Learning from Triumphs and Disasters


Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing Tips ~ ISSN 1465-8046

is no longer published but you can view more back issues in the ARCHIVES

For Roger's blog and other writings please see the Guide to Active Reviewing

  Active Reviewing Tips 16.1


Learning from Triumphs and Disasters

~ 1 ~ EDITORIAL: Active Reviewing Tips reaches 60
~ 2 ~ EVENTS: Active Reviewing Workshops with Roger Greenaway
~ 3 ~ ARTICLE: Learning from Triumphs and Disasters
~ 4 ~ GAME DESIGN: Agile Experiential Learning
~ 5 ~ ARCHIVE: Turntaking Methods
~ 7 ~ About Active Reviewing Tips

~ 1 ~ EDITORIAL: Active Reviewing Tips reaches 60

Welcome to the 60th issue of Active Reviewing Tips - which is now in its 16th year. That is an average of just over 4 issues per year. Hopefully it is a pleasant and welcome surprise when you discover that Active Reviewing Tips is appearing in your inbox again, waiting to assist and inspire you.

If you have ever tried to help a team learn from a triumph or a disaster, this issue is for you.

Active Reviewing Tips is a free newsletter from Roger Greenaway that will help you to re-charge your reviewing and facilitation skills.

Typical contents:

  • a practical feature on reviewing tips
  • links to sites about active learning methods
  • tips, comments and ideas from readers
  • what's new in the Guide to Active Reviewing at http://reviewing.co.uk

Maximum frequency: monthly. Average frequency: quarterly.

"16 years of promoting better learning experiences without chalk, flipcharts or marker pens."

I welcome requests about topics for Active Reviewing Tips and enquiries about trainer-training workshops (open or in-house) from September 2014 onwards.

Roger Greenaway

Don't just do it - actively review it!

~ 2 ~ EVENTS: Active Reviewing Workshops with Roger Greenaway

Denmark11th June, Vejle. Location: VINGSTED Hotel & Conference Centre
Moving Bodies - Moving Minds: a toolkit for facilitators and consultants
In this workshop you will be experiencing the benefits of making abstract or complex ideas visible, tangible and changeable. You will learn how to use simple visual aids and tools that will help your clients to express, examine and explore key concepts and critical situations. The versatile tools will help you to facilitate learning from experience in ways that are inclusive, engaging and dynamic. For a full description and event booking details view this page at eventsupport
Any questions? Contact Klaus Jacobsen

China 17-18th June 2014, Shanghai. How to Facilitate Learning From Experience. Open train the trainer programme with Sino-Associates.

China 19-20th June 2014, Shanghai. How to Transfer Learning for Lasting Impact. Open train the trainer programme with Sino-Associates.

China 26-27th June 2014 - 2 day workshop in Shenzhen with Adventure Base Consultancy or see this Facebook page

China 28-29th June 2014 - 2 day workshop in Hong Kong with Adventure Base consultancy or see this Facebook page

Romania 18-19th July 2014, Bucharest, Romania. For details see the course description at the Institutal Roman de Training or send an email to Diana Ghinda  

China 26-28th September 2014, Macau (tbc. Includes open workshops)

Taiwan 1-2nd October, Taipei, Taiwan. Open workshop for Asia Association for Experiential Education (AAEE)

Taiwan 4-5th October, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Open workshop for Asia Association for Experiential Education (AAEE)

UK 17-18th October, Loughborough. I hope to be offering a workshop at the IOL National Conference

More trainer-training workshops
Later in 2014 I am hoping to return to Singapore and Malaysia and provide open workshops in Hungary, the Netherlands and in the UK (Devon).

The above information is copied from
The Calendar of Reviewing Skills Training Workshops
where you will find the most up to date list of open/public workshops provided by Roger Greenaway.

The other newsletter: the Experiential-CPD Calendar
The Experiential-CPD Calendar lists 'trainer-training' and 'educator-training' events from several UK providers. The events listed here are of interest to facilitators who work indoors or outdoors. The Experiential-CPD calendar features a 'Thought for the Month' about experiential learning from the editors or from readers.

~ 3 ~ ARTICLE: Learning from Triumphs and Disasters

Learning from Triumphs and Disasters

by Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training

A team has a "disaster": they fail at their task and they are deflated. They clearly have a lot to learn but they are feeling so down that there is a clear risk that a review will knock them down even further. What do you do as a facilitator to help them learn from this experience?

A team has a "triumph": it is their biggest sense of achievement ever. They are in the mood for celebration and there is a risk that any critical reviewing will seem petty and of little importance because the big story is their triumph. What do you do as a facilitator to help them learn from their success?

These two extreme cases can be quite challenging if your goal is to facilitate learning. Let's explore and evaluate some potentially effective responses, so that you will be better prepared if you should ever find yourself in either of these situations. And if you are better prepared for these extreme cases you should also find that you are better equipped for whatever happens in between these extremes.

Next you will find seven strategies for learning from disasters. These are followed by seven strategies for learning from triumphs. You will find a quick evaluation of each strategy. I then share some thoughts about whether or not we should welcome triumphs and disasters or seek to steer groups away from such experiences.

Learning from Disasters

Let's look at what can happen when trying to facilitate a review after a team disaster ...


You spot ample opportunities for learning from mistakes.

The team performance is a disaster. The constructions falls down. The team falls apart. Everyone feels down. You spot ample opportunities for learning from mistakes. But you sense that spirits are so low that looking at problems will drive the mood down even lower. They might say, "It was rubbish because we're rubbish". "What kind of rubbish?" you ask. And a dreary post-mortem begins. Everyone, including you, wishes they were somewhere else, and that "reviewing" had never been invented.


You smilingly declare that every cloud has a silver lining.

There was so little new or useful learning from this "post-mortem" that it is no surprise that the team follow up this disaster with another one. This time you are determined to take a more positive angle in the review. You smilingly declare that every cloud has a silver lining and you ask each person to make a silver lining statement. "No-one died" says the first person to speak. "We go home in a couple of hours" says the next. "We didn't give up straight away". "We reached consensus that the task was unachievable before giving up."


You give up on reviewing and will try to set easier tasks in future.

You conclude that it is difficult to facilitate a review after a disaster: talking about problems keeps people going in a downward spiral, and giving them encouragement to be positive is unlikely to work if people are not feeling positive. So you try to avoid this situation by ensuring that the tasks you set in future are not too difficult. Perhaps it will be easier to review tasks with more mixed outcomes?

But perhaps there are good ways of reviewing disasters? - the full article describes 7 strategies for facilitating a review following a team disaster.

Learning from Triumphs

Let's look at what can happen when trying to facilitate a review after a team triumph ...


You start picking holes (or nits) - in search of even better excellence.

The team performance is excellent (and it was a good experience for everyone involved). You think of your job as helping them to produce an even better performance. So you ask about how they can improve ... which leads to people getting criticised for tiny things of little importance and the mood becomes negative and defensive: no-one feels that they are learning anything of value and you start to feel alienated as hole-picker-in-chief.


You join in the high five celebrations.

So next time the team performance is excellent, you decide to celebrate. And you do and there are congratulations and high fives all around. People even do replays of the best bits. People feel even better about their success but have they learned anything more as a result of celebrating the best bits?


You set impossible challenges so that no team can triumph.

You conclude that it is difficult to review a team success because any attempt to be critical seems like trivial nit-picking, and there is a risk that too much celebrating creates complacency. So you try to avoid this situation by ensuring that the level of challenge is so high in future tasks that no team will ever feel 100% successful!

But surely it is possible to learn from team success? How else do successful teams get better? The full article describes 7 strategies for facilitating a review following a team triumph. 

The full article on "Learning from Triumphs and Disasters" describes a total of 14 facilitation strategies for helping teams reflect in these extreme situations. Download the full article now or keep your fingers crossed that the teams you work with will always be moderately successful. ;-)

Italian For the Italian translation of 'Triumphs and Disasters' register at Training-Esperienziale.it

You may also like to see Shirley Gaston's article on:
5 practical ways to help your team learn effectively from failure

~ 4 ~ GAME DESIGN: Agile Experiential Learning

I recently attended the Agile Games conference in Boston, New England. It was my second time sharing ideas at Agile Games with this amazing community dedicated to collaboration and experiential learning in the workplace.

The conference attracted many experts in the design of learning games: one group devised 5 new games in less than 5 hours. In another part of the conference 5 people facilitated the playing of the games that they had designed and that had won them each a free place at the conference.

All of these games will probably continue on their journey of development as they get tried out, tweaked, shared and adapted in this community that is dedicated to continuous improvement. And they apply the same principles to team development: "At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly."

Their belief in teams is so strong that they assert that: "The best [work] emerges from self-organizing teams." They are fans of emergent learning: they value "Responding to change over following a plan".

They are also very keen on face-to-face communication in the workplace: "The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a ... team is face-to-face conversation". Any lingering stereotypes I may have had about IT software developers have now completely vanished.

Agile Games brings together some of the most creative people in the world of software development. And what is most astonishing to me is that these innovative practices do not come from research institutions or training events but from and in the workplace. The amount of learning and development and productivity that comes from a well functioning Agile team would, I suspect, make off-site team development redundant.

Quotes above are from http://agilemanifesto.org

These reflections on Agile Games first appeared in the Experiential-CPD Calendar.

~ 5 ~ ARCHIVE: Turntaking Methods

A group has just completed an activity or a real-world project. Your job is to help them reflect and learn from their experiences. What turn-taking strategy will you use?

  1. Not having a turn-taking strategy. 'Laissez-faire' is very unfair especially when it results in domination by the loudest people.

  2. Adopting your usual 'default mode' (which you might spot somewhere below) without considering other turn-taking strategies.

  3. Imposing a turn-taking method on the group that is either too structured (and lifeless) or one that is too jolly (and superficial).

  4. Not making room for participation - by talking too much, getting in the first word, taking all the best lines, filling in the silences, and only asking for participation when you run out of breath.


No method is perfect. What follows is a list of turn-taking options with comments about the strengths and weaknesses of each. Methods with lots of minuses are best avoided, or used sparingly.

This article was published in Active Reviewing Tips 5 years ago. You can read the full article here.


The previous issue of Active Reviewing Tips is archived at this address.

Topics under consideration for future issues include:

  • Reviewing in twos (as a break from whole group reviewing)
  • Making the case for active reviewing
  • Making reviewing a memorable experience
  • Reviewing as a takeaway skill for participants
  • Evaluating Active Reviewing: how well does it work?
  • Reviewing for different outcomes (using the same activities)
  • End of programme reviews
  • Co-facilitating reviews
  • The art of improvising
  • Remote Reviewing
  • Reviewing over a cup of tea (informal reviewing)
  • Readers' Questions about Reviewing (please feed me with questions for this 'FAQ')
  • Sample designs for learning and development
  • Integrated practice in experiential learning (when does an activity become a review? when does a review become an activity? examples of integrated practice - and do these
    challenge or demonstrate experiential learning theory?)

Please write to roger@reviewing.co.uk if you have any topics you would like to see included or put at the top of this list (which is not yet in any particular order).

~ 7 ~ About Active Reviewing Tips

TITLE: Active Reviewing Tips for Dynamic Experiential Learning
ISSN: 1465-8046
EDITOR: Dr. Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
EMAIL: roger@reviewing.co.uk Feedback welcome - especially about this new format.
ARCHIVES: Index of back issues
HOME PAGE: Active Reviewing

PRIVACY:  see foot of page

"I like the way you look at everything and then return to what is simple, effective and memorable."

"You always have material I don't want to miss."
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  Roger Greenaway 2014
Reviewing Skills Training
E-mail: roger@reviewing.co.uk

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