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If you seek innovation and breakthrough during your group meetings or workshops, do not clone yourself.

Constantly strive to blend and mix various ingredients and participants. Prepare to keep all of your participants stimulated. We call it the “Zen” of the experience—that is appealing to all the senses to stimulate and maintain vibrancy, including chenille stems.

The Positive Psychology of Chenille Stems: How to Make Everything Seem Easier

Stimulate the Senses

Zen of the Experience

As you know, moods and judgments can be influenced by unrelated experiences of sight and sound. For example, we typically feel happier on sunny days and perhaps more relaxed when listening to certain types of music. Research shows that heat and humidity provoke more fighting, violence, and even riots.

Visual Stimulation

You are encouraged to use multiple colors to break up the monotony of a single color hue. You are encouraged to use icons and illustrations to break up the monotony of recording notes purely in the narrative format. Likewise, use matrices, tables, and templates to stimulate your participants.

Music Helps a Lot

Our popular break timers blend a musical background that could best be described as eclectic—everything, from Frank to Frank as in Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa.  We even suggest the use of Purell®, citrus fruit, and fresh air to alert participants who may be dozing off. Likewise we encourage the use of 30-30, or 30 second stand-up and stretch breaks every 30 minutes.

Tactile Works

In a similar fashion, we have used chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) and foam stickers for nearly twenty years now.  While not all participants use them, research by Joshua Ackerman, Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh shows that the weight, texture, and hardness of the things we touch are unconsciously factored into decisions that have nothing to do what is being touched.

Most people associate smoothness and roughness with ease and difficulty. Note the expressions “smooth sailing” and “rough seas ahead.”  According to the researchers, people who completed a puzzle with pieces covered in sandpaper described their interaction as more difficult and awkward than those with smooth puzzles. Chenille stems offer both silky smoothness and flexibility, characteristics we seek from our participants and meetings. Let the chenille stems make everything seem better, they seem to work, and research confirms why.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

Want a free 10-minute break timer? Signup for our once-monthly newsletter HERE and receive a timer along with four other of our favorite facilitation tools, free.



Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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