The value of agency


This 2-minute video shows a fascinating experiment conducted in Singapore. The elderly residents of a nursing home appear to be in decline, failing a series of simple cognitive tests. But then they are asked to help redesign the decor of their home and to help water the new plants that are included in the change.

It's not just the environment that changes. When the tests are repeated, their ability - and their willpower - shoots up.

[Read more about this work]

It's an example of the power of giving people agency and getting them to do the work - one of our strong beliefs as facilitators. When briefing groups on activities we keep instructions to a minimum, and let participants work it out for themselves rather than following too many rules. 

Facilitators sometimes get too attached to their processes and fall into the trap of acting as experts on what people should do or learn. It's sometimes comforting to tell people what to do, and some groups may look as if they want it too. But it risks limiting the creativity and discovery for the group.

We often talk about the teacher trance to highlight this issue.

It's worth taking the risk of appearing less certain about our process and more confident in the ability of people to figure things out for themselves. 

(Photo by Jan de Keijzer on Unsplash)