Let's Take a Field Trip!


Remember how exciting it was to take field trips as a kid?
Escaping the daily classroom grind for something different and interesting?

I am convinced that field trips, or what I call Discovery Trips, are one of the more effective, but underutilized staff development opportunities around. As I noted in my TEDx talk on lifelong learning (four years ago today), intentional diversity and ongoing discovery are part of a lifelong learning commitment.

To make the most of this simple idea, collectively decide on what would be of value to discover. For what areas or issues do you seek new ideas and insights? What different exposure might help stimulate some fresh thinking? What places or issues have you previously not explored? The answers will help you purposefully select locations and sources for your field trips.

Team members could visit different locations/experienced for broad learning or the same one (perhaps at different times) for deep learning from a single source. Using a common observation framework for notetaking helps facilitate subsequent debrief and discussions as a team.

The debrief and application is critical, but don't make it overly complex. Try this simple framework:
  1. Observation: What did you notice?
  2. Implication: What might that mean for our work?
  3. Application: How do we want to be/do different as a result?
Don't micro-manage trip scheduling. Let people plan their own outings consistent with their energy and workflow. Do give them a deadline for completing their discovery trip and do schedule the team debrief well in advance.

Consider making this an informal and ongoing part of staff development. Imagine giving every team member $10-20/quarter (perhaps less often if you are a very large org) to visit a museum, restaurant, coffeehouse, or store to learn about service, experience design, & more. If you are in a large organization, perhaps require they partner with someone outside their department.

Discovery (aka Field) Trips may be of particular appeal to introverts on your team. They can take one on their own or with a partner.  The trips also can neutralize hierarchy since everyone engages equally, as well as involve people in cross-functional sharing and learning.

I've curated virtual field trips as an appetizer for participants in a strategic planning or design thinking session to do online prior to an in-person meeting. Engaging everyone in field research is an effective way to get them fully involved in discussions from the onset.

Over time, colleagues may start viewing their daily life as a field/discovery trip and bring back ideas from what they notice. Wouldn't that be great?

P.S. For a more comprehensive look at Life's A Great Teacher and lifelong learning, here is a 25-minute video of my talk at an ACPA convention.