Carrying Capacity

Definition: There’s only so much any one person can do in a project.

Problem: At times, a facilitator or participant in the peer-learning enterprise may feel he or she is over-contributing — or, perhaps more likely, that others are under-contributing — or that someone else is railroading an idea or dominating the discussion.

Solution: If this happens, take a step back and observe the dynamics of involvement. Ask questions and let others answer. Especially if you start to feel the symptoms of burnout, it’s important that you find the level of engagement that allows you to participate at a level that is feasible for maintaining progress toward the project’s goal. Lead by example — but make sure it’s someplace you, and others, actually want to go! This could be a good time to revisit the group’s roadmap and see if you can figure out and clarify to others what concrete goal you’re working towards. Remember that you can also change the “landscape” by making it easier for other people to get involved — for example, by explaining what you’re trying to do in a clear manner. Be on the look out for opportunities to step back, watch, and listen. Try to be mindful of phases when active or quiet involvement would be more helpful to the individual and the group. It’s also helpful to let anyone who has taken on a facilitation role know if you’re stepping back temporarily. Then, when the time is right, step back in and get to work!

Challenges: Even though your project may be very important, you won’t always make it go better by working harder.

Alvin Toffler: If overstimulation at the sensory level increases the distortion with which we perceive reality, cognitive overstimulation interferes with our ability to ‘think.’

If you notice yourself caring about the outcomes more than other participants, investigate why this is. Are you all affected by the outcomes in the same way? Working smart requires you to focus on your goals, while relating to others who may have a different outlook, with different, but still compatible goals.

What’s Next: This pattern catalog has been rewritten in a way that should make it easy for anyone to add new patterns. Making it easy and fruitful for others to get involved is one of the best ways to redistribute the load (compare the Newcomer pattern).

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