Many times when I have led Design Thinking classes one observation I have made is that those workshops don’t work well if there are ‘observers’. Whatever reason they may have, people who are not engaged with the participants – either talking amongst themselves, or absorbed in reading their email on laptop or phone, destroy the energy and engagement in the room.
Sometimes it is hard to deflect them – one occasion was that a senior manager from my organisation wanted to “see the effects” of a design workshop and joined us, only to sit doing their email on a laptop in the middle of the classroom. Other times it is because some urgent business reason has arisen and a student needs to communicate with other colleagues in the business – which is a perfectly valid reason and should take priority.
I no longer allow them, and gently suggest that they should either participate or leave the room. If events arise I believe that a professional person should either (a) step outside the room and deal with the matter, or (b) excuse themselves from the duration of the class. I’m happy with both: we are adults and you don’t need my permission, but to get the best outcomes for both yourself and the rest of the class I need you to: