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Colour in Facilitation

At the Retrospective Facilitator’s Gathering in Fladungen, Linda Rising proposed a session on Neuroscience and Retrospectives. In this Linda briefly explained several areas that neuroscience has now confirmed as good for our brains, and therefore good ideas to consider when planning a retrospective. One of these areas was colour.

Something I’m not very good with.

What colour is this?

I have an uncommon level of colour blindness. This doesn’t mean I see no colour, but I can’t tell the orange, green and yellow post-its apart.

Unlike most people, I have no attachment to colours, they aren’t really relevant to me. To be honest, they also scare me a little.

There is this whole language of colour that isn’t accessible to me. I know blue is cold or calming for people, but I can’t relate to it. It has led to some interesting situations in the past.

A colourful meeting

There was one retrospective where I had consciously decided to bring colour in. It was something that I felt people liked. So I had a great idea: as people called out words I picked up a new colour from the pack of pens and wrote the word on the flip chart.

Good idea! People like colour, and here I was supplying it.

Well, not so much. The energy in the room dropped so fast I couldn’t believe it. The team first passively, then actively, disengaged from the conversation. The whole thing fell down around our ears. The retrospective was scrubbed, and I went away somewhat despondent and confused. I had no idea what had just happened, and the team didn’t seem to want to dig into it.

Luckily enough, one of the team was a good friend. Later on that day, or maybe the next, he took me to one side and asked why I’d used particular colours for the words I was writing.

The only criteria I’d had was the next in the pack, so I told him this.

My friend went on to explain that a lot of the words didn’t match the colour I was using to write them down. The team had found it difficult to separate the word from the colour, so confusion crept in. Within a minute, the team had just stopped. They couldn’t carry on with my masterpiece of colour in front of them. It was, for all intents, offensive.

Lesson learned. I shouldn’t use colour.

Engaging retrospectives

So here is my quandary. Linda tells us that colour is important for our brains. Everyone else in the group seemed to agree.

I have no idea about colour, it is a very strange concept. One that I’ve struggled with for years but simply don’t understand.

However, to improve the engagement in a meeting, I need to find a way to incorporate colour into my facilitation.

The only obvious part of the answer at the moment is that I probably shouldn’t hold the pen when it happens.

For more on challenges in facilitation, check out our article What are some of the challenges I will face in facilitation and how do I overcome them?

Read our blog on The Art of the Post-It®

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