Expertise, learning and practice

There is no way you can learn the art of facilitation, the art of hosting, by simply coming to a workshop. It happens from time to time that people show up for a three day workshop and expect that at the end they will be competent hosts of groups process in any situation. To get good at arts you have to practice.

Last week in Montreal, I saw 120 people come to an Art of Hosting with an overwhelming desire to practice. The invitation to them was to attend if they were wanting to develop and improve their practice. It made for an incredible experience. When people are invited to come to learn because they are ready to host, they are open wide to what is offered, not only by us as teachers, but more importantly by the group itself. This is an excellent ground from which to develop a practice of hosting, and the relationships that are formed are the critical supports for competency in that practice to unfold.

Somehow, the view of learning in the world has been confused with the kinds of quality control that is attached to manufacturing. We imagine that a learning experience will have specific achievable outcomes and that upon completing a course, we can be certified in the competency in which we have been trained. While this can be true for technical training, such as how to operate equipment, with things like art and strategy and leadership and communications and other practice based arts, the opposite is actually true. When I leave practice based learning events I recognize that I am a baby, just starting out, and with a lifetime of practice ahead of me. I can’t be certified to be competent, because there is no way to guarantee that I will be perfect. When we first begin to practice, we always make mistakes. Over a lifetime we develop our own styles and we get better at it.

Hosting is practice. The willingness to embrace it this way is the biggest indicator to me as to whether someone will eventually develop a competency in this art. Expertise is developed, not given or bought.


  1. Hello Chris,

    Thank you for your words. It is indeed the case that learning has become a teacher – customer relationship and I’d be surprised if the expectation would be different in an AoH training.

    I am curious about ways the community can support the practice of hosting beyond trainings. I’ve been looking to non-training events as a next step of hosting community practice – the learning village last year was a great example of that.

  2. I think one way that can happen is for people to connect with each other around creating invitations together. Where I see really active communities of practice it is because people get into the practice of issuing and responding to invitations. Yes, the learning village was one example of that. But it can happen on much smaller scales too.

    Also, practice is not something that needs to be done with large groups in a World Cafe or an Open Space. Hosting can be done anywhere at anytime, with individuals and groups you encounter as part of everyday life. Learning from how we travel with others in the world is invaluable.

  3. Great inspiration – just got off a planning call for our 4th Aoh here in Colombia and the post was just spot on and relevant for our next step of inviting the participants.

    practice practice practice… smiling and playfully

  4. Chris, I am smiling at words so similar to my own so many times – about the practice, about the art, about the lifelong learning. One Art of Hosting training does not a practitioner make – it is in the practice of it. On the teams I’m on we are becoming more and more explicit about this. It is a field of practice, a field of study. When we do it well, it looks easy. Many underestimate what it takes for something to look easy or simple. Love the spaces that open up when people bring their curiosity to the space.

  5. Yes, and…

    Is it just me or there is a number of people that, after joining a couple of trainings, feel that their only way to practice is to jump to become a caller or even an apprentice/host in yet another training?

    There is a need to host other things than trainings. Other labs, other spaces of shared practice. I believe it will become clearer with time.

  6. yeah Augusto…I think we have to discourage that. Not that calling trainings and such are bad things, but it gets self-referential after a while and I find people end up confusing the idea of “practicing conversation” with “hosting an Art of Hosting training.” Not the same thing at all.

  7. Yes. Hosting trainings and teaching for me is the way I learn what i have learned through practice! I find myself in a cycle of intense practice and then trainings and then back out again. By training others i find the articulation for what i have been learning – if i am not practicing then i have nothing new to train people in ………… we train to get better at the practice.