If you’re a child of the 80’s (in mainstream America), you may remember pushing your school desk together with a couple of other kids’ desks and participating in cooperative work groups. This week on the NibSqueak Podcast, my co-host Bree describes these short working sessions as “Basically, breakouts for 8-year olds” that, unfortunately, only happened for a few hours a week. I remember most of my classroom time as a kid being spent at my own single desk, and we were all expected to keep our desks in tidy rows throughout the school year. Fast forward to today… Walk into almost any elementary school classroom and you’ll find desks permanently pushed together into “stations.” Group work, as well as group interaction and play, is no longer the exception. Same goes for college courses, where collaborative learning is an accepted norm. But what happens when these collaborative learners enter the workforce?

We often design and facilitate large-scale transformation projects within organizations. Lately we have been working on a few major projects focused on developing leadership skills and practices in individuals who have been in the workforce for less than 10 years. We have found that this population is clamoring for more collaborative learning experiences.

We introduce next generation leaders in these programs to our Collaborative Learning Maps™ (CLMs) — and sometimes even guide them through creating their own. CLMs are large, colorful posters that contain a series of interactive visual activities for small groups of people to work through together. A well-designed CLM enables learning and exploration of ideas to take place through discussion, brainstorming, and responding to questions and prompts. When developing a CLM in our learning programs, we often create accompanying tactile mechanisms such as cards, stickers, or game pieces to really make the experience as creative, fun, and energizing as possible.

As one might expect, these young leaders really click with this way of learning and working.

Useful and creative learning experiences can occur just about anywhere with or without designed, printed CLMs. On Episode 15 (available above), we spend some time to describe CLMs in more detail. You may be wondering how you can create a collaborative learning experience with only the essential office tools of markers and whiteboards. Well, you’re in luck — my favorite part of this episode is when Bree and I break that down. We explain how anyone can create a collaborative learning experience, using only their ingenuity and their markers.

NibSqueak is our podcast about using visuals to communicate, collaborate, and work better. For a complete episode list, visit nibsqueak.com.