Innovative Learning: 5 Lessons on Fish Bowls
At the Wisconsin Society of Association Executive Education Conference in September, we stepped outside the traditional learning box and tried an innovative learning experience called a fish bowl presentation.
Four or five chairs make up the fish bowl in an inner circle, which is surrounded by more circles of attendees. At our event, I moderated the fish bowl participants as we discussed ASAE’s excellent book, “7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t.”
As a tool for innovative learning, the fish bowl was intriguing. While I felt the session offered value, only one of our speakers (the 7 Measures chairman) had a wide understanding of the topic. The other speakers were more focused on a specific measure. Thus, getting an active and sustained dialog was tough. Fortunately, I had a few prepared questions, winged it for others and got the audience involved with some questions.
If you want to bring the fish bowl format to your organization, here are my 5 lessons learned:
- Pick four or five participants who know each other and may already have engaged in some conversations.
- While you don’t want experts to all have the same perspective, make sure they have a fairly wide understanding of the topic.
- Have some meaty questions prepared – 5 to 6 at least – and at least a couple questions that will draw out different views and might even spark a real debate.
- You want the conversation to be natural and spontaneous, so I wouldn’t recommend over-prepping the participants. But you might spark more conversations if you give them some key questions and background before you start the event.
- The fish bowl is all about letting the audience feel like they’re a part of the conversations and blurs the line between speakers and the audience. Our fish bowl chairs were on a platform – I’d recommend having everyone on the same plane.
Overall I applaud WSAE and this group of speakers for trying something new to create an atmosphere for education. I think these innovations are key to keeping our face-to-face meetings relevant in the coming years.
Has your organization used a fish bowl or something similar? What was your experience?
Image source: http://marynabadenhorst.globalteacher.org.au