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April 22, 2016

Asking for ‘Help!’ and Empathy

The title of this post is part II of a piece of the same name by friend and colleague Chris Corrigan over here. And what started as a piece about ‘Asking for Help’ … it ended up somewhere else!

Ever since watching another colleague, Gary Hirsch, deliver his entertaining Tedx talk on Collaboration, I’ve turned the act of “Asking for Help” into an activity at many gatherings that I design and facilitate. Gary suggests that one of simplest and most effective ways to kick-start collaboration is to simply ask for help. It seems bleedingly obvious because we all, often without knowing it, do it every day. But why, in some contexts, DON’T we?

Chris offers some more on this and I like this quote from his post:

“I value people that can do that. I think the ability to ask for help is significantly devalued in our society, where status and competence hinge on having the right answer. We all probably have stories about times we pursued the “right answer” well past the point of its usefulness, because the vulnerability of not knowing was a bigger risk that screwing something up.”

When groups come together and ask the perennial question, “How can we work together (collaborate) better? All sorts of safe, well-worn collaboration theories, methods and platforms get suggested – “Let’s establish a Working Group!” Gasp! “What about a Facebook Group?”.

Rather than tackle the collaboration dilemma directly, I prefer to setup group processes where people actually experience collaboration on something that is useful and relevant. This light approach is a little oblique and approaches the practice sideways. It’s is mashup of a few different processes and, in the right context, it works. I do it slightly differently each time and I’ve never actually planned to use it before an event … it just emerges when needed. Here’s a snapshot on my thinking that sits behind the process. My next post will detail the how.

Chris suggests that a degree of vulnerability is needed by the person asking for help. Yes, AND … those offering advice or a response also need to be willing to say “I don’t know”.

What’s Brain Science got to do with it? 

Like I said earlier, learning comes through direct experience of something, like when we play games and learn music and technique in sports. Our brains are wired in ways that make experience and emotion central to learning. Imagine trying to learn to surf by just talking about it and theorising? Well, learning to collaborate is the same … you gotta feel it dude! And this little video shows how multiple parts of the brain are activated when playing music.

To provide opportunities for direct experience, I often use activities from the world of Applied Improv (Theatre), or structured games like Paying For Predictions. These experiences live with participants for years and past participants approach me, sometimes years later, about the impact “that game we played at the Zoo!” had on their learning and world view. These processes are not magic bullets and need to be applied in the right context. But, they do cut through the cerebral noise of powerpoint presentations and traditional methods.

What’s empathy got to do with it?

“Empathy drives connection”, suggests Brene Brown at the beginning of this little clip. “Empathy is feeling with people” … “as sacred space where they find themselves in a dark hole saying ‘I’m stuck!’, ‘I’m overwhelmed’.” It’s a place where people are calling out for help. This video deals with emotions that go deeper than the kinds of things that workshop participants explore together – such as asking for help on how to better involve a local community in decision making. But the same rules apply across different contexts.

Group processes that support an empathic connection between those asking for help and those offering help is central here. To provide the kind of help that people really need, a degree of vulnerability is required. The helper needs to connect with something in themselves, in order to truly connect with the needs of the person asking for help. Brene suggest 4 things that are needed for such an empathic response:

Empathic Response1. Perspective Taking

2. Staying out of judgement

3. Recognising emotion in other people and …

4. Communicating that recognition of emotion




At the end of the video Brene hits on something that I think is crucial here. She says that when people ask for help, our automatic response to is try and make things better. So, our responses often involve jumping straight to solutions. We judge the situation and, without knowing it, fall into the trap of sounding like we have the answer. I’m guilty of this, particularly in community life!

Brent ends this video with “Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.” This reminds me a lot about a concept that Johnnie Moore introduced me to -> “Notice More, Change Less”. Applied to the help giving situation the ‘notice more’ bit encourages us to simply pay attention to the other person and to our own response or reaction. The ‘change less’ bit is about avoiding the pitfalls of advice giving in an attempt to make the situation clearer or better.


In Sum …

I had intended to describe a group process on asking for help … but i’ve written enough for now. The next post will explore the processes I’ve been experimenting with.

Lastly, I’ve got some quotes and cartoons (I love Hugh McLeod at GapingVoid!) that I use to support the kind of thinking that is needed in this asking for help context. There is nothing new in these ideas and they are applicable to setting up a wide range of dialogue processes – where ‘thinking together’ is needed.


Gaping Void FailureAt least I tried







GeoffBrown | Facilitation, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Asking for ‘Help!’ and Empathy

May 1, 2013

Possible FIX for #GoPro Hero3 nightmares!

BREAKING NEWS: The fix described below appears to only partially resolve the GoPro freezing issues when playing back videos on the LCD touch screen. I’ve submitted another request so we’ll see what happens next!?

(Note: Those directed here for a fix to freezing issues on the GoPro Hero3 see the steps at the bottom of this post). 

In January … I excitedly purchased a GoPro Hero3 (Black Edition)

By February … I was wondering why I rushed into the latest version of their high def, super-small action camera. It was freezing up regularly and I couldn’t even play videos back on the touch screen. Waste of money?

By March … I’d learned to put up with the camera freezing and start using it. It’s insanely great and my kids love it too. Here’s some evidence of our very beginning efforts to shoot and edit action footage … cheesy I know!

And on May 1st … The GoPro help desk just me a “possible” fix to the issues I was having. I just shared this procedure on a few of the Forums and I hope it works for others like it did for me.

POSSIBLE FIX to GoPro Freezing Issues! Hi everyone, the instructions (pasted below) that I just followed from GoPro support actually fixed a significant freezing issue I was having when using the LCD touch backpack for video playback – the touch screen would blank out and the camera would freeze and needed a battery in/out procedure to unfreeze. I am hoping that the other random freezing issues I’ve been having are resolved as well!

This procedure (which is complex and very long) required me to re-format my 32G (x10) Sandisc SD Card on my GoPro first and then on the computer before upgrading the firmware to the latest (April 2013) version. Here goes and good luck everyone:

Before you proceed, please make sure that the battery is fully charged.

1. Format the SD card in the camera, using the Delete All/Format option in the settings menu, so it acknowledges the card and builds it’s info on top of it. This step also removes the current version of the Firmware. Even if you have upgraded already, re perform the upgrade! (Also note that you’ll need a Class 10 SD card from a reliable brand, poor performing SD may result in freeze up issues or corrupted files)

2. Turn off GoPro and remove micro SD Card

3. Then format the SD card (using the adaptor) in your computer, either in FAT32 if its 32 GB or less, or exFAT if it’s 64 GB. For Mac users watch this super quick video to see how (using the Disc Utility App – found in your Utilities folder in Applications) –

4. Then follow these steps to perform a hardware reset:
– Remove SD card and Battery.
– Press and Hold Shutter Button (it will need to be kept pressed throughout the whole process)
– Insert the Battery … and insert the SD Card (keep holding down the shutter bottom!)
– Click the Power/Mode Button.
– Once the camera has powered up you may release the Shutter Button

Then follow these steps to try and do a manual update in order to re-flash the firmware. Before starting the procedure write down your camera’s serial number, that can be located on a silver sticker inside the battery compartment on one it’s side panels, and is composed of the two rows of numbers present.

1. Connect you camera to your computer with the USB cable and power it on.

2. To manually update the HERO3’s firmware you’ll need to have JAVA disabled on your Browser (for Mac users goto Safari Preferences … click Security Tab … untick the “allow java” option … that’s it)

3. Go to

4. You’ll get a message ‘install Java’ on your screen, please don’t do so. (I didn’t get this instruction when I did it?)

5. Please click the manually update camera link on lower-right. (you’ll need to click it twice to confirm). Fill in the registration fields.

6. On the next screen you’ll need to type in the camera’s serial number (it’s case sensitive, so make sure that you have Caps Lock ON)

7. Following will be the registration information for the WiFi connection. The Name and Password chosen must have 8 characters, only Numbers and Letters, no other type of characters.

8. You’ll then have the link the download the firmware update files, which are downloaded in a standard zipped folder.

9. After you have the zip file on your computer, unzip it and place ALL files that came inside the zip onto the root of your micro-SD card. (You should noticed that the Root Folder is completely empty because you re formatted the SD card completely in the first step above)

10. Power Off the camera, and unplug it from the computer.

11. Power On the camera, the update process will begin automatically. Please do not press any buttons at this stage.
The firmware update can take between 5 to 10 minutes, and the camera may power off and back on by itself.

It worked for me guys and gals. Hoping the other issues are fixed along with it!

GeoffBrown | Just observations, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Possible FIX for #GoPro Hero3 nightmares!

May 30, 2012

Power of Networks

Manuel Lima, explores the power of network visualisation to help navigate our complex modern world in this latest RSAnimate talk. After you watch this, make sure you read this paper on Networks by Meg Wheatley & Deb Frieze. They add a layer of Emergence to the Network idea.

I’ll get to the PUNCHLINE of Manuel’s talk first, and add the CONTEXT later …

A new type of thinking is emerging according to Manuel. A way of thinking where everything is interconnected and interdependent. Right at the end of the talk (and this is bit I liked), he points out that “it’s not enough anymore to be a specialist in 1 area … you need to know a little bit about everything … or at least create outbound ties so that you are able to learn from other disparate areas.”

As a facilitator, the “outbound tie” that has transformed my practice is Improvisational Theatre. Who would have thought that a bunch of mindsets and practices from actors on the stage could teach me so much about myself and working with groups?! AIN (The Applied Improvisational Network) is full of people from hundreds of disciplines who share a passionate belief that applying improv can change hearts and minds, bring us closer together and create the conditions for innovative partnerships. This mental shift toward a networked view of the world (that Manuel points to) must be accompanied by principles and practices, to guide us through uncertainty and when the script doesn’t even exist. The ability to respond when the way forward is unclear is a key skill for business success during times of uncertainty and change.

So how’s this for a provocative proposition! Every field of practice and every discipline on earth needs to know a little bit about Improvisational Theatre and add it as an “outbound tie”!

And for those in Melbourne on July 12 & 13, you are invited to learn how to apply improv to your practice. The conference is called Thriving in Uncertainty and is hosted by The Applied Improvisational Network and Melbourne Playback Theatre. Click here to find out more.

For those in Montreal, you should get in touch with the monthly Thrivability Montreal conversations. They are connecting with real businesses who are serious about a networked and living systems view of their business.

CONTEXT … the first parts of Manuel’s talk

Manuel’s talk is about the power of Networks and the challenge of mapping an increasingly complex world. He starts with a historical look at the metaphor of the structure of a Tree and how it has dominated our idea of how the world works. The tree has been a religious symbol and was used to tell biblical stories. The branch structure of the tree has been used as a knowledge classification system in blood ties between people, animal species and in other areas of science.

Manual points out that the Tree structure branches off with no connections or ties between them. The tree, he says, expresses our desire for order, hierarchy, balance, unity and a need for a simple way of looking at the world. Our social and organisational structures reflect this view and so emerged top-down hierarchies and organisational charts. In my experience, even our local community groups suffer from too much of this type of structure.

He urges that we are at a turning point, where the tree metaphor is no longer able to communicate the inherent complexities of the modern world. The internet has shown our connections to be a network like a web … not like the hierarchy of a tree structure. We now understand our eco systems in much more connected, complex and sophisticated way. We know that the brain is no longer a compartmentalised centre, instead it’s a complex network more akin to a symphony being played by hundreds of thousand of instruments. Even human endeavor has created Wikipedia which shows the interconnections which binds and ties disparate fields of knowledge together.

Enjoy the animation too!

GeoffBrown | Living Systems & Complexity, Uncategorized, Yes!And Improv | Comments (3)

April 16, 2012

Caine’s Arcade

I’m probably one of the last people in the bloggesphere to see this video – Caine’s Arcade.

But I wanted to share it here with you because it speaks volumes about all sorts things … the creative genius of our kids … the need to re discover PLAY in community and at work.

If only our schools could create the conditions for our kids to express their talents like this! Some do I’m sure … but I don’t see the system allowing much of it.

Enough said, just enjoy this 10 minute watch!

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March 20, 2012

I didn’t even get to see this young guy!

Here is another example of the type of extraordinary talent we had at the Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival. This is what happens when you open stages to anyone who want to show up and play – that’s how this festival works … it’s an Open Mic.

This young man’s name is Jamie Pye and he had the Aireys Foodstore in the palm of his hand for his 30 minute gig. I can hear some Micheal Hedges and touch of Leo Kottke in this one. Enjoy!


GeoffBrown | Uncategorized | Comments Off on I didn’t even get to see this young guy!

January 11, 2012

Celebration of Dad’s life

Yesterday, family and friends gathered at the Barwon Heads Resort to celebrate the life of my dad – Grahame Brown. Their were people from all walks of life. Some were their to support family members and other’s were there to grieve their own loss of a wonderful friend, father, teacher, brother, uncle and husband.

We all learned something new about Dad’s life. We all took another step in the grieving process … it was a beautiful day and dad would have been lost for words.

I wrote this song 4 years ago, soon after dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. It felt right to play it at the close of the ceremony … my kids (without prompting or planning) sang the final chorus along with me which helped to get through it. It also feels the right time to share the song with the world.
Song for Dad by YesAndSpace

GeoffBrown | Just observations, Uncategorized | Comments (4)

January 9, 2012

Grahame Harold Brown

Tomorrow is my dad’s “Celebration of Life” – a gathering of family and friends to remember the life of Grahame Brown.

Love you Dad …

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December 24, 2011

Gone SUP’ing

Our town had it’s annual Christmas Party last night and it was apparent there are 2 types of people. For 1 group of people, Christmas and the summer holidays means work … and lots of it! For the other group it’s the opposite … time off and a chance to unwind and hang out with family and friends. I belong to the latter group.

So, I’ll be shutting my little office between now and January 9. If you do want too get a message to me, best to email me –

Have a relaxing Christmas … hug your friends and family because they are everything 🙂



GeoffBrown | Gone Supping, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Gone SUP’ing

September 11, 2011

The Status Games we all play

Here’s a little post I wrote when away on a remote island in Fiji recently …

Last night I witnessed a classic example of how ‘status’ can get in the way of daily interactions we have each other.

The Set Up

Whilst sitting at a table eating dinner and noticed a tall western man (let’s call him Andrew) and a Fijian resort worker (let’s call him Tevita) almost collide with each other at a doorway that they were both walking toward – they were both blindsided.

The Initial Reaction

As witness, I nearly dropped my fork as they almost collided … Tevita carrying a very large stack of dinner plates and glasses. Both men stopped with fright, teetered for a moment and then smiled at each other with relief. I must say, I shared their relief as I watch this event unfold.

After you … No no, after you!

I couldn’t hear the exchange of words from my table, but their body language made it clear. Here’s what happened next …

Tevita said, “After you” with a typically broad, Fijian smile. Andrew replied, “No no, after you” – All was still friendly so soon after the near collision.

A this point, the mood shifted and became a little uncomfortable – again I could sense this shift from the other side of the room.

Tevita took a small step away from the door and again said (something like), “It was I who could not see, after you my friend.”

Andrew’s body language shifted dramatically at this point and it was clear that he was not going to walk through the door first. He also took a small step back from the door and his then arms folded across his chest. He spoke briefly and probably said, “No … I insist, after you.”

Status Games

By this stage, the status game was in full flight. I had embodied the tension of the exchange and I’ll admit to muttering under my breath, “Just go through the doorway first … he is just doing his job!”

Andrew’s shift in status was quite dramatic. His body language and posture started out just like Tevita’s. But he (for whatever reason) decided that Tevita was to accept his offer to go first. It appeared to me that Andrew had turned this into a win-lose exchange where the loser goes first. As he folded his arms, deliberately and slowly, he also gain an inch or two in height. His light, smiling face became sterner and his eyebrows raised.

Tevita could see the change as well. His own body language revealed a man in conflict. His shoulders slumped as Andrew’s stiffened. His smile remained but his face had that ‘backed into a corner’ look about it.

Soon after, Tevita walked through the doorway first, smiling and I saw him mouth the word “Vinaka”, which means thank-you. Andrew’s arm remained folded and he nodded as Tevita walked through the door. Andrew had the look of a man who had won a battle … his body language said it all and more.

My reflections and interpretations

Witnessing this 30 second exchange actually got me quite worked up. I felt sorry for Tevita and some resentment toward Andrew. It appeared to me that Andrew was incapable of walking in Tevita’s shoes and see the situation from Tevita’s viewpoint. Had he done so, he would have humbly accepted Tevita’s invitation to walk through the doorway first.

The next day, Andrew and I happened to be at the bar ordering a beer at the same time. I sparked up a conversation and discovered that Andrew is the General Manager of a big dairy business in New Zealand. When I revealed my profession, he turned his gaze to the ocean and politely indicated (and I quote) “we have tried that facilitation stuff in the past but it just doesn’t work for us … we know what we want.” And with statement, he appeared to lose interest in me and said, “Enjoy your beer”.

Wow! This guy really knows how to make others feel worthless! I’m glad that Tevita and myself don’t have to work for him.

I’ve learned a lot about the concept of Status from Improv Theatre through Viv McWaters and Johnnie Moore. These lessons are observable in every day interactions … the holy grail is learning to observe and reflect on our own status games. Like many, I have some significant blind-spots here.

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Uncategorized, Yes!And Improv | Comments (1)

August 30, 2011

One word

Recently I did some work with my good friend Chris Corrigan. Chris is working with one of his clients to explore deeply the concept of ‘Welcome’ and what it means for their daily work practices and the principles that guide the way they work.

Here in Fiji they have a word for hello which extends to a full welcome when said in the true Fijian way … “Bula!”

Bula is said by the welcomer with eye contact and a smile. It is spoken with a resonate “B” that comes from deep inside. It makes the Welcomee feel part of something … in this case part of an Island community.

“Bula” is a contagious word and is part of the universal language of the island. Guests say hello and welcome new visitors with a similar spirit to that of the Fijians who call this island home.

Such a big impact for a single word.

GeoffBrown | Uncategorized | Comments Off on One word