BLOG 137 Criticisme and cure networked mindset

“Collaboration is stuck in old models and patterns of control.” That was one of the provocative statement Nancy White, Ewen Le Borgne and myself took as starting point for our Zoom discussion about criticism and cures of collaboration. Our discussion led us to the question: How can we – facilitators and Liberating Structures practitioners – support people and organisations to adopt a more networked mindset of collaboration?

Cure #1 Offer different collaborative experiences

When everyone is unleashed, all voices are heard, and the whole room is engaged in joint inquiry, collaboration gets tangible. This immersion experience makes hungry for more – hopefully. The experiential approach of feeling and seeing that a more networked approach leads to better results and has an energising effect is an important cure. But it might not be lasting long enough to flip habitual meeting patterns. Therefore more cures are necessary to build and establish a new meeting practice.

Cure #2 Foster a sense of community and care for the whole person

Collaboration is about people in interaction. Collaboration is about connections. Obviously. But the human needs get too often neglected. Still. The question therefore is, can we be more than talking heads in a meeting room? Can we use our embodied intelligence, speak with our heart, hands and mind? It is up to us, the facilitators, to care about the human factor by using methodologies that speak to the whole person, that invite the use of all senses, that build community and care about results and relationships.

Meetings or more generally conversations serve two purposes. The first is obvious, to fulfill their aim. The second is less obvious and is usually consciously entirely neglected. Most meetings or conversations have a pre-planned outcome. It may be to explore an issue, to make a decision or to solve a problem.The second purpose is to engage each other, improve relationships and foster a sense of community.
David Gurteen

Cure #3 Train the process muscle

With each Liberating Structures workshop and each facilitation training we strengthen the process muscle of the people joining. This is obvious. Fortunately, there are more opportunities to do so. If we are called in to support a team, group, network in designing and facilitating an upcoming learning event this should also be on our agenda. Our work as facilitator is always also about inspiring people to think about process. When I am facilitating I include small remarks on the process (by the way what we just did was…. you can find more on this …. or join me in the break for a chat).

Cure #4 Simplify and play with repetition

A strong cure is to put people into the facilitation chair. Therefore we – the facilitation experts – need to simplify our facilitative approaches. Read Christiaan Verwijs fabulous reflection “Liberating Structures are skills to be learned by users, not facilitators”.

A lot of facilitators think they’re the most important person in the room. But the best things happen when the facilitator gets out of the way, and is willing to sit with the anxiety that a messier looking approach creates.
Johnnie Moore

A perfect approach to learning is repetition. In this short video snippet, Qua Fisher talks about the power of repetition.

Liberating Structures and the power of repetition with Qua Fisher

Cure #5 Invite for a look under the iceberg and reframe

Cures 1-4 are inspiring but I fear not sufficient. It is time for a deeper dive into the operating system in the background guiding our approach to collaboration and learning. Or in other words, the operating system is ‘the thing behind the thing behind the thing” as Tenneson Woolf names it. The trouble with collaboration and learning is, that everyone is an expert; life-long experiences, stories and ideas shaped our understanding, approaches and practices. As human beings we tend to do what we know, are familiar and comfortable with. And hence, we stick to old patterns, repeat and limit ourselves.

For better collaboration we need to adjust our operating system to the requirements of today’s challenges and fast changing contexts and conditions. To do so we need to look under the surface of the iceberg to understand on what grounds our concept of learning and collaboration is built.

The question to ask is: What is a belief or an assumption that has guided you in your professional journey, (but) that you are starting to question and/ or maybe is holding you back when it comes to developing collaboration/ facilitating / engaging teams? What is emerging?

Cure # 6 Reflection on control – being controlled

We can add to the iceberg reflection with the simple question Nancy White asked in her blog Do YOU like being controlled?’ this question triggers some nice reflection.

Cure #7 Practice – practice – practice

To get into action mode, people have to try out, step into the role of the facilitator and event designer. With reinforced process muscles, a team is ready to share responsibility for the process and facilitation. Deepening our practice in being and working together we improve engagement and collaboration.

Excerpt from our conversation: Liberating Structures Criticism and cures of collaboration
Deepen our practice for better engagement

Cure #8 Change habits step by step

In the end there is nothing else than changing consciously our habits how we work together. We can do this on a individual level and also as a team. We have the choice to change. What about a new habit to start the weekly team meeting in a circle around the coffee table for a check-in before moving to the agenda?

Excerpt from our conversation: Liberating Structures Criticism and cures of collaboration
Practice, Choice and Process

There is nothing wrong with updating our collaboration.

Collaboration is what we need, to advance our thinking, to make things happen.
Collaboration is about human beings coming together and finding possibilities.
Collaboration is practice.
In the community, we collaborate.
Collaboration can be improved, always. If we feel that the way of having our meetings is no longer meaningful and no longer serves us we should stop, think and try something else.

What are your cures?

Are you ready to have a look under the iceberg? 

Then join us for the Liberating Structures Immersion Workshop:

  • First half: June 14 and 15, 2023, 9h-12h CEST (Amsterdam time)
  • 3 weeks to practice, try out, test, and reflect, with a Liberating Structures buddy
  • Second half: July 5 and 6, 2023, 9h1h CEST (Amsterdam time)

More information:

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