading challenge on GoodReads

Becoming a Coach


Today my Coaching Journey took an exciting step.

I have enrolled on a course from Barefoot Coaching to become a Qualified Business and Personal Coach.

Barefoot Coaching offer a PG Cert in Business and Personal Coaching which is accredited by the University of Chester and the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

The course is broken into three modules with each module last four days. The course covers a wide range of topics, far too many for me to mention here. You can read the full course content here.

What interested you in the course?

Over the past year i’ve been doing lots of Coaching. Through my daily Coaching and Self-learning i’ve learnt what a vast and deep ocean the discipline is. At times knowing where to focus my learning has been a disorientating and frustrating experience. Barefoot Coaching offer an extensive course delivered by experts such as Kim Morgan, Julie Starr and Damian Hughes. My hope is that through the carefully crafted course content and guidance of these experts my learning will be accelerated and coaching skills enhanced.

In addition, having researched the International Coaching Federation the opportunity to become a Professional Certified Coach was certainly appealing. I know in some circles Certification has a bad reputation but with the ICF focus on certification through hands-on experience my worries were alleviated. For example, before you can become a Professional Certified Coach you need to do 750 hours of coaching from at least 25 clients.

It’s going to be a busy but exciting 2017.

Interested in doing something similar?

I’d highly recommend heading along to one of the Barefoot Coaching open mornings. I went recently and it certainly helped in my decision making process. Find out here when the next one is.