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ASTD 2009 International Conference & Exposition

Session TU310:

Don’t Just Stand There: Sculpt Something! Learning Objectives: Design interactive, engaging, creative, customized, powerful, unique learning tools directed to the specific requirements of your organization or clients Utilize a one of a kind learning instrument that taps into every major learning type at once enhancing learning transfer, involvement, and a memorable learning experience for your audience.

Scott “Q” Marcus 2521 E Street

Eureka, CA 95501 707.442.6243



Making an effective sculpt Although the acronym, FROG (see worksheet last page), is a mnemonic devise to remember the four components of sculpting, sculpt design does not have to be in the order FROG represents: •




Game Plan

I would go so far as to say the very first thing one must do in order to design a good sculpt is to consider the Outcome, “What do I want my audience to come away with from the sculpt?” Once I understand that, the remainder of the design comes easier.

One person or many? Sometimes, we tend to forget the main reasons for sculpting: 1) Make an emotional impact 2) Illustrate a relationship or state of mind Simply because an elaborate, multi-person sculpt can be arranged does not mean it has to be. For example, my work focuses to a large degree on people trying to change bad habits (losing weight being the primary one). Because overeating is one of the few bad habits whose symptoms are clearly evident (large belly), people who are overweight many times feel they are monitored everywhere they go. This generates within many, a great degree of shame. Should I be trying to illustrate to others how overweight people might feel when others are staring at them or making comments about their size, I could: 1) Have a group discussion 2) Pair the audience into dyads and let them discuss what they might feel if they were overweight 3) Ask someone who is overweight to share (in a safe, prearranged manner) how she feels when others watch her eat 4) Bring out charts showing the correlation between low esteem and the obesity 5) Stand with head down, covering my head and face in a dark sheet

Which would have the most impact? In addition to a heightened sense of empathy, having someone stand 3

quietly, head bowed, with a dark sheet over his head allows the presenter to ask questions of the audience, such as: “Can you think of a time YOU have felt like this?” or “What might this represent in YOUR life?” By putting the audience in the place of the subject in such a safe manner (and asking rhetoric questions), the audience better relates to the feelings, which presents a much stronger learning experience than engaging an intellectual discussion about the causes of shame and guilt. In this example, using the FROG model, the feelings are guilt and shame, the relationship can be either with oneself or with food, the desired outcome is to illustrate the feelings of the model, and the game plan is to stand with a sheet over one’s head. (It is important to remember that not all relationships are with people and not all relationships are “external.” Some are within oneself.)

Moving beyond one person If we wanted to illustrate the feeling of powerless someone might have in trying to change a habit, or being subjected by a bad employer, we could have two volunteers each posing in static positions. As example, we could simply have one person standing, looking terse, glaring straight ahead, with arms crossed. We could place a second person on his knees, in a pleading position in front of the first. The first model would not make eye contact with the kneeling model. This could show: • How one is pleading to overcome his bad habit but it falls on “deaf ears” or asking for acknowledgement from an uncaring boss • The feeling of powerlessness in trying to make a change • Problems in communication between two team members It is not your job to explain the sculpt but to guide it. I always ask the people in the session what they see, and ask them how they might change it, or what it means to them. I will also make minor adjustments to the sculpt after it is developed so we can see what new feeling and relationships it evokes. In this example, we can show tremendous change by asking model One to stand with arms outstretched to the kneeling model and by asking him to now make eye contact. A simple change in that modeling will generate a completely different feeling, and start a whole new discussion. Urgent note: Never put a model in a position that would be degrading or embarrassing! Always explain what you are going to do before you do it. Ask the model if he or she is OK with the instruction. If there is the slightest hesitation, change the sculpt or the volunteers. The process of being in a sculpt can evoke the feelings one is trying to model.


Let the volunteers lead the action; be prepared to be surprised. To be effective in sculpting, one must let go of expected outcomes. Therein lies so much of sculpting’s power. I was illustrating that when one decides to change his or her life, some of the reasons others might try to block the change (or at least be unsupportive) is because we are each part of many relationships and those within the relationships have to change when we do. Simply because I have decided not to eat out as many times in a week as I used to, does not mean that my friends and family members want to do the same. However, since they are in relationships with me, I will either have to give up my goals (causing me to feel bad about not accomplishing my dreams), or those in relationship with me will have to make changes, if they still wish to associate with me. To illustrate this concept to my audience, I played the main subject (the person undergoing change). I got four volunteers to represent others in my life (wife, children, co-workers, best friend). On my left side, I had one person put a hand on my shoulder and the other put a hand on my arm. On the right side, I repeated the pattern; ending up with me in the center and two people on either side, each attached to me. We were all facing the audience. I asked the audience if this “looks like” their lives? In effect, we are each in the center of our life but are interconnected to many others. I then said, “Watch what happens when I start to change.” To illustrate change, I was going to simply take a few steps forward; and told the group to do what seems appropriate once I start to move. What I thought would happen is the group would come along with me, allowing me to illustrate that one’s relationships all have to change when you do. What happened is that once I tried to move, the group all grabbed tightly, preventing me from moving at all. The lesson the audience saw was that your friends and family can hold you back. That was not the wrong lesson, just one I didn’t expect and it led to a great discussion about what we can do get support from our families and how we can get them to “come with us.”

Getting complicated The first example I wrote about uses a simple one person sculpt. The second one uses two people. The third bumps it to five. There is no limit to how large a sculpt can go. For example, in the most recent illustration, one could illustrate to the audience how each of the people in a relationship with the central subject are also in relationships with other people. Each volunteer could have one or two people “attached” to him, and even more attached to them, showing how we are all interconnected. (It could also illustrate our relationship with our family history or our past.) 5

Kinetic Sculpts Sometimes the game plan of sculpt involves movement. For example, I do a regular sculpt illustrating how people get off-track in their pursuit of their goals. To do this, I get one volunteer as the subject and one volunteer to illustrate the “goals.” He or she might have a sign that he holds saying “Life Goals” to further illustrate his role. I place the two people facing each other approximately 15 feet apart from each other (depending on room size). I then point out to the audience and subjects that this represents our ideal relationship with our goals; right in front of us with nothing in between. To further illustrate the ease of getting to one’s goals in such a hypothetical situation, I have the subject simply walk over to the “goals” and shake hands (or hug, depending on the audience). This is a visual metaphor for moving toward – and reaching – one’s goals. I then say to the audience, “Now let’s make it ‘real,’” and get several volunteers. Each volunteer has the opportunity of being a “helper” or a “hindrance.” (I try to make sure we have more “hindrances” than “helpers” because I want to illustrate a point. Remember, you are the director of the sculpt and will sometimes have to modify the choices made by the participants.) Regardless of what each person chooses, I ask them to name who they represent. For example, someone who says she’s a hindrance might say she represents all the paperwork that’s necessary for a job, or the always-ringing telephone, or family emergencies. All of these can prevent one from achieving his or her goals. Helpers might be support staff, or family members, or training. It is important to let the participants choose what they are. Once the hindrances and helpers are chosen, I ask them where they would like to go. By illustration, the always-ringing telephone would be “all over the place” because it is ubiquitous. Therefore, once the sculpt begins, that character might be roaming back and forth in front of the main subject, constantly “in his face.” (I have the “ringing phone” character constantly “ring” also.) The “excess paperwork” character might be felt as a “weight” in one’s job, so we might have that character (with permission from both) hanging around the subject’s neck, dragging him down, slowing down his progress. “Support staff” might be at one’s “right hand” helping to escort the subject to his designated goal and getting back the hindrances. Remember, in this sculpt, we are creating a visual metaphor for a person’s relationship with his goals.

Ready, set, action! Once the characters are in place, I begin the sculpt, telling the players I will stop them mid way through. I tell the main subject to try and go to his goals again, just as he did before. I tell the other players to do 6

what we have discussed. Once the main subject begins to move, the other players will start to get in his way, hang on to him, misdirect him, or guide him, depending on the role each is playing. In this sculpt, the scene can become quite frenetic. After a few moments, I ask the players to “freeze.” I then ask the audience if this looks more like a typical day than the other example. Most people completely understand the concept at this point and there is a great deal of laughter, comments, and discussion. I also ask the players how they feel, and ask them to share with the audience. Finally, because the intent is education, I ask what can be changed and what cannot. We might discuss policies or strategies and then completely redo the sculpt based on that discussion.

Using Props In my very first example, I used a simple sheet as a prop. However, there is no limit to what can be used as a prop. In one sculpt, I simply stood on a chair with arms crossed and had a few people stand around me with arms outreached toward me. (We were illustrating the relationship between staff and a non-communicative boss, who considered himself above the rest of his team.) A rope always makes for a versatile prop because it can be used in so many fashions. It also allows you to show connections to those not physically as close as others, which provides for a hierarchy or proximity. For example, if we’re trying to show how history affects decisions, we could have two people face-to-face in a static pose, illustrating a discussion between them. We could take two ropes and tie them loosely around the waist of participants and have someone standing ten feet behind each participant, pulling the rope in opposite directions, illustrating that they are each connected back in time but their histories pull them away from each other. Conversely, we could have one rope encircling both players showing how they are tied together.

Looking for signs Especially with the more involved, complicated sculpts, signs are extremely helpful. Since there might be several players on the platform, it becomes confusing for the audience (and even the players) to remember the role of each participant. Therefore simple signs describing the character or feeling can be helpful. For example, “Boss,” “Sister,” “Coworker,” “My Goals,” “Anger,” “History” can further add impact to the sculpt. I have printed a series of signs that I carry in a three-ring binder. I also have string attached to paper clips so I can actually hang the signs around the necks of the participants.


Bottom line In order to be effective, there are several rules to remember when designing sculpts: 1) Make it safe! Your participants must always feel comfortable in the sculpt. Do not force people to volunteer. Do not place them situations in which they feel the slightest discomfort. Do not touch them (nor let any other player do so) without permission. A touch you consider “safe” might not be considered as such by a member of a sculpt. When in doubt, err on the side of safety. Along those lines, NEVER tell someone that her interpretation of the sculpt is wrong. Seek clarification and understanding of what she sees. Understand that part of the reason sculpts are so powerful is due to how multi-faceted they are. 2) Let your audience lead. Have some ideas where you are going with your sculpt but remember that the number one goal is to let the audience come away with their lesson. You are trying to transfer knowledge, they will remember longer what they learned if they helped direct it. Ask for their ideas. Let them tell you you’re wrong. Get others in the group to comment as often as you can. 3) Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. When setting up the sculpt tell them what you’re planning to do. While doing it, explain the roles; show them how it fits into what the plan was. Upon completion, refer to what was the intent and show how it illustrated it (or didn’t). 4) Have fun. Don’t get hooked into how you think it will go because it will limit the opportunity to learn. FROG the sculpt, then get out of the way. The perfect sculpt would have you silently watching while the entire room of participants stormed the stage and engaged in a one-hour experiential, interactive, very powerful activity that changed how they viewed their situation, and empowered them to act.


“Frogging” A Sculpt Adapted from material by Peter Alsop and Jerry Moe • used with permission


What are the emotions you are trying to portray? How will you show them?


Who else would be involved in the character’s situation? (Remember,

sometimes relationships can be with objects or concepts too.)


When the sculpt is completed, what do you want your audience to understand?

Game Plan:

How will you get this concept across? Will you use props? Will it be active or

passive? per

Striving for Imprefection!


Scott “Q” Marcus THINspirational Speaker Helping individuals and organizations overcome procrastination and perfectionism to be more productive, happier, and healther

707.442.6243 •


Sculpting Presentation Workbook for ASTD