One of the joys of working with Viv is seeing how she can strip back processes to what feel like essentials. It’s not often I work with someone who can match me for wanting to simplify things – I think we both believe we should let the participants do complex things rather than being the guardians of some complicated technique.
I recently watched her run what she calls World Cafe Lite. It’s World Cafe stripped of what most people think is one of its key features: namely that people sit at small tables with flipchart paper for tablecloths, on which they are encouraged to write or draw their thoughts as they talk. The contents of these cloths are often subsequently subjected to further elaborate processing involving the shuffling of post-it notes and a general reverential search for meaning. Sure, that can have its uses, but often it can feel like an empty ritual, as if the conversations aren’t really valid unless we can make things out of them.
So it was fun to see Viv just have people sit and talk and not be encouraged to write things down. Her one rather brilliant intervention was to ask people to sit so that their knees were touching. People did so, a bit reluctantly at first, but what an impact it had on the conversations. There was emotional connection. So often I find that this is what people feel starved of in organisations. And generating lots of action points and outcomes easily perpetuates that starvation.
Bonus link: A post I wrote about Richard Farson which relates to this: we think management is about skills when it really may be more about sharing vulnerability.