Feedback, part 3

Ok I’m getting back to the subject of feedback riffing off Andrew Rixon’s post. (Here are parts one and two.) The story so far: Andrew reflects on why feedback on our work so often sucks. It’s partly because it triggers a lot of primal responses that put us on the defensive. He links to Roger Schwarz’s takedown of simple techniques like the feedback sandwich, and I reflect on the pros and cons of techniques in general, suggesting that management models have their uses but tend to ignore the more animal or lizard parts of our nature.

So now I want to focus on another link from Andrew’s post, Amy Mindell’s ideas about 721 Feedback. Here’s the article (word format). Andrew warns us it goes into spooky territory, which may be Australian for what stiff-upper-lip Englishmen would sneer at as “touchy feely”. I say, bring it on!

Here’s part of Andrew’s synopsis:

With most of our everyday experience being focussed around what he calls “Consensus Reality” there is a whole other layer that lies beneath. And that is the layer of Dreamlike awareness. In Consensus reality, you are you and I am I. Things are as they seem. Words are words. The said is what’s said. But within the Dreamlike layer, our experiences become more shared. We are both teachers and learners simultaneously.

I found a lot to like in this paper and I can relate the idea of “dreamlike” reality to the ideas of Bill Isaacs about dialogue entering domains where we get beyond politeness and conflict. It’s as if we connect to a field that embraces self and other, rather than treating them as different. As an evocation of a way of relating, I think it’s quite exciting.

I think there are overlaps with the Roger Schwarz approach, in the pursuit of conversations that are conducted in a spirit of shared enquiry, loosening attachment to teacher:pupil formats, but the language used is very different.

I notice that I don’t feel the same irritability about the language of the Mendel approach as I did about Schwarz’s model and I’m not entirely sure why. I think in part because the Mendel approach – to me – seems to evoke more of the richness that lies in our relationships. It’s probably also because I’m more comfortable with an approach from the world of pyschotherapy where I’ve done a lot of my own development and training.

I also found I could relate to Mendel’s notion of the “Big U” (with a slight cringe at the spelling). I think on a good day, when confronted with a difficult situation in a group if I come from that deeper sense of myself I can avoid getting drawn into a futile status contest and meet people in a more useful way.

Possibly more to follow.

1 thought on “Feedback, part 3

  1. Andrew Rixon

    Nice exploration Johnny.

    In some recent coaching conversations I’ve recently introduced some thinking about “Group as Person” and “Person as Group” in terms of helping get to terms with the idea of a “difficult” person/relationship.

    It’s funny how this re-framing seemed to really help and take the heat out of the situation… (I wonder whether people not familiar or experienced with group facilitation would find it as helpful…?)

    1. Consider the “difficult person” as a “difficult group”… The question then becomes about ways forward…and already how we think about it seems very different… Maybe like Bob Dick has said, one of the key things about being a facilitator is “take nothing personally”…

    2. And it’s not so weird to think of “Person as Group” because, like neuroscience has shown (and psychodrama and linguistics and Improv!) we warm in and out of roles all day long… admittedly, I think as adults we’ve lost something on our kid-selves in this regard… But… Maybe there is some “role”/”Self” that’s being silenced within… And how often does that lead to a dysfunctional group?!

    Like you say, bring on the touchy feely alternate realities! 😉

    Warm regards,



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