Creative Thinking in Epidemiology: 2. Tools/processes and connections

2.  Tools/processes and connections:  Participants in a workshop can expect the processes of the workshop and the connections made among participants to add something unavailable from reading a paper on the same topic—otherwise, why have a workshop?  The tools/processes and connections should help participants generate insights about the topic and help them learn from contributions that others make.  When the topic is “Creative Thinking in Epidemiology” participants might also hope that the workshop tools/processes and connections can be carried over so that they continue to use them to help generate insights after the workshop and make changes in practice (i.e., not simply continue along previous lines).  Indeed, my thinking about workshops and other “organized multi-person collaborative processes” (Taylor 2001) is that

a) the carry-over of tools/processes and connections should be valued as much as the contributions to the official workshop topic; and

b) in the carry over from the here and now of the workshop to what goes on subsequently, what is important is the positive experiences, not only the tangible products.

These considerations, which inform the program for the workshop, are summarized in the following schema.

With the goal of producing positive experiences, the workshop program is built around four principles:

a) Participants always bring a lot of knowledge about the topic, so allow that to be brought to surface and acknowledged;

b) What you really learn from a workshop or participatory experience is what you integrate with your own concerns;

c) There should be reflection on each phase that leads to one concrete product to take into next phase; and

d) The workshop should unfold according to the sequence of “4Rs,” that is, a well-facilitated collaborative process keeps us listening actively to each other, fostering mutual Respect that allows Risks to be taken, elicits more insights than any one person came in with (Revelation), and engages us in carrying out and carrying on the plans we develop (Re-engagement).  What we come out with is very likely to be larger and more durable than what any one person came in with; the more so, the more voices that are brought out by the process (Taylor et al. 2011).


These considerations also inform the program for the workshop.  The 4Rs lies at the center of the following elaboration of the first schema.

Tangible & Experiential Objectives for a Workshop



Process as Product

Product in Conventional Sense



Tools & Processes





Contributions to Topic




Here & Now



Tangible Outcomes

Learn or refresh tools.

Participate in processes.

Practice facilitating processes (optional).

Establish or thicken connections among participants. Probe, clarify, expose open questions.

Insights about new directions for participants’ research, writing, teaching, outreach.



Respect->Risk->Revelation –> Re-engagement

(through Learning, Interacting, Sharing, Connecting, Communing)



–> Enthusiasm, Hope, Resolve, Courage Sustained



Tangible Outcomes

Cultivating ourselves as participants, collaborators & question-openers.

Adopt, adapt, evaluate & develop tools & processes.

Connections maintained & developed.

Local (i.e., participants’ current realms) kept in tension with trans-local connections.

Individuals move in the new directions.

Compilation of reflections throughout the workshop

—> Programmatic overview?



  • What tools or processes and connections have you carried over from previous workshops or collaborations?

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