70:20:10 Framework for 21st Century Learning

70-20-10In the complex, ever changing world that we live in, to thrive and flourish requires that we learn as we work and work as we learn.  The Center for Creative Leadership conducted research with hundreds of their clients and came up with an approach they call 70:20:10.  The numbers represent an approximate representation of the effort required to ensure that learning is embedded into the core of the learner to best support the organizational learning needs.

70% of learning is experiential by weaving what you are learning into your day to day tasks by weaving the learning into the task.  Part of this can be accomplished by engaging with others to dialogue around the impact on work flow/process using the new learning.  This does require both individual and group reflective practices.  At Innovation Works we call this ‘trial and learning’.

20% of learning is social, learning and sharing through networks, communities of practice etc.

10% of learning is formal education through workshops and webinars.

They describes this as:

‘Real’ Learning

We now know that ‘real’ learning is best defined in terms of behaviour change. Like other animals, human learning occurs as a consequence of interaction with our environment.

In humans we can distil the conditions for real learning as being the outcome of a combination of four activities:

  1. Exposure to rich experiences
  2. The opportunity to practice
  3. Conversation and exchanges with others
  4. Reflective practice and reflection

As a practitioner who offers facilitated learning workshops, this framework has been very helpful in designing these workshops.

10% of the learning is the ‘formal’ classroom type of session.  There are some radical shifts happening in this arena called ‘reverse classroom’ where students watch videos, read articles before the class and then come to the class to have dialogue around what was presented.

20% of the learning is social learning through communities of practice, networks, coaching and other social practices.  At Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) they have found that the formal learning of Appreciative Inquiry was enhanced greatly with their Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Community of Practice.  During the three years since the AI CofP started we have had an annual half day workshop to provide new insights and attract new participants.  Watch a one minute video by the WLU Communications Manager describe the benefits of a community of practice.

70% of the learning is embedded in the work that you do.  In our ever changing, chaotic world just in time learning is key.  Taking the opportunity to learn and share with your colleagues is the most effective way to learn by taking a strength-based approach to solving the problems that you face.

“We have reached an important turning point where success is not defined by scale of efficiencies, but by the ability to learn (and unlearn) more rapidly.

~~John Hagel & John Seely Brown, Co-Chairs for Deloitte Center for the Edge http://dupress.com/articles/institutional-innovation/


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Positive Energy Will Drive Your Change Initiative



In the bell curve of change, we often observe (left side) 5 to 10% of the people are resistant to the change and (right side) 5 to 10% of the people energized and motivated towards the change.  We spend a lot of time and energy trying to move the resisters  … here is way to reframe the situation.

Imagine that the bell curve turns magically into a VW Beetle and the left side (those resistant to the change ) represent the breaks on the car and the right side (those energized by the change) represent the accelerator.

Respect the Negative Energy, but don’t stay focused on that side, or you may find yourself keeping your foot on the break and not going anywhere.  Take your foot and move it to the accelerator and you will find the energy to drive your change initiative forward.

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Mindful Practice ask yourself: “Isn’t that interesting!”

istock_canstock_couple on balcony.jpg

“Isn’t it interesting” is a technique that can take us away from our automatic reaction and take us to the balcony to observe and reflect upon our response.

My mentor Jane Magruder Watkins has an expression that I always share with my clients, it is: “isn’t that interesting“.  I worked with one client for three years and in his PhD dissertation on How to Build a Strength Based Organization, he commented: “Maureen McKenna repeatedly made the observation, Isn’t that interesting! as a simple technique to suspend judgement and consider more deeply what was being said.”

Jane worked with the Dalia Lama and his community for more than a decade and this was something that he had taught her to do when she found herself having an emotional response to a situation.

Here is a suggestion on how you might use this technique in that space between stimulus and response that can help shift from an automatic response to a mindful response.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~~Viktor Frankl

  • Notice when you are being triggered to have an emotional response to something – you may notice your jaw getting tight, your heart racing, your face getting flushed – you are being automatically drawn into the stress response.
    • At this point we may notice that we are not being as rationale as we might have expected, the body is withdrawing blood from the pre-frontal cortex to the large muscle groups.
  • Opportunity to practice being mindful, to be in the present in that split second between stimulus and response
  • Awareness begins with the breath
    • Stop and take a breathe
      • Alan Watkins is a doctor who has studied this to learn more watch his recent TED talk Why You Feel What You Feel describes some key ways to breathe:
        1. Rhythmically
        2. Smoothly
        3. Location of the focus during the breath (in the center of the chest)
          1. APP to help that was created for US military: Breath2relax
      • To remember this, Dr Watkins uses the acronym B.R.E.A.T.H.E:
        • Breathe
        • Regularly
        • Through the
        • Heart
        • Everyday
  • Ask yourself “isn’t that interesting that I am having this response.”
  • Practice detachment and let go of the story that has been triggered – some old automatic response has occurred.
    • “First, cultivating detachment, one could say, takes the sting out of discriminatory emotions toward others that are based on considerations of distance or closeness. You lay the groundwork on which you can cultivate genuine compassion extending to all other sentient beings. The Buddhist teaching on detachment does not imply developing an attitude of disengagement from or indifference to the world or life.” Source: Training the Mind Verse2 by Dalai Lama
  • Move to the balcony and reflect upon how you are feeling with no judgement merely curiosity in particular pay attention to your body and name the emotions you are feeling. This can be an opportunity to reframe them, one colleague was saying that she was anxious about her son’s upcoming wedding and when she reframed it to ‘excited’ about the wedding the chemical response moved from adrenalin (causing stress) to dopamine.
  • Then act (or not)

At Innovation Works we work with our clients to help them create a healthy work climate using an Appreciative Mindset, in a Mindful Way.  The “isn’t it interesting‘ statement is a useful technique to help myself and others tap into a mindful state when we are experiencing some kind of stressor.  When we find ourselves being stressed, we trigger the ancient emotional centres of our brain called the amygdala.  This triggers what is often called the fight, flight, or freeze response.  This response happens when we perceive a threat and to prepare us for this our brain floods the body with stress hormones to help us prepare to deal with the emergency.  It prepares both the physical body for the fight or flee and it also impacts the cognitive, limiting our access to the pre-frontal cortex – the executive brain function. It changes how our mind functions.  In an interview with tricycle, Daniel Goleman describes it as:

“Attention tends to fixate on the thing that is bothering us, that’s stressing us, that we’re worried about, that’s upsetting, frustrating, or angering us. That means that we don’t have as much attentional capacity left for whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing or want to be doing. In addition, our memory reshuffles its hierarchy so that what’s most relevant to the perceived threat is what comes to mind most easily—and what’s deemed irrelevant is harder to bring to mind. That, again, makes it more difficult to get things done than we might want. Plus, we tend to fall back on over-learned responses, which are responses learned early in life—which can lead us to do or say things that we regret later. It is important to understand that the impulses that come to us when we’re under stress—particularly if we get hijacked by it—are likely to lead us astray.

It’s extremely important to widen the gap between impulse and action; and that’s exactly what mindfulness does. This is one of the big advantages of mindfulness practice: it gives us a moment or two, hopefully, where we can change our relationship to our experience, not be caught in it and swept away by impulse, but rather to see that there’s an opportunity here to make a different, better choice. I think that understanding the basic neural mechanisms involved is an aid to mindfulness because it tells us we don’t have to get swept away.”

The “isn’t that interesting” reflective practice, allows us to move away from the negative emotional energy and by moving to the ‘balcony’ we can tap into human skills sets that help us to:

  • be more self-aware
  • manage our emotions (or self-regulation) through breaking the  automatic response of triggering our disturbing emotions that can lead to anxiety
  • be less judgmental about ourselves and others
  • tap into positive emotions
  • recognize that this is not just about ‘me’ and allow ourselves to have empathy for others
  • move from focus on self to focus on others


The next time you find yourself having a negative emotional response, expand the moment between stimulus and response by asking (internally or externally) – “isn’t that interesting” – what is happening within me both physically and emotionally?


To learn more about how to learn more about self-awareness and how to learn how to tap into your physical response faster and name your emotions, watch Why you feel what you feel TEDx talk by Dr. Alan Watkins.

The Triple Focus

HBR article on Calming the Brain


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Life consists only of moments, so be in the moment

Jane & David 2016

“I came to Jane’s session at NTL and she rocked my life with film clips of Kenya helping people to find their voice.” David Cooperrider‘s description of his first meeting with Jane Magruder Watkins back in the mid 1980s.  

After that fateful meeting at NTL, Jane became David’s mentor (he was still a graduate student at Case Western Reserve University). She saw in the Appreciative Inquiry research methodology the opportunity to use it in the organizational development field. She began to explore this new approach to organizational development by and she began by taking David to work with her in Africa on the GEM project. In that moment  a life-long relationship began, one that has grown stronger over the years.  Jane and David began the process of co-creating the field of Appreciative Inquiry and in their generous and heartfelt way, have invited others into the co-creation process.

A special moment

I just came back from a magical weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Dawn Dole, Jackie Stavros, Megan Tschannen-Moran and I designed and hosted the Appreciative Inquiry – Past, Present, Future conference (February 2016). Our goal was to bring our Appreciative Inquiry colleagues and friends together to celebrate the wonderful contributions that my / our mentor Jane Magruder Watkins has made to the field of Appreciative Inquiry over the last 30+ years.

Jane has ‘cognitive aging’ and while she may not always immediately recall someone’s name or where they met, she is so present in the moment.  As she likes to say “my brain is not working as well as it has in the past” but you can truly feel her heartfelt presence.   She is present to me in the moment – whether I am with her or we are apart.  People commented how much they felt her presence and positive energy, she was truly engaged with each of us in the moment.

At the conference a colleague mentioned that he felt that you cannot do transformational change unless people attended our traditional 4 or 5 day Appreciative Inquiry training program.  Now the course is great and I invite you to get in touch with me if you want to learn more about it .. however, as David describes in the quote about – in a moment as he listened to Jane talk about her work, she ‘rocked’/changed his life.   Jane was challenging the traditional NGO format of ‘telling’ people what to do rather than the transformational change process of inviting them into dialogue to talk about and imagine what they can do. That meeting was a marriage of wisdom and experience (Jane) and insight and transformational thinking (David).  In a moment that has lasted a lifetime, their energy and ideas collided, sparking the start of what some of us fondly call the Appreciative Inquiry Movement.

This weekend with Jane and David and about 50 other friends and colleagues was a gift that I will always treasure and savour.  I felt that time stood still and I had the luxury of being in the moment for two days with those I love.

Axiom News article on the conference:  Savouring the Gifts in the Appreciative Inquiry Community.

Tips from Jane Magruder Watkins:

How we can be in the ‘moment’ and seize that opportunity to reframe from the negative to seeing the possibility:

  • Ask yourself (aloud or quietly) “Isn’t that interesting” – a chance to pause and reflect upon how you are responding to the moment.
  • Another way to use the “isn’t that interesting” is when you are in conversation and you find yourself having a reaction or judgment to someone or something they said – stop and say “isn’t that interesting, tell me more …”
  • Remember “It’s not about you” – try to not take it personally. Learn to move to the balcony from the dance floor and observe the situation. This can help us to reduce the anxiety that we may be feeling.
  • “Plan tight and hang loose.”  Take the time to do the research, engage others, create a good plan AND be in the moment to recognize that some new information or insight has been uncovered and be prepared to ‘redesign in the moment’.
  • “Up until now” is a way to accept what is now or in the past and try replacing the words “I always, you never, I can’t” etc. with this phrase is a way of letting our brains know that what we may have perceived in the past as undoable is now a possibility.  David Rock of NeuroLeadership uses the phrase ‘yet‘.
  • “Just start spreading a positive virus and watch it grow.” What we focus on we get more of and so if we start to help others reframe to find, even in the most dire of circumstances that which gives life – we create a shift.
  • When someone would press Jane to give a definitive answer to ‘how to do Appreciative Inquiry’, she would often respond with “It just depends.” and as people became more experienced and again ask about how to “do” Appreciative Inquiry, she would laugh and say “It just doesn’t matter.”

Call to action:

How can we in the ‘moment’ ask a generative and curious question that will engage everyone in the exploration and creation of a new way of seeing and being in the world?

What will you do to help yourself (and others) slow down and be in the moment?

iStock_000035081384Large_1024My passion is helping clients achieve a high ROE (Return On Energy through positive engagement).  That positive engagement can be nurtured through Innovation Works series of “Change Conversations” where in the ‘moment’ we can generate the positive human energy that will fuel innovation and help ourselves, our teams, our departments, our organizations and communities and ultimately the universe to flourish. Contact me if you would like to learn more about our Change Conversation series. (mckenna.maureen1@gmail.com) 

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Try taking a walk in the woods to resolve conflict.

istoc_canstock_2 men walking in woods

At Innovation Works, our tagline is  ‘colliding ideas .. sparking action’ we believe that our job as facilitators is to create the conditions (container) where people feel safe to speak up when they strongly disagree with others (colliding ideas).

Today when I read the Strategy & Business (S&B) article “Let’s Argue About It” by Eric McNulty, I shouted Eureka!  This is a great summary of how to productively (and kindly) address conflicting ideas.

Key messages from the article (which you MUST read). 

In the article, Eric shares Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett‘s four useful insights that help inform collaboration, negotiation, and conflict resolution in organizational settings:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.  (In his blog, Eric refers to a process he uses called A Walk in the Woods.  The process comes from “1982, when U.S. and Soviet arms negotiators resolved an impasse at a summit after having a conversation during a walk in the woods.”  To learn more, view prezi presentation on Walk in the Woods in healthcare.)
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

So why is this so important?

John Hagle of Deloitte Center for the Edge talks about the shift from scalable efficiency to scalable learning: “Economic history to date is primarily a story of ‘scalable efficiency’. We have reached an important turning point where success is not defined by scale, but by the ability to learn (and unlearn) more rapidly.  To achieve this level of unlearning and learning, we need to be capable of challenging each other’s ideas and being open to changing our mindsets and world views.  We need to seek out disagreement in a healthy and positively energizing way.

Invitation to consider how you might strengthen your innovation and collaboration:  Learn  to embrace conflicting ideas, creatively hold the tension (polarity management) and observe the third way that will emerge!

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Mo’s Favourite Videos of 2015 (Round 1)


istock_canstock film strip

For those of you who know me well – my passion (and strength) is my love of learning.  In 1995 when I began my career in this field I created the following personal Mission statement (I update it every few years).  Twenty years later, it still feels right.

“I use my extraordinary energy to make a contribution: to be the best for the world.  I do this through my BEING . . . loving, a learning, laughter, lucid, lively, luminous, a listener, lighta leader in learning!  I use my storytelling to express my BEING. Openness and honesty are my magnetic north on my joyful and adventurous journey.

The following are just a few of the videos that gave me pleasure, insights and challenged me to reframe my mindset.  Thank you to all who contributed in the making of these videos.

Blame by Professor Brene Brown.

This three minute video is my favourite.  Brene Brown studies shame and vulnerability and this short RSA (Royal School of the Arts) graphic video captures the essence of how much we blame, why we blame and the impact that this has on others and our ability to empathize.  Show this at your next meeting and begin a dialogue around this topic.

Empathy Vs Sympathy by Professor Brene Brown.

This three minute video is a runner up on my favourite list. The description for the video – What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

Dr. Alan Watkins on Why You Feel What You Feel

I find Alan Watkins to be funny, insightful, brilliant in taking complexity and simplifying it through stories.  The description on Youtube is: Understanding why you feel what you feel is one of the most important aspects of human development. After understanding comes control. When you control your emotions through vertical development, you can be more successful and happy.

Jane Magruder Watkins on Appreciative Leadership by Joep de Jong

I have been blessed to have a wonderful mentor for the last twenty years – Jane Magruder Watkins.  Jane was an early adaptor in the field of Appreciative Inquiry and worked with Dr. David Cooperrider from the time he was a doctoral student in the early 1980s until recently. She brought Appreciative Inquiry to more than 70 countries and this five minute video is a segment from an interview that Joep de Jong had with 78 year old Jane Magruder Watkins in the summer of 2015.

From a Burning Platform to Burning Ambition (3 minutes) by Dr. Peter Fuda.

When I was first introduced to organizational effectiveness and change management in 1995, the organization I worked with used the Burning Platform metaphor to drive a significant global change.  It didn’t work, it was fear based and caused pain and was not sustainable! I left in 1998 to find a more human focused approach to change. It was then that I discovered creative problem solving (the foundation of design thinking), the philosophy and methodology of Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space and other change processes that are now part of what is now called Dialogic Organizational Development. I weave in the research and practical approaches of positive psychology into all my work – I feel blessed to have discovered these life giving, positively energizing ways to work with my clients and colleagues.

Where Good Ideas Come From by Brian Johnson.

At Innovation Works we believe that our job is to help our clients create & innovative working climates.  Innovation is about taking common ideas and reframing them and playing with hunches.  These hunches need to collide with other hunches to create innovative ideas. That is one reason we love our tag line of “Colliding ideas .. sparking action”. We want to create a safe space for people to play and innovate together. Enjoy this 4 minute video.

Enjoy, share your comments on these videos and tell us about  your favourite short videos.


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It’s Just Common Sense – Returning to Our Indigenous Wisdom

Might it be that the way for us to thrive and flourish in these disruptive and complex times, is to go back to the wisdom of our ancient ways of communicating!  

“Mo everything you talk about is just common sense!” said the Chief Information Officer of a financial institution. It was about three hours into a two day retreat with the executive team.  They were in the middle of a major merger and feeling the stress of the disruption.  Immediately the Human Resources Vice President commented: “If only people used common sense in this merger, we wouldn’t have to face so many crisis every day – it is driving me crazy.”

As I listened to the group natter back and forward about the lack of common sense they were observing across the organization, I had an insight that I shared with the group.

“What if the term ‘common sense’ came from the days when we lived in villages and when we had a community problem – we moved the sheep off the common and invited ALL villagers to come together and talk until we had made ‘sense’ of the situation and co-created a vision and actions to resolve the issue.”


Leaving with ‘common’ vision created through sense making!


Gathering on the common with all who have an interest.

When we left the common – we had a shared view and understanding of our collective response.   We had created for our community – ‘common sense’ for the specific situation we faced.”

People are relational beings and as such our conversations help us to make meaning of a situation – we socially construct our reality by the words we use and the metaphors we create.

In our interconnected, complex lives we are constantly being brought together to quickly resolve issues by creating innovative solutions. Often people don’t take the time to create ‘common sense’, a common understanding,  we forget that we are coming from different villages. In these villages we have different definitions for words – we speak a different language. We need to slow down, be mindful, get to know each other’s perspectives. Be open to exploring and apprecitaing how we each view the world. Share the meaning of our words and phrases – co-create new meaning to our words and ideas before we attempt to create solutions.

In the spring of 2015, I was invited to participate at an Aboriginal circle facilitation training led by an elder. It was a great honour to be invited to be part of this learning event.  During the session I felt that I was with my ‘tribe’ – the principles and assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) were present in all that we were learning.  I left the session with an insight that while the teachings had been about First Nations traditions, much of it felt natural. I found myself reflecting upon the question: “Could it be that we are all part of a some indigenous group?”  My Irish/Scottish background connects me to the Celts  (my background is Celtic) and that perhaps in this disruptive time I might learn to tap into my indigenous wisdom.

A recent example of the power of tapping into our indigenous wisdom is the story of how the leaders of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference reached consensus for their final agreement.  About two days before the end of the conference they had over 900 contentious issues to resolve. A breakthrough in their communications came about when the Conference President and French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius introduced the South African process called ‘indaba’. The term means meeting or gathering of leaders which is made open to the larger group even if the decision making power is in the hands of the leaders.  Minister Fabius called the session “Indaba of Solutions”.

In the process participants were asked to avoid giving general statements, and to share stories that got to the heart of their main concerns.  Complex issues were addressed, people felt respected and heard and consensus was reached.

The indaba method is solution driven:   (1) everyone must speak personally; (2) they state their ‘red’ lines; (3) provides a common grounds solution. An explanation of the indaba method.


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