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Our Graphic Facilitator and Writer, Charles Waples talks about his own experience and the benefits whilst working with MG Taylor collaborative methodology to clients implementing a new process and ERP system.

Having spent my early working life in the theatre, Television and stage as a writer and performer as well as illustrator it was perhaps a somewhat natural progression to become intrigued by and later involved with the methods of MG Taylor in the field of accelerated learning since the particular alchemy of the arts, organisation skills, educational approaches, design and environment seemed so reminiscent and yet not entirely like so many elements of my creative life.

When I first encountered the methodologies of MG Taylor I was, like most people, fascinated by seeing the process in situ but utterly bemused by the hive approach to the resourcing of the work but also strangely curious about the people behind this thinking and how they came to devise the process of collaborative working that has, in the years since the late seventies, irrevocably affected the way parallel working and accelerated solutions in today’s business world is conducted – arguably throughout the western world and beyond.

Beginning with the establishment of MG Taylor in 1979 the two people at the centre of this formed an alliance of thinking both professionally and toward the outer world of learning. My own understanding of the origins of the methodology came from the professional backgrounds of Matt and Gail Taylor themselves. In San Francisco in 1979 Gail Taylor was already established as an educationalist who had developed a fascination with the notion of accelerated learning and to some extent the complete reconfiguration of it through parallel learning and the whole accepted notion of education and the process of it. Likewise Matt, a trained Architect and disciple of the “less is more” Modernist concepts of the great designer and architect of the 1930’s Frank Lloyd Wright. Lloyd Wright who believed in designing in harmony with humanity and its environment developed a philosophy he called organic architecture. Matt Taylor immediately saw a correlation, therefore, between environment and learning. That the element of environment could have an impact on the progressive nature of human beings and provide a stage on which uncluttered learning and therefore design could be achieved.

The MG Taylor methodology would be based firmly around the notion that as adults we are far less open as individuals in terms of self expression. Studies showed that “Creative genius” in other words the ability to articulate opening was at 98% amongst the average five year old child but that this figure was reduced to nearly 40% at 15 years of age and at around 25 by the time a person reaches their thirties. This can be almost certainly attributed to societal pressures but in real terms it can be concluded the expressive act of using a crayon on a wall for a small child is a natural response which is curbed throughout our standard education and through social norms. In other words by time we are in our mid thirties crayoning big ideas on a wall is very much a thing of the past but this has transmuted and reduced to hiding notes away on a small piece of A4 is in.

Scan, Focus and Act

“If it takes ten hours to chop down a tree, take nine hours sharpening the axe”.

This simple mantra or axiom sums up the MG Taylor approach and refers to the amount of time spent bringing together the required materials, expertise and decision making in the right place and the right time before taking the decision to act on these findings. This process has been referred to as Scan, Focus and Act.

The MG Taylor approach can be couched in these very succinct words summing up the three phases of an MG Taylor inspired workshop or collaborative event. When a group of stakeholders, suppliers, SME’s and Policy People along with perhaps tech and HR influencers are brought together the mixture of environment and accelerated learning models comes into play.

In the scan phase, the problem is literally scanned in a very broad way. The issues that a company or programme may face are scoped very broadly across and organisation. No decision making is made at this point and often thematic rounds of information transfer are deployed in which for example military specialists come in to speak on tactical approaches, or a naturalist may give a presentation on swarming of bees. These are ways of encouraging thinking out of the box to encourage organisations to think more cohesively and more strategically.

The Focus stage is perhaps the most challenging. In this is where initial ideas are then tested as possible solutions and are opened up to challenge and re-testing. It is from here that ideas are taken forward into by far the shortest and most effective part of the process, sometimes referred to as Act.

In the act phase (the shortest percentage of time, remember that it takes to actually cut down your tree with your sharpened axe) is where the testing ends and the solutions are selected and presented be it verbally, in visual form or digitally.

These processes are all all supported by a hive approach to resourcing with a Process Facilitator overseeing the circle of facilitation in which key workers take on specific roles rather than tasks within the process support, design and produce all the knowledge used, devised and presented within the event. These key workers are sometimes referred to as Knowledge Workers and come from a range of professional specialisms including performing, graphic design and illustration, facilitation, acting, music and script-writing – all bringing to life and producing accelerated solutions in a complex and rapidly complex climate.

Source: Charles Waples