An Unexpected Journey

The pen nearly vibrated in my fingers as I scrawled quick sentences on the Post-It notes before sticking them onto the whiteboard. A million thoughts ricocheted round my mind. My eyes and ears swiveled here and there, catching first one comment and then another, in rapid succession. As difficult as it was to keep up with the twenty-five people in the room—each one of them possessing a unique, insightful contribution to the discussion—it was just as exhilarating. I loved capturing the diverse questions and crafting them into concise, clear statements with the group.

When the time came to return the pen, I hoped that I would get another opportunity, as soon as possible, to use it again.

When I joined Apprentice University in the summer of 2018, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have the foggiest idea where I hoped to land in terms of a career. If you had asked me for my thoughts, I was better prepared to discuss what I didn’t want to do—which counts for something. Having been involved in the university for a couple years (I was a JumpStart student during my last two years of high school), I knew my uncertainty wouldn’t present an immediate problem. I didn’t have the same pressure as at a traditional higher education institution to pick a degree program right away, or risk spending a few more years due to indecision. At AU, I had the freedom to explore and learn.

From working as a Membership Assistant at an international nonprofit to being a Marketing Director at a 3D laser scanning and reality capture firm, I’ve had incredibly experiences and opportunities through AU. However, the pivotal moment in my journey occurred at a 2-day creative problem-solving workshop during the bleak midwinter of January 2019.

Ron Brumbarger was the main facilitator and instructor; he definitely had his hands full with roughly twenty-five young adults. Things started off slowly, but come Saturday morning, everyone was on fire. That’s when Mr. Brumbarger handed the pen to me.

Prior to that morning, my trajectory at AU had me headed toward a career in marketing and digital storytelling. I love photography and videography, writing, the arts, crafting stories and messages, designing slide decks and presenting, etc. And the thought of pursuing such a pathway thrilled me.

While the train didn’t come to a screeching halt, it definitely took an unexpected detour. After that Saturday, for the next two or three weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun it was to facilitate the conversation and how much I enjoyed creative problem-solving. Having mulled over that fact for some time, I decided to ask a few fellow apprentices and students what they thought about the idea of my exploring such an interest. Receiving nothing less than encouragement and affirmation, I scheduled a meeting with Mr. Brumbarger and our Director of Student Engagement, Angie Murrell.

The gist of the conversation, “How might I do more of this thing called ‘creative problem-solving’?”

After expressing my interest in pursuing further training in creative problem-solving—and scrambling to secure a passport in less than a month—I found myself in a 3-day workshop hosted by Basadur Applied Innovation in Toronto, Ontario. It was a long drive from Indianapolis to the Toronto suburb, but as I sat conversing with my fellow workshop participants, my heart swelled with happiness.

In the workshop, I sat under the creator of the Simplexity methodology, Dr. Min Basadur. It was an incredible gift to learn from him directly. He helped shape my understanding of creative problem solving and professional facilitation, coaching and encouraging us all. I learned more about my own problem-solving preferences as well as my weaknesses, but also grew to appreciate even more the collaboration, diversity, and creativity found in teamwork. One thing I especially loved about both the workshop and the methodology itself is the structure it brings to an otherwise ambiguous challenge. 

At the conclusion of the 3-day session, I left with new friends, fresh perspective, and a passion for serving others by helping them overcome challenges. I learned how to frame and articulate “fuzzy situations” (problems), how to draw out participants and ensure that everyone had a seat at the table, how to engage in a successful pre-consult with a client, how to reach team alignment on a particular issue, how to actively listen and extract the critical words from a participant’s contribution, and how to create an implementation strategy and action plan.

And, I became the youngest certified a Simplexity Thinking Process facilitator.

The past year contained many highlights for my burgeoning career as a facilitator with Apprentice University’s Compass Consulting. In August, we conducted a workshop with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, in their homicide cold case unit. Talk about a fascinating first experience as a facilitator! From beginning to end, I learned much about creative problem solving, teamwork, facilitation, and my own abilities that I didn’t realize I possessed.

Since then, we’ve worked with a small web firm in northern Wisconsin; a local nonprofit; taken on some incredible engagements with Wycliffe Bible Translators; and more. I’ve met people from across the country and the globe, which is a whole new level of networking and relationship-building.

In late October, I attended a second week-long workshop to receive a further training from Basadur Applied Innovation, achieving a Level 3 Certification in organizational integration of applied innovation and creative problem-solving.

As I contemplate my experience thus far with Compass Consulting, I’m reminded once again that it’s often the unexpected that becomes the biggest blessing. I have learned much about leadership, travel planning, workshop design, marketing, storytelling, sales, mentorship, conflict resolution, critical thinking, visualization, and truly embracing the unique abilities I bring to the table. I have struggled with feeling unqualified and that I have to prove myself (to myself) worthy of any opportunities; out of place in conversations; pressured to perform at a higher level than I believed myself capable of attaining; discovering how to be a good leader, friend, and mentee; and always worrying about making a mistake.

At the end of the day, though, I know that, even if I do mess up, stumble over my words, and do the wrong thing at the wrong time, life is a series of successes and failures, highs and lows, and we learn something new in every season. And I would never give up the journey of the past year for anything.

I love working with Compass Consulting because it enables me to help others, to bring them joy and excitement in their own work. Creative problem-solving alleviates anxiety and brings clarity to mysteries. It provides insight and perspective, encourages empathy and compassion, allows for alignment and communication. As a facilitator, I can help bring people to the table, make space for them to take a seat, and open up the dialogue so that everyone has an equal voice and an equal hearing. Ultimately, I get to use creativity to build community.

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