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Painting in the Training Room: Where Process Trumps Product

In almost all my programmes where we use Painting, be it for Influencing or Conflict Management, Collaboration or Managing Change, one factor is common – the participants’ worry about the Output.

Most of my participants aren’t experts in Painting, most haven’t painted in years, maybe decades. Some have never painted in their life (at least the way we do it – all formal and proper, stretched canvases framed to perfection, easels and paints and palettes et al). So, most feel intimidated by the whole build up, and anxiety about their performance creeps in.

And that is a good thing.

One of things we drive through Painting is to explore how comfortably people can explore the new. How they feel about getting out of their comfort zones, trying different things with new tools, to express themselves. Anxiety is a catalyst for change (the same way comfort is the enemy of progress). So, getting the folks a bit worried is a good thing.

The worry, essentially, is about the output. The product they will, individually and in groups, produce after two hours of toil. And in view of the lack of expertise, this is expected – engineers, programmers, lawyers and accountants all feel equally vulnerable and exposed when confronted with a stark white canvas. They are used to being judged for what they produce, so obviously there is discomfort.

And that is where Painting as a method scores. Because we make it completely non-competitive and non-judgemental. Non-threatening, as much as possible. By telling participants that whether she is a Vice President or a Management Trainee, she is at par with the person next to her (who could be, yes, a Vice President or a Management Trainee).

As most of our Painting based modules are done in groups, there is a sense of comfort in numbers. Beyond that, it is all about the process. How people respond to the stimulus of making art, working together, overcoming barriers and creating something new. Who they are while they are at it.

Since we see these processes as simulations, and our debrief brings this out powerfully and effectively, the process is much more significant to observe, that the end product. And the process, as we have developed, follows five simple steps:

  1. Ideate:
    Facing the challenge, how do you dive deep and come up with ideas and solutions that can be expressed on canvas? How do you reference your memory and experiences, create the stories that you can sell to your group?
  2. Communicate:
    How do you express your idea to your group? Are you passionate and bright-eyed about the beautiful image you can visualise, or do you just sit back and let others take the initiative?
  3. Negotiate:
    How do you convince your group members to go with your idea over others? How do you sell your dream, your vision to a group of others many of whom are bringing equally beautiful dreams and visions?
  4. Execute:
    After you have build consensus, what was the process you followed when you painted? Since you are Painting in groups, either as groups or as individuals as parts of groups, how did you go about giving shape to your idea? Especially with possible skill barriers?
  5. Introspect:
    Once the canvas(es) are ready, what do you see? How has your idea evolved and come to life in 2D? What did you learn from the process – what went right and what didn’t?

When we sit back and decode at the end, look at how the experience has impacted participants, what they learnt about each other and themselves, the power of the process becomes evident. And the output, the product, becomes of secondary importance. Of course, participants feel a sense of pride about their creation, there is a great sense of ownership and joy. But what they have created matters less to them that the experience of creating.

This is how art making works in a training room. By removing the fear of the goal, focusing on the lessons of the path.

Process over Product. Every time.

For more details on our Painting and other Art-Based Trainings and how they can transform your learning experience, do get in touch.


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