Putting down your clever

Patti Digh has another great post relating her frustrations on a recent facilitation process. I really identify with the situation she describes. A group of people are sharing experiences with some depth, and someone hurries them into “action points”. As Patti says,

The group left with SMART action steps, that bane of every thinking man’s existence. Yes, indeedy, the action steps were Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. But were they inspired? Were they insightful? Were they meaningful and authentic and real and charged with the kind of passion that makes it impossible for a group of people to fail and makes it possible for them to achieve far more than they ever imagine possible? No. But they could have been, and they would have been. Instead, they were small and predictable and very, very manageable.

She concludes by asking:

Is it possible that there are wicked problems in the world that cant be flip-charted, bar-charted, pie-charted, Gantt-charted or action-itemed? Are there things that charts and lists and accountabilities cant solve? Are there wicked problems that require nothing less than revealing one’s own self and talking to another human being openly and honestly before checking off the boxes?

Yep. I also resonate with Patti’s l’esprit de l’escalier question for the person who rushed the group to action points: what are you afraid of?

1 thought on “Putting down your clever

  1. Ian Glendinning

    Actually I had a very similar experience recently. Doing a workshop for a very large corporate customer, who put a lot of pre-workshop preparation in and committed a dozen people to the workshop. And we’d charged them hansomely for the privelidge too.

    After the facilitation and brainstorm. I had about 200 individual “ideas” that we’re all too predictable no-brainer things we were going to anyway, or a litany of motherhood. I was so embarrassed, and had to take a lot of the blame myself, I hadn’t done the preparation they’d done, and so I didn’t bring any new creative angle to the facilitation.

    But the outcomes were just so depressingly rational and predictable. Their further anaysis just seemed pointless.

    There is something in just letting the narratives speak for themselves rather than find BCG 2×2 grids to fit them into. The “tools” seem to lead people into the closed approach – any pleas for creative “out of the box” thinking being stymied.


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