Category Archives: Facilitation

News as sugar…

Alejandra Quintero suggests that the news is bad for us, quoting Ralf Dobelli:

“The fortunate among us have recognized the hazards of living with an overabundance of food and have started to shift our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body.”

I tend to agree. I was then really struck by this graphic…

network3

..and her suggestion that too much news leaves us informed but not knowledgeable. Knowledge is relational, and a lot of news coverage feels atomising.

It also reminded me of this little diagram:

This originated at the Rand Corporation. They are thinking of energy grids, but it carries over to other networks. I apply it to meetings, where people often stick to A or B and avoid C, but C can often be the most engaging because it’s more human and more relational – though easily dismissed as mere gossip by those who prefer a more hierarchical form.

Are we learning, or just grinding?

This article on how the brain learns rounds up evidence suggesting conventional ideas of study aren’t really that conducive to learning. School primed my generation with all sorts of questionable ideas about how to learn, favouring the linear, the laborious and the highly structured. It reminds me of grinding from the days when I was addicted to World of Warcraft: laborious, repetitive and motivated by extrinsic rewards with little in the way of discovery.

I think organisations default to running their meetings in the same way, with too much faith in fixed agendas, the delivery of information and a general desire for compliance rather than being open to surprise. Longer breaks, variety, changes of pace, going for walks… these ideas are resisted as if they are indulgent or inefficient; I suggest they are quite reasonable efforts to support genuine learning.

Some meetings may quite rightly be about co-ordination and compliance, but often what’s needed is a spirit of enquiry and discovery. For that, we need to shed our school day habits.

SCARF

Geoff Brown looks at a model for getting people engaged (or not) in meetings or movements. It’s called SCARF, standing for…

Status – a lot of trouble is caused when people feel the need to defend their status.

Certainty – people like to have some!

Autonomy – people like to feel they have choices

Relatedness – balancing autonomy, people like to feel connected to others

Fairness – trouble brews if people sense this ain’t happening.

Geoff thinks of a few interpretations. I’d say status has a pretty big impact on meetings. Set ups that confer high status on some particpants (chairs, panels, keynotes…) set up for some fairly dysfunctional exchanges, either of pseudo-compliance or aggressive acting out.

Relatedness is worth thinking about too. You can support it in all sorts of ways. One of the best ideas I had on a two day workshop was to suggest a self-cooked barbeque on the middle evening. I had to fend off hotel staff to stop them helping… by cooking the meal together, people got related better. They tended to break their organisational status too… there’s something primal about the act of cooking and eating together than can be powerful. It can help create relatedness even when people have huge disagreements elsewhere.

I wonder if I’d go for the word “agency” over autonomy…. the latter sometimes suggests a kind of isolation, whereas agency is more about feeling connected to action. Again, cooking a meal together gives everyone a bit of agency…

In the detail…

Jon Miles-Thomas facebooked this great video:

Edgar Wright – How to Do Visual Comedy from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

It’s about the difference between typical comic movies scenes, and others where visual creativity has been applied. As the commentary points out, improvised performances typically slide towards people just talking to each other, and nearly always more drama is created with movement.

I think this is a great example of seeing opportunity in things that are seen as mundane and inconsequential. For facilitators, it’s so easy to allow business as usual and miss the opportunity for something more memorable.

Magic Feathers

The second video in this series of reflections on working with people. We sometimes create magic feathers, things that seem to trigger more effective behaviour. But we risk turning them into idols at the expense of taking risks and making new discoveries.