Learning By Doing – Why the World Needs Both Fun and Intelligence


A Conversation with Kate Crawshaw from Serious Woo

Kate Crawshaw is the brains behind Serious Woo, a professional training and coaching organisation that helps people and businesses through unique experiential learning. Their workshops help manage risk and build profitability with real life scenarios delivered by a team of corporate actors and specialised facilitators.

Capire has been working with Serious Woo for a number of years, to help engagement practitioners deal with complex community issues. For the latest workshop, book here

What inspired you to start Serious Woo? What was your original goal?

Serious Woo was inspired by a need to help people to have better experiences communicating and creating with one another at work. The original goal of Serious Woo was to create opportunities for people to experience the communication challenges they face in their day to day lives.

I love this question as it has reminded me of the manifesto that was written when Serious Woo began nearly six years ago! You can read about it here

Can you tell us more about experiential learning and its benefits?

Experiential learning is a process of learning through hands-on experience, or ‘learning by doing’. It is based on the idea that people learn best through direct experience and reflection on that experience.

I am sure everyone has had the experience where they have been in a workshop and loved EVERYTHING the facilitator was talking about, but one month later, the training was a distant memory, and the skills that were shared never saw the light of day.

Incorporating experiential activities into your training ensures increased retention, deeper understanding and better problem solving skills.  One reason for this is that experiential learning engages multiple senses and involves active participation.  This creates stronger neural pathways and improves memory retention. It has real-world relevance and often creates an emotional connection which can also increase a participant’s motivation and engagement in the subject matter.

Some studies have shown that retention can be improved by as much as 75% through experiential learning.

Has there always been a desire for experiential learning, or do you have to ‘sell it’?

Experiential learning is well known in specific industries where the importance of clear communication and the risk of conflict is high. Healthcare, Emergency Services and Customer Service have a long history of this kind of training.  There has also been a strong appetite for executives to practice true-to-life high-stakes scenarios.

Organisations who are looking to offer training so they can say “we have done a workshop on that” may find it hard to justify the investment. Those who are looking for ways to ensure that their team will build the confidence to take their new skills out into the real world understand the value.

How important is creativity, and what part does it play, play in learning?

One of my favourite quotes on creativity comes from Albert Einstein: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  The world needs both intelligence and fun in droves.

Creativity improves our problem solving skills, and mental health and deepens an appreciation of our surrounding environment. We are all creative, however for many of us, school and work made it unsafe to experiment and try new things. It is time to reconnect to that innate creative intelligence.

A creative learning space provides the safety to try out new things, make mistakes and consider how to do them better. Furthermore, they are fun – who wants to sit through another chalk and talk PowerPoint session?! Organisations are beginning to realise the importance of creative learning environments and their employees want to see the creative learning that they can do at home transfer to the workplace.

What do participants want to learn about?

I think this varies significantly from organisation to organisation. However, I think that an increasing number of organisations are beginning to understand that a lack of investment in “soft skills” such as conversation skills, creativity and psychological safety is costing money. They see this in the increase in mental health and bullying claims as well as attrition.

Why do you think people find it so hard to have difficult conversations?

There are a lot of reasons why people find it difficult. These may include fear of conflict, fear of being disliked and other power dynamics. Every individual has their own lived experience and things that trigger them in conversations.  People can also be unaware of particular habits and behaviours that can impact the way their message is heard. This is why practice is so important. We can understand the theory and skills intimately, however putting them into practice is very different.

What is a ‘corporate actor’ and do they differ from other actors?

A corporate actor is a coach, facilitator and actor rolled into one. While it is important to embody the character that they are playing as realistically as possible, they must be nuanced in their delivery. Their key objective is to ensure that the participant is challenged at their appropriate skill level. They have a keen eye for detail and observe both the verbal and non-verbal cues of the participant and provide detailed feedback about what worked well and some ideas for improvement.

When people finish a Serious Woo workshop, what skills do they take with them?

People walk away with a real sense of how they can and will use the communication skills they have learnt. They leave with a new sense of confidence and are highly motivated to apply the skills straight away.

I had a great interaction with a taxi driver over the holidays who asked me about the work I do. Her face lit up straight away. “I did something like that 10 years ago! It has been the only training that has stuck with me. I couldn’t run my business if I hadn’t done it.”