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This morning, I finished the eighth and the last group counseling session of the Global Agenda Seminar.  We have close to 50 participants, each of whom has been working on their individual report.  As we first discussed their report in February and  their report is due in November, they are just about half way to the finish of their individual report.  As we had no session in May due to the Golden Week holidays, I thought it would be a good idea to have mid-term counseling session to monitor their progress.

Rather than having 1-on-1 meeting, we decided to have the group counseling. The participants (anywhere from two to eight in each group) who are working on the similar topic–poverty, education, food, environment, immigration, finance, and health care– get together as a group.  In each group, each person presents their result so far and I (and others) made comments. The reason I adopted the form of group counseling is because people tend to learn a lot from listening to others present and receive comments.  You may be too close to your topic and thus it is hard for you to step back from it.  But you can see the gap in logic,  missing link in the story, and the need for further analysis,  when others who are working on similar topic present.

We also decided to have the session in the morning, as it is easier for us to block time in the morning. We had eight sessions starting at 7:00 a.m. for two hours.  In most of the occasions, we finished them in time, as we timed each one’s presentation and discussion quite tight.  It was very nice to finish the group counseling session, but the day (for most people) has not even started!

What I found in the group counseling session is the difficulty the participants faced in generating hypothetical solution early.  They did a good job in general to capture the situation and identify the issues.  When it comes to their own hypothetical solution, they seem to hesitate.  It seems very difficult for them to try hypothesis-driven approach.  I have made numerous comment during the counseling sessions so that they can make  step forward to hypothesis generation, and also write extensively about the potential reasons behind it and what to do with them in the weekly newsletter I send out to the participants.

In addition, I  have noticed the overall reluctance to take hypothesis-driven approach and to make your position and view clear among some Japanese.  The group counseling sessions during the past two weeks have given me more food for thought and issue to address, not necessarily on the global level, but very much at the local level. All in all, it was time well worthwhile.  (It was sometimes hard to get up at 4:00 a.m. every day!)

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