We are learning that collaboration is being asked of most leaders in organizations, of students of all ages in their schools and classrooms, and now even in families at home.  We are also learning that people struggle with true collaboration, it isn’t a skill that we are taught or modelled when we grew up.  In fact, for those of us who are Gen X’rs and older, isolated and individual learning and leadership were the approaches taken.    Now a new approach is expected, one that we believe is imperative to the success of any culture or organization, for without collaboration, innovation is very challenging.   The questions everyone is asking… “What’s the reason for the shift to collaboration?”  And “how to do we create a collaborative approach to how we do what we do?”

In ‘Discovery learning is the new higher learning’, (Globe and Mail, A13, Monday October 15, 2012) Don Tapscott who is an adjunct professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto describes a model of collaborative learning as the new approach universities need to adopt.  He describes the old model typically employed by universities as one which was ‘one way, one-size-fits-all’ which was ‘teacher centered’ where the student was ‘isolated in the learning process’.

Tapscott indicates the needs of the learner have shifted over the past 30 years and the old approach no longer fits the needs of young learners.  While baby boomers 30 years ago were able to passively listen to the instructors as they told them the required content, (we call this content dump) the youth of today, thanks to the evolution of technology,  are more interactive in their approach to life and require a more interactive approach in the classroom to support their learning.

In our experience, this shift is not just isolated to schools; it’s a shift we are seeing in organizations as well.  Adults are self-directed learners and benefit from being a part of the process and solution rather than just being told what to do.   Honestly, how many of you ever liked being told what to do and how to do it?  In our experience, very little learning comes from this approach, innovation even less.

Looking at this new framework, what are the skills required of both learners and leaders to ensure the development of vibrant collaboration where new ideas are embraced, respected and discussed?   We believe curiosity lies at the foundation, a skill we all have, yet don’t always use or practice.



  1. BE CURIOUS:  Curiosity can create almost anything as long as you are willing to keep trying different combinations of any situation/ project.  All innovation stems from curiosity – people just trying, failing, learning, trying again until it works.  What are you curious about? How can you look at something differently?  How can you make the impossible possible?  Even if it doesn’t turn out how you wanted it to, what can you learn from the experience and apply it again?
  2. ASK OPEN QUESTIONS: No one likes to be told what to do, nor do they learn from it.  Asking open questions creates learning opportunities for all parties.  It also allows you to dig deeper and push the boundaries of what you thought was possible.  Open questions begin with who, what, where, when, and how.
  3. BE OPEN TO NEW PERSPECTIVES: When we get an idea in our heads or become passionate about something we can often put blinders on and just run with it without considering others’ perspectives.  Take the time to hear the perspectives of others and respect their ideas.  Often ideas that people think are crazy or impossible are ideas that inspire greatness.  New perspectives push boundaries to what is possible.  Asking open questions is a great way to invite new perspectives.  Tell me more is also a great way to gain a deeper understand of where someone is coming from.
  4.  TEST ASSUMPTIONS:  We all have beliefs and assumptions and often they can stand in our way and not serve us well.  Always, ALWAYS test your assumptions.  When collaborating with others, if something becomes impossible or not doable test the assumption.. Where is this assumption coming from?  How is it serving the project?  How can you look at it differently?
  5. LISTEN TO OTHERS: We have learned that people have very little awareness around when they listen and when they don’t.  It is impossible to collaborate if you aren’t listening to others.  Take the time to hear the speaker, hear their perspective and ideas.  How can you dig deeper to test assumptions and innovate by building upon ideas if you aren’t truly listening to others?  Everyone has value, take the time to listen to it.  You may be surprised at what you learn.


The 5 Steps To Collaboration above will shift a relationship from the ‘teacher/ leader centred’ model Tapscott describes as the old model to one that is learning centred, one in which the needs of the learners are acknowledged, respected and embraced.

Learning and knowledge have long been considered a source of power.  We believe curiosity supports this power.  For the facilitator or leader, curiosity supports them in being more interactive in the learning process, and for the learners, curiosity helps them understand their learning wants and needs so they can build the skills they need to lead the lives they want to embrace.

How to help your child succeed

On the heels of last weeks Being Schooled! The assumptions of a parent & how they are serving us” we wanted to share with you the article “How to help them succeed?  Talk, talk, talk,” by Adriana Barton (Globe & Mail Friday Sept 7, 2012).

In this article Adriana Barton says “to boost academic achievement (in their kids), one of the best things parents can do – according to at least two decades of research – is talk to their kids about school”.  However, it’s not just what you talk about, it is how you do it.   For all you parents who tire of grunts, “fine” or “I don’t remember” when squeezing information out of your kids about their day, we have help for you.  In this article, Carl Corter, a professor at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto shares with us the importance that parents express genuine curiosity about their child’s day “including the child’s play time and social experiences”.  According to Dr. Corter, our common strategy to get the after school scoop with “how was school today?” is “too vague to spark a meaningful exchange”.  He goes on to suggest that parents dig deeper and be more specific, curious in their daily discoveries which will spark more interest for their kids to share.  Open questions such as “What kind of activities did you do in science class today?” and “How did you and your friends figure out how to build such a strong bridge out of Popsicle sticks?” are questions framed in terms of discovery and are more likely to engage a response.  Another great question we loved from the article was “What cool things did you discover today?”.  We have yet to meet a child who doesn’t want to share their new “cool” discoveries with others.

We love this approach of fine-tuning open questions and taking curiosity one-step further to learn new discoveries about your child’s day. On the way home from school today I decided to jump in and try this new technique, so I asked my 6-year-old son what cool ways his new 1st grade teacher was teaching the class.  While his response was limited to “my teacher is pretty strict this year” he did follow-up (unprompted) with all the new “cool” things that he was allowed to do in 1st grade that he couldn’t do in Kindergarten, sharing things I didn’t even consider to ask about.  Curious to know what makes a 1st grade teacher strict, I did probe deeper and he was more than willing to share with me all the reasons he felt she was too strict.

“Parents can best support a child by understanding that they are an integral part of a child’s learning process,” Dr. Corter says.  Much of that learning process begins at home.  Listening, asking open questions, being curious, testing assumptions not only nourish a conversation and the culture you are creating in your home, they are also the building blocks of successful communication skills that support any learning process.  Like with so many other things in life, it’s not just about what we do as parents, it’s how we do it.

How are you supporting your child’s learning process?  What are you curious about?


How you can manage stress by changing perceptions

At Coaching Culture we talk a lot about perspectives.  We believe everyone has their own perspective on any issue and if we are all

Image via The Pursuit of Happiness

curious and open to listening to others, we can better understand their perspectives on everything.  We also talk about understanding our own perspective on anything and the notion that we can reframe our perspective if we feel it is not serving us.

In the Vancouver Sun, 31 May, 2012, Abra­ham Lin­coln BY TOM HILL Spe­cial to The Sun wrote an article entitled:  “Man­age stress by chang­ing per­cep­tions in which he discusses the ideas of Dr Ken Nedd, an Internationally renowned speaker.  “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be” is a quote of Dr Ken Nedd.  He believes that we can manage the stress in our lives by changing our perception of what we think causes our stress such as being caught in traffic, managing our time, having a challenging conversation with our boss.  I found this very interesting and started to think about how we can use reframing to help us change our perceptions of issues that we think may be causing stress for us.  If we can reframe how we perceive these experiences, it follows, we can decrease the stress we perceive we are experiencing.

When we think of the impact stress has on our lives, being able to minimize our perception of stress could be very powerful.  If we can reframe our perception of a situation we can then decrease our perceived stress and perhaps even increase our sense of happiness.

I began to reflect on this and think about situations that can cause me to experience stress.  I find being stuck in traffic to be very stressful as I am in my car which means I want to travel from A to B and if I am stuck in traffic I am not achieving this.  How can I reframe this situation?  I began to think about how else I could look at this experience and I realized that I could think of this as an opportunity to be quiet, still, listen to my favourite music and relax.  If I could achieve this, I could feel more relaxed when I finally arrive at my destination.   I find I try to achieve too much in a day.  I wake up full of energy with plans to complete a very long ‘to do’ list.  At the end of the day, I am sometimes disappointed as I have not accomplished everything on my list, hence I have jump to a perception of not managing my time well and thus not been successful in my day.  How could I reframe this?  I decided that I can change from that perception of scarcity, focusing on what I have NOT accomplished to a perception of celebrating what I have accomplished during the day.  This removes the sense of stress for me and helps me feel successful, really good about what I have completed.

We would invite you to think about your perceptions of situations where you feel stress creeping into your experience.  How can you reframe this perception so that you move to a place of abundance, one that holds no space for stress?  How will this technique help you to feel more successful, abundant and less stressful about your day-to-day life?  How happy can you be?

”Want better employees, Ask better questions”

We are constantly discussing the importance of communication skills and how they affect relationships and the culture in the workplace.  Organizational culture is fundamental to how the organization does what it does.  The ‘how’ is about relationships, how the members … Continue reading