Reality TV Lessons Week: Crucial Lessons for Evaluators! by Betsy Block

Hi, I’m Betsy Block (B3 Consults). I’m a coach, facilitator and capacity builder for organizations navigating pivotal strategic questions with authenticity and clarity. 

This week, we are focusing on some important lessons from a somewhat unlikely venue. Can you keep a secret?  I confess that I am a little bit of a fan of reality TV.   You probably are, too. My guilty pleasure TV time includes home improvement shows, a healthy helping of cooking shows, and a dollop of singing and dancing competitions.

I’m really struck when reality TV offers up important work & lessons – some of this “popcorn TV” can actually bring home some useful messages that apply to a less contrived/produced setting.  And I’m super grateful to all of my colleagues who offered up to share their guilty TV watching joys and the wisdom they found in them.

Nailed It has to be one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I’m a good cook, but a terrible baker. And I have a little bit of schadenfreude watching other bakers fail in exactly the same ways I would. Check out the picture of the birthday cake I tried to make for my husband this past January. I am no Martha Stewart (so please don’t peek at what it should have looked like).

picture of the birthday cake the author tried to make for her husband this past January.

Hot Tip:

Let everyone fumble along.  

Jacques Torres, a baker extraordinaire, an expert in confection, never feels the need to jump in and take over from the amateur bakers that he is watching. In fact, Jacques Torres talks about how much he loves working with these bakers.  He said of his impact on these willing amateurs in an interview, “If they had to re-do their project after one episode, it would be a lot better because they realize a lot of things.”  And he reminded us that when we learned to ride a bicycle, like pretty much everything in life, we failed and failed until we succeeded.

As a trained professional coach, I especially love that he only steps in when requested to give just enough information to let each baker’s individual, experiential learning journey continue!

Hot Tip:

Failing can be fun. 

The show exemplifies a crucial lesson that many of us could take back to evaluation: the joy of failure.  I can only recall seeing a contestant be nothing more than momentarily frustrated. Everyone laughs, and more importantly, everyone walks away a better baker for the experience and a deep, abiding love of baking. Did you know you could fail at something and learn to love it more?  These bakers celebrate their failures, find the nuggets of good, and laugh.

In fact, Torres’s approach is deeply rooted in organizational development and change management philosophy: find the “bright spots” to generate change.

Rad Resources:

My advice: watch a little more TV guilt-free while you build your capacity as an evaluator.

This week, AEA365 is hosting Reality TV Lessons Week where contributing authors share lessons learned from their guilty pleasure favorite TV shows. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

7 thoughts on “Reality TV Lessons Week: Crucial Lessons for Evaluators! by Betsy Block”

  1. Hello Betsy,
    I am a major fan of Nailed It, it is such a feel-good show. I absolutely love the fact that you look away from that failure can be fun! While doing something at the moment and failure presents itself we often freaking out, but looking back on it we can learn a lot from it and it may even be funny in the end. I also enjoyed your sentence “As a trained professional coach, I especially love that he only steps in when requested to give just enough information to let each baker’s individual, experiential learning journey continue!” It gave me a different perspective on helping others. I have never really thought about taking a step back and letting them figure it out until they specifically ask for help. I definitely will begin applying this to my 8-year-old niece.

  2. Danielle Sanchez

    Hi Betsy,

    I am a senior at Texas A&M Central Texas. I am currently taking a program evaluation class, First of, I enjoyed reading your post. Being in college can be challenging and frustrating. Often we are so clouded by stress that we forget why we enrolled in the first place. A lot of times I find myself lost or struggling like these bakers do. Sometimes I even fail quizzes or do poorly on assignments. When that occurs, I reach out to professors for help and I gain more knowledge about certain topics. I think that failure is an important lesson in every aspect of life because we learn from it. We need failure to succeed.

    Danielle Sanchez

  3. First I would like to say that I love reality Tv. We have many of the same interest when it comes to reality shows. I love cooking shows like Master Chef, Cake Boss, Hell’s Kitchen and many more. I love the singing and dance competitions as well. I always have my favorite that I root for until the show is over. As you stated, there are lessons to learn from these shows when people fail in the competition. Some are really disappointed but there are also some that are proud that they came so far or that they got the guts to come on a show in front of millions of people. The example that Mr. Torres gave about how when we learn to ride a bike we fail over and over again until we succeed. In many things that we do in like we have to fail in order to learn how to succeed next time.

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