Guest post: Discomfort is the Key to Learning

By Mike Quinlan


Mike Quinlan is a training professional and a student in Training and Development 499 at Roosevelt University.

Mike Quinlan is a training professional and a student in Training and Development 499 at Roosevelt University.

I believe in making groups or teams I am working with uncomfortable.  I’m not a big proponent of the “Facilitator’s Guide to Group Hugs”.  I know, sounds weird, as if I thrive on the misery of others.  However, that’s not entirely incorrect.  There is a method to my madness.

Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980, gold medal, Miracle on Ice United States Hockey team had a problem when he assembled his team.  He had a large contingent of University of Minnesota and Boston University hockey players.  These teams had, and still do, have a huge rivalry.  A Yankees/Red Sox, Bears/Packer, Real Madrid/Barcelona type rivalry.   He needed a way to bond his team, a common enemy they could all rally against. Herb Brooks made himself their enemy.  He pushed his team, but he was fair.  He demanded nothing less than their best every day.  Sure, he faced some resistance, but I believe most people know how this story ends. 

When I am working with a team or group, normally in an instructional designer/SME setting, I need to bring out their best, sometimes at my own expense.  At some point during our time together I will need them to trust me, but they don’t have to like me.  I need them to be at their best, I need to get the right information out of them.  I cannot be afraid or show weakness.  If I notice someone isn’t participating, I challenge them to give input.  I tell them there is no value to the group if they don’t participate.  If someone is confrontational, I keep asking him or her questions.  I keep them engaged so he or she can’t ignore me. 

Admittedly, by acting this way my group sessions often get off to a rocky start, but eventually a remarkable thing happens, the dialogue among the team increases with each other.  I get to talk less, I just need to steer the conversation.  It’s as if they are ignoring me which was exactly my goal from the start.

Are there any other against the grain techniques you’ve used or seen used? 

Here are couple of links written by like-minded individuals.

About Eric

Eric Hahn is a graduate assistant in the Training & Development program and works as an editor, graphic designer and writer. He lives in Chicago and has a cat with a criminal mind.
This entry was posted in Careers, Guest Student Post, Human Performance Improvement, Instructional Design, Learning at Roosevelt, Learning Theory, Mentoring and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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