picture by Kristopher Roller

Setting up a group mindset, online

Alvin Arthur
6 min readApr 21, 2020

Recently Fontys University reached out to me to co-coach online a group of 9 students designing an educational product, commissioned by MU hybrid art house. This product aims at teaching a topic (chosen by the students within MU’s scope of interests) to high school and primary school pupils.

As a kinaesthetics designer — focused on designing experiences from body movement, being aware of body language is key. As I find it extremely challenging to coach from screen to screen, I decided to share with you parts of our process in the coming weeks, hoping it gives you direct insights on my learnings and applicable methods to empower yourself and collaborators in these overly digital times. After everyone in the group introduced themselves, I gave an introduction about setting up a mindset to maintain collective motivation during the upcoming months. 5 snapshots of my full presentation that you can find at the end of the article.

1. FAILURE and the fears it brings

picture by rahadiansyah

I address failure early in the process. We often tend to set goals and try to measure our way to succeeding towards it, but knowing what you honestly consider as failure in a general sense can truly help. Defining it strips out, at least partially, fear of the unknown, so that you know what you can do when it happens. Sharing it with the group draws relatability, empathy, especially since we do not know each other at the beginning.

For me “Failure is a diploma”, as Idriss Aberkane says. Every failure I take is educational, as long as I’m willing to be an observer and not just a spectator, as long as I’m wondering what worked, what didn’t and why. I fail until it gets comfortable enough, to not loose aspirations but to let go of unnecessary expectations and self-judgement.

2. COLLABORATION over competition

picture by Angela Campagnone

I wish one day I will be able to witness in person a Castell in Barcelona. I am so curious in seeing how this human tower is built, where everyone is key in creating a collective endeavor. It represents so well what I mean by collaboration.

It is about growth, unraveling each other’s strengths. How many times has it been so hard to tell what you are good at? I’m thankful I’ve had many collaborative projects, in schools and industries, where teammates would let me know (by writing, talking, drawing, etc) what they perceived I was good at, so I learnt to do so. The more detailed you get, the more you can see how actually characteristics become strengths or weaknesses depending on the context.

It’s about sharing. From stories and process insights to resources. Even though the student group will be split in 3 groups of 3, we make sure they understand it is not a competition, and they just benefit from openly sharing. In these particular times, sharing content online is powerful since many have the possibility to take more time to process the information.

3. CULTURE OF QUESTIONS over answers.

picture by Artem Maltsev

Too many times we value answers because it is more reassuring, comforting, less confronting, and so aren’t we taught to question properly. A culture of inquiry keeps us alert, curious and open to change. In his book A more beautiful question, Warren Berger invites us to dive into the benefit of learning how to creatively question things around us and disrupt fears and assumptions from what the ‘norm’ is. From schools to multi-national corporate, through social initiatives, we explore the power of inquiry and listening. As the author quotes Polly Labarre in saying it is also egalitarian since : “You don’t have to hold a position of authority to ask a powerful question.”

Many times, the types of questions we will get during our current process are: Why? (reason) What if? (alternative) and How might we? (path to the alternative); and as coaches we reward questioning and encourage failed experiments. I have been asking the group to take “intelligent” risks. Here, intelligent means that you contextualize and test your process, you proof it through insights, knowledge and challenges. It’s a balance of wise and smart steps, without the fear of failure, but with the curiosity to learn. Can you picture a slackliner setting up his/her equipment, before to walk over the chasm?

4. AWARENESS of self and the other.

picture by Nonsap visuals

Sleeping enough, drinking water regularly and taking breaks to breathe is key in being available for the process and in daily life in general. Let’s not take it for granted, let’s make it a state of the Art. Self-awareness is important for the body and for the mind.

As I was addressing earlier intelligence, I truly believe that we are all intelligent in certain ways. We have different forms of intelligence and some of them are more expressed within us. While someone is learning better through interacting with nature, someone is more logical-mathematical, for others it’s linguistic, musical. For me for instance it’s mainly bodily-kinaesthetic, although as everyone I share some of the other forms.

I also invited each individual of the group to be aware of their own ways of learning since they are designing for a specific audience. Having the courage to question all your assumptions is education.

Now “the other” means as much your audience than your collaborators. I’ve often experienced in various projects, in school or with companies or as an entrepreneur, that in team work, ego is the first destructor of value. Period. It may bring enormous artistic value, but in a design process it’s a different ball game. We are a whole team of thirteen, including nine peers, two coaches, and two client’s representatives, and we are all in the same boat, rowing together.

5. TRUST THE PROCESS for real!

picture by Kristopher Roller

Sometimes the boat may feel like it’s sinking, the process can feel overwhelming, but there should always be the trust it boils down to significant growth. Having a process empowers in the sense that you know what to do even though you don’t know what you’re doing. Also, making ourselves available and open as coaches (and not as teachers) helps build the trust. Since the assessment of students is still required from the school, we also asked them to assess us, coaches, at the end of their process, without any incident on their grades. It brings a more fair and balanced experience of collaboration. Showing the tools they will be given in direct use creates more trust too. I used the Pecha Kucha format and introduced it to them by practicing it right away.

THANK YOU for reading me!

I hope this will contribute in sparking your current or upcoming process with your collaborators. I will be sharing more about our journey and the tools we use in the upcoming articles. What did you find valuable? or What made you tick? I’m curious to know!

To see my full presentation in video, where I go more in depth in the 5 points, you can check out this link : https://vimeo.com/410141568

To see more of my work it’s here : http://alvinarthur.com/

Take care!



Alvin Arthur

I believe humans need to move in order to engage, play & create.