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Spectrum for facilitators – review

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Spectrum for facilitators: CD resource pack
Publisher: GNP Ltd & NB Group (www.spectrum.co.uk)
Licence: single user: £895, multiple users (each): 5=£795; 10=£595; 20-50=£495; 50+ negotiable
PC and Mac compatible

The press release sent out with this set of 70 group exercises states that the Spectrum stand at HRD2002 was a smash hit... to the extent that the organisers offered the training cinema so more people could see what was on offer.

Well, first impressions would confirm why this should be so. Spectrum comes attractively packaged in a strong case complete with full colour leaflet telling you what’s on offer. On taking out and running your shiny new disc (see* below) an opening screen offers you the option to view a short intro, or to cut straight to the chase.

Either way, you end up with a series of seven main topic areas which act as roll-overs to offer sub-menus of ten main exercises for each topic. Open an exercise and your given the option to run a demo, a facilitators script and guide and a list of the physical resources required (all on the CD).

The main topics include icebreakers, change management, creative thinking, visioning, communications and team building… all given snappy titles such as “Are you receiving me?”, Check your change”, The team bug” and so on. The topic screen also gives a brief résumé of the subject matter (as does the leaflet) but unfortunately no descriptions of the individual exercises themselves.

This is a minor gripe, but nevertheless a brief description of the exercise and its learning points would be useful as the only other method is to select likely sounding exercises and have a look... quite a time-consuming task. In fact, this is where the snappy sounding titles start to work against you. For example, in the category of “Vision into Action”, exercises titled Kipling’s Checklist (who, why, what etc) and Profile of a Leader may give an idea as to what they are about… but what about Ropes and Ribbons and Double Diamond (S&M works wonders?).

Nevertheless, once into an exercise, or to use Spectrum’s terminology “module”, you are confronted with a highly visual interface with lots of cartoons and a brief introduction (still no real learning points) further menu offering the demo, script or plus (the list of resources). I would suggest starting with the demo. This runs through a useful animated sequence to show how the exercise works and to give pointers about running it (some, such as Getting to Yes and Murphy’s Law are almost worth running as a presentation in their own right). The demo is generally sufficient to allow you to decide whether the game is suitable for your purposes.

Assuming it is, then accessing the script gives you a guide on actually running the event. The final button, plus, takes you to a list of the extra resources available to support the exercise and also ideas on how to build and expand on the basic exercise. The latter allows Spectrum to claim that whilst the CD offers only 70 “modules” it actually offers “over 220” exercises (probably true, but I didn’t count!).

The resources are really the nub of the whole thing. Somewhat annoyingly you have to shut down the main programme to open the resource files (couldn’t a screen minimise button be added… or is my lack of knowledge about multi-tasking showing?), but once there, it is a veritable Aladdin’s cave to any trainer. All materials are offered as PowerPoint files and include session plans, handouts, actual presentations and other useful material (the one for the Fortune Cookies exercise even gives the recipe to make your own cookies with the mottoes inside… another one which struck me as fun in its own right was the A-Z presentation of Murphy’s Laws).

So, a rave review as far as the material is concerned... but would I use it?

I’m pretty sure that all of the exercises work, indeed the authors, David Williams vouches that he has personally tested them (hwstwh?). But as with all trainers I think that I would pick and choose. To me some of them seem a little “thin” and not all would work in all contexts (not that I’d expect them to). But nevertheless, most could be run in a wide range of situations, either straight out of the box or with minimal modification. Even if this isn’t the case, the material that comes bundled on the CD provides an excellent resource to any trainer (although the copyright may need checking out).

But don’t take my word for it, visit www.spectrum.co.uk to download a free module and try it out for yourself!

* I did have a glitch during my attempts to load Spectrum onto my Toshiba laptop. Try as I might, I couldn’t get past the initial loading screen and the authentification process. In contrast, the CD loaded and ran first time on the desktop PC, so the fault is probably with my laptop rather than the CD. Nevertheless, it illustrates the point about checking out and not relying on technology.

Neil Wellman, NetWork Associates, [email protected]

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