Extraordinary Powers #1 – Radical survival through routine curiosity


Radical Survival through routine curiosity

Know that feeling where you know a thing, but then some (other) thing comes along, and “woomph”, you are in a whole new depth of knowing that thing (the first thing)?

I think you call it an epiphany.

Let me tell you what I have just deeply re-realised about curiosity and asking great questions.


What I thought I knew about curiosity

I have always placed great stock in the power of the question. Striving to really listen and ask great questions is what I do in my work with groups and clients and try to pass on to others in my

Extraordinary Facilitation courses. As Einstein said:


If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper Question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes

Albert Einstein

And curiosity is pretty much always one of the key values and behaviours that I encourage with groups. Because, if facilitation is about bringing about a change, then you need a powerful

tool to overcome all the uncertainty, fear, discomfort and cynicism that change can unearth.

It is often a good idea to hang out in


that slightly uncomfortable “In between” place where you don’t know the answer for a while:


“Because the best path out of the messiness is rarely the quick fix that first rushes to mind.”

Heather Plett

Sometimes you have to “live the question” to enable you to see what actually is, what is emerging of its own accord, or what creative opportunity there really is.  Sometimes as a facilitator you manage to embody and share the courage that the group needs.  Perhaps by:

  • Listening and being there – letting them know that you are not going to give up on them
  • Encouraging Curiosity


Here are some behaviours that I think help a group “do” curiosity:

Curiosity Behaviours

  • We maintain an open mind
  • We seek diverse and new information so we don’t get stale
  • We share information so our reasoning can be understood
  • We suspend judgments until we find out more
  • We play in the face of adversity (try out new things – even for fun!)


And in my Outdoor experiential work, paying attention and noticing is a core behaviour that leads to great connection with nature and yourself.

“It’s like you ask your body and the world around you – “what is really going on?” And you patiently wait for an answer.”


A story of a girl’s unconscious habit of paying attention to birds

But this week I read some thoughts from 8 shields, an organisation that promotes nature connection, and that’s when it all came together.  Matt tells a story:

My daughter developed an impressive awareness of the birds in our neighborhood [sic] without trying to… [She had] no special interest in birds and she never carries binoculars… Despite this, over the past few years she has managed to find several rare birds that even dedicated birders might struggle to find…

I believe it’s partly due to the power of routine questions asked over time.

…[I’ve received] mentoring from Jon Young. One of the first things he did was challenge me to regularly listen for the quietest sound.”  It seemed natural to bring my daughter into this routine as well. “…Upon hearing something I would ask, What was that I just heard?  In the beginning she often hadn’t noticed the sound, so we would stand quietly for a moment to see if we could hear it again.”

But over time, …“I was regularly surprised at how much she noticed, even when it seemed like she wasn’t paying any attention at all.”…I don’t think she ever realized the significance, but “…a simple question asked routinely over months and years led my daughter to develop an unconscious habit of paying attention to birds.

She cannot really explain it, but I think the look and sound of our regular birds form a baseline she now recognizes at a subconscious level. When an unusual bird shows up, it stands out as different and draws her conscious attention.”


A routine question for Leaders

So, routine questions are obviously a powerful way to cultivate a deeper nature connection. But,

what if this power was applied to other area of your life – to your emotional intelligence, for example?


What if a boss developed a routine question: “What is the smallest voice in this workplace?”

What if a facilitator asked a question: “what is the least heard emotion in this gathering?”

Over time you could cultivate unconscious superpowers!


Nerd Alert: A story of a girl in re-imagined Africa after a future ice age

This way of learning reminded me of one of my favourite Books, Doris Lessing’s Mara and Dan.  Doris tells us the story of how Mara learns in a reimagined Africa after a future ice age. In the absence of formal schooling, a game is used in which children are asked repeatedly, “What did you see today?”  The child learns to observe and tell stories about her world.

This is the basis of her Mara developing the knowledge and skills she needs in her post-apocalyptic world.

This “pedagogy” has been written about by scholars and this game is compared to Henry James’s use of a child’s perspective in “What Maisie Knew”, to strategies for unveiling and “naming” the world in Paulo Freire’s ”Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, and to ideas about teaching in Idries Shah’s “The Sufis” and “Learning How to Learn”. (Lessing herself was brought up around Sufi thinking).

One article argues that radical and anticolonial approaches to learning are figured in Lessing’s fiction, and in her Nobel lecture, as essential for human survival.

The “woomph”

That was the “woomph!”. Cultivating curiosity is an act of radical survival!  It’s not just about noticing birds, or being a better facilitator.  It’s about a better humanity.

I hope you get this and go out and curiously experiment with the action of routine curiosity.


Aroha Nui

Extraordinary Facilitation Training May 2018

Join Us, Kapiti, May 2108

A Two day Bootcamp for emerging facilitators and leaders interested in mastering techniques from outside the ordinary: from Outdoor Adventure, Community Building, Creative Innovation, Ecopsychology and more.

This intense and dynamic training course is a fantastic way to develop extraordinary skills in effective facilitation and leadership so that you can be more engaging and bring about deeper change for the people you work with.


Who is it for?

The course is for people who have already started facilitating or leading groups of people and who are hungry to branch out and try more effective techniques and ideas from outside the box.  This course will expose you to dozens of new tactics and give you are chance to hone your skills in a fun and supportive setting.

Here’s what previous participants said:

“Amazing ”

“Great modelling of facilitation – experience it before you try it”

“Very practical experiential learning – heaps of fun – gets you thinking outside the box”

“Come with an open mind – I’ve discovered for example, that I can be more creative than I thought and I can facilitate this for others too”

“Really great for a wide range of previous experiences from novice to experienced.  I learned so much and would definitely come back for a part II”


Learning Outcomes

During this course, participants will:

  • Deepen their understanding of the ideas behind facilitation and participatory leadership
  • Develop a bigger tool kit of practical techniques and skills and the strategies to collate them to make facilitation more effective
  • Experience dozens of common and uncommon facilitation techniques including:
    • Working in non-office settings to achieve more impact
    • Honing skills in supporting innovation and creativity
    • Developing greater self-mastery in tricky or challenging situations
    • Dealing with controversial issues and divergent perspectives
    • Developing a wider repertoire non-verbal communication skills
  • Try out new techniques for themselves and receive feedback
  • Reflect on your own personal strengths and receive coaching to boost your unique and effective style
  • Develop your own follow up action plan


Who runs it?

Your guide is Liana Stupples a facilitator with over 20 years international experience.  Liana has drawn from her diverse work co-ordinating everything from international human rights campaigns, community engagement for controversial resource management issues, national social innovation projects, youth going on outdoor adventures to community singing and distilled the most powerful and extraordinary facilitation techniques for you.

She has worked for all sectors including business, government and not for profit and understands the challenges of good leadership and facilitation in each.  She has trained an equally wide range of people from international diplomats, to woman in prison.

Liana somehow helps you feel relaxed and open to new experiences; she will stick beside you as you challenge yourself. She can find the playful side of most things and she commits to bringing an engaging energy as well as sensitive facilitation skills to every event she runs.  Despite the fun she is serious about building the capacity of people and organisations to tackle the real and the tough stuff. That is why she has been curious all her life about how to better facilitate and lead and wants you to practically benefit from this insight.

For more information see about

“Liana has a knack for seeing the bigger picture. She asks the right questions, the meaningful questions, and the hard questions, and facilitates the journey for us to find the best answers. Her expertise helps groups to produce strategic direction and positive impact and consistently leaves everyone feeling accomplished and inspired.”



What you get for your money

Two days training in a fantastic central venue including time outside

Fully catered lunch and refreshments

Full handbook of techniques and tips

Free follow up coaching session and peer support forum

Your Investment

Waged/for profit or government organisations $550

students/unwaged/not for profits $350

early bird discount $50 off if book by March 31st 2018


The Venue

We will be in the glorious seaside village of Paekakariki.

It is only 45 minutes from the centre of Wellington – or there are a wide range of accomodation options. for example:

stay in wellington and get the train
stay locally in the village hotel Finns
stay locally in the campground
stay locally in Air Bnb places with very nice people

Great ! How do I book?

Send an email to liana.stupples@gmail.com – or comment below with your email address. A 50% deposit will secure your place.


What Happened on the Nature Connection Guide Course?

Late September and 12 brave souls keen to find out more about being a nature connection Guide, gathered by the sea in Paekakariki.

Over two days they explored with all their senses, shared skills, told stories in a teepee, soaked in wild water hot tub while watching the sunrise, ate too much cake, tried out their new techniques on each other and laughed, cried and learned about themselves, each other, this place and how to guide.

Here is some of what participants had to say:

“The balance [of Liana’s facilitation] was beautiful; humorous, relaxed, aware of the group, organised, GENEROUS, and such valuable personal anecdotes and stories.  It’s wonderful to learn from someone who walks the talk”

“Inspirational, motivational, and completely affirming of passion for and importance of Nature Connection for ALL”

More information about the course here