This is the age when the old become young


It’s become a bit of a cliche to say that children are growing up more and more quickly. Our education system is engaged in an ideological battle between the idea that we should allow children to stay children for as long as possible, and the idea that we need to get them ready for adult life as quickly and early as possible. Isn’t that what happens in nature? Isn’t that the best chance for survival in a tough world? Surely the first view is naive and the second the only practical way?

Certainly the second view largely dominates in Western Culture. Or does it? In Scandinavia, children aren’t taught to read until they are nearer seven years old. In Waldorf education, children flourish and adulthood sets in at a natural pace for each child – it isn’t forced. Learning to play, to slowly focus on the sharper edges of the world, this is valued by many as the best preparation for life.

And yet the Facebook generation, the tech-savvy generation Y soon and quickly grasp what technology has to offer and are beginning to see their slower parents as the naive ones, as the childish ones. The young are teaching the old, and often leading the way, both into realms of light and shadow.

Image result for old and young

We don’t know how the digital age is going to pan out and many adults look on, bemused at the new patterns of living and working among our younger generations. We can no longer guide them, if we find the digital age a mystery. The parenting relationship becomes weirdly reversed as children, even as young as seven or eight are guiding their parents into the digital age. Many parents, worried (perhaps rightly) at the effects of the digital on their young human beings in their care, resort to traditional forms of control and policing, only to find their children can become master cat burglar’s of digital time and space.

Though the older generations may be running to catch up with their Generation Y kids and millennial grandchildren, they still are wiser and older in the business of being human.

It becomes ever more important to identify the archetypes of living and working in the digital realm – issues of trust, connection, developing meaningful relationships, staying safe – all of these remain relevant to the wisdom and experience that comes with age. Yet there are also newer, emerging phenomena around disembodied communication and collaboration, of linking our physical limbs and senses to technological products, that put our kids right into the front line of what is emerging.

Here the adults really do become slower developing children. And these challenges then become about being open to learning from our kids, even as we attempt to keep them safe and well. We now have a role of what Edgar Schein calls “humble inquiry”. We aren’t here to tell the younger ones what to do, though we can invite their own inquiry. Leaning becomes mutual, a vital dialogue, a conversation between older generations, a blending and trading of smart with wise, of knowledge with experience. The conversation is no longer top down, old to young, but is horizontal, a circle of dialogue. And we will all be the better for it,


Visit the Personal Development Zone

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Feedback – What Participants Say About the Working in Teams Sessions






Here are just a few of the comments that participants shared in 2017 at Warwick Business School about the Working in Teams Sessions…

“Incredibly insightful. They should have these sessions for every fresher cohort.”

“Great session! It really helped me in understanding group dynamics! While I am more of a leader by nature, my group included two more “natural leaders” which meant that two of us had to back down a little bit. Really helped to show what teamwork really means and that it takes teamwork to succeed, not just a leader.

“Thank you for the interesting workshop.”

“This is the first event that I have attended that has really got me excited to start my course. I normally dislike things like this because I like many others have not had the best group experiences, particularly in my academic career. However, I think having this session on our course right at the start will serve to change my opinion of group work, provided that everyone works to follow the ideas you have given us. I wish something like this was provided more, especially as I think back on my operations management experience when working with very diverse teams. I think the benefits of it are invaluable.”

“Your message about inclusivity and putting one’s ego aside when interacting with other members of a group was a valuable takeaway from the session. Could you include a little more info about how interaction takes place in different cultures in your future sessions?”

“I loved the session, which was different from those traditional classes. I firmly agree to the viewpoint about ADVOCACY and INQUIRY! Anyway, thanks for your session!”

“Mr. Paul Levy provided great teaching for improving our soft skills in team-working! The exercises in the team skills session allowed us to experience how to cope better in order to have productive team work through focusing on the tasks as a team, listening carefully to others, gathering team members’ thoughts, understanding one another’s culture, setting team ground rules and so on. I especially enjoyed the group activity of remembering the name of new friends, whom we have just heard their names said twice, while each person cannot say one’s own names. Therefore, we learnt everyones’ name by asking through another person. It was my first time I felt I could remember numerous peoples’ names in such a short period of time. This activity teaches us that we learn a great deal from inquiring others with questions, instead of just advocating with our own voice. I believe that by following what we have learnt at the workshop, we will have the skills needed to succeed in teamwork!”

“It was an icebreaker and with all the laughing that we had, everything just clicked. Would absolutely recommend it to everyone.”

Visit the Group Dynamics Page

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Three Types of Team

When teams and groups work together for the first time on a project, three types of group can emerge. I call them the Polite Team, the Broken Team and the Real Team.

The Real Team is the ideal team type where everyone becomes involved and committed to the project. They “dive in”, occasionally stepping back to be objective and to gain and overview. But mostly there is a sense of involvement shared by the team.







The Polite Team may have a certain level of involvement but can be over-formal and even detached. The commitment needed to really get involved, risk being vulnerable and making mistakes in front of others is not there. The group then performs less well. What is needed is a discussion about involvement and commitment and some team-building activity. Social activity can be part of this as team members get to know each other as human beings.








The Broken Team has some team members involved who become frustrated as others do not fully commit and sit on the edges of the group, not fully involved. And other members of the group may not even commit at all, not showing up, and existing at the end of emails, but never being physically present. Here the team needs to be either fixed on “reset”, perhaps with new members. Fixing it involves openly naming the behaviour. A more senior person may need to get involved, ground rules put in place and some team building may help. We need to get to the root cause of why this team has become broken.













Visit the Group Dynamics Page

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A Model for an Effective Team Process

There are many models that prescribe how too operate effectively as a group or team. Here is one based on an effective group completing a university-based project, leading to a report and presentation…

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Here are links to a few different models. Discuss these with your team. There is no one correct way to work effectively as a team and you may wish to adapt your own model that suits your group.

Here are six different team effectiveness models

And here is some models for,  and approaches to completing a team project

Visit the Group Dynamics page.





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Being heard in your group

Not every member of a group is self-confident. Some are quieter. Some are more shy and less able or willing to speak up. Groups are diverse; we have different personalities and styles of communication. Sometimes people with a more extrovert personality can dominate a group. Yet the loudest or most outspoken people may not be the wisest! They may not have the right answers. In effective groups, everyone needs to have their voice heard.

So, how can you be heard in your group if you are feeling ignored?

Here are a few examples …

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Visit the Group Dynamics page.

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Groups Skills Gallery

Here are a few images of groups at work and the features of effective group working…

Active Listening






Positive energy







Sharing and collecting information



Energised and expressing yourself


Working collaboratively


Leadership, when needed


Respectful listening and mutual respect






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Where should we meet as a group?

Over the years I’ve observed many groups in organisations and communities.

The more effective and higher performing groups ate smart and skillful in terms of where and how they meet.

Some groups perform well by meeting more informally. However, people from different part of the world and from different cultures have different cultural expectations about meeting etiquette. Some people prefer to meet around the cafe table, others see group projects as being better suited to formal meeting rooms. From the start of a group project it is useful to share these assumptions and expectations openly.

That said, a very formal meeting room with no natural light might not be the best place for a group to think creatively. Equally, if there is a presentation to rehearse which will eventually be delivered in a conference room, then a conference room might be the best place for a group to meet and rehearse it.

Be flexible and choose meeting places that best suit the kind of work the group is doing.

Here are a few more tips about where groups should meet that I’ve gathered together in recent year…

Visit the Group Dyanmics page

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