Learning by doing and performing

Liberating Structures are…
An approach to organizing gatherings of any size and kind in an interactive way. 
A handy toolbox of 33+ simple, playful, and robust methods, games, and conversations.
A language for describing what will happen during your gathering.

This is the story of a curious team who set out on a journey to explore the options and benefits of using Liberating Structures in its gatherings.

The journey

1. Initial discovery

The journey started with Nur, feeling intrigued and curious when she read the invitation for an upcoming Liberating Structures immersion workshop in The Hague. Nur is the team leader at ResultsinHealth, an international development advisory firm based in the Netherlands.

She signed up.
The journey began.

In the workshop, Nur immediately got involved in conversations with other team leaders, coaches, trainers, scrum masters, project managers, and facilitators. She spoke with one other person for around 4 minutes: What big/ complex/ difficult challenge do you bring to this workshop? How does it feel to work on that challenge? She then met another person for another round of 4-minute mini-conversations: What do you hope to get out of this workshop? In the third round, she discussed with someone else: What do you contribute to this workshop?

This interaction structure is called Impromptu Networking. A series of shorter and longer interactions followed: 9 Whys, Mad Tea, Spiral Journaling, and more. This is typical of Liberating Structures: quick and focused interactions in small groups.

Photo (Nadia): Agenda of the Liberating Structures immersion workshop, 2018 The Hague

Nur got a taste of a surprising new toolbox. Each try-out was followed by a reflection on what just happened, and what was made possible. For example, Impromptu Networking is an interesting and flexible structure one can use at any moment in a conversation (e.g., to reflect an input, collect questions, distill insights). It engages and activates everyone. Immediately.

It became clear to me that Liberating Structures make facilitation more engaging, inclusive, and efficient.

Nur Hidayati

2. Following through

The first hands-on experience gave Nur an appetite for more but also left a feeling of being ‘confusiastic’. A wicked feeling of being curious and yet at the same time confused. Her team was unfamiliar with this novel approach, so she wondered how to introduce them: “Can I do these ‘games’ – for example, 1-2-4-all* – in a team meeting?”  

It seemed strange and unusual to play these games.

Nur needed to think out loud. As a result, she contacted me to discuss how to ‘sell and test’ Liberating Structures to her colleagues.

*1-2-4-all: 1) self-reflection for 1 min. on a topic or question; 2) generating ideas in pairs for 2 min.: 3) two pairs together sharing and developing ideas for 4 min. 4) all: bringing ideas, and insights together.

3. Learning by doing

Nur was inspired by this reflection and started to experiment with her team. She also encouraged them to participate in immersion workshops because she saw the potential to apply Liberating Structures for their work with clients in meetings, workshops, and training. 

  • To prepare a plan for the meetings and workshops that supports what she intends to reach.
  • To create a trustful and safe atmosphere everyone dared to speak up.
  • To make the discussions engaging and lively, from the start.
  • To collect everyone’s perspective, ideas, stories, and questions.
  • To facilitate her meetings with ease.

4. The commitment of the management

She knew she could not walk this path alone; she had to win the management and involve the whole organization.

5. Learning by teaching

Learning by doing is effective.
Learning by teaching is powerful.

The biggest milestone for us was when we decided to organize a Liberating Structures immersion workshop with our team with the brilliant idea to be ourselves the design and facilitation team.

Nur Hidayati

In four sessions, each lasting three hours spread over four months, the whole organization explored the Liberating Structures toolbox.

Nur, the director, and three other team members (who did an immersion workshop before) designed and facilitated these four sessions. With Ewen Le Borgne (my facilitation partner), I supported and coached them. We had preparatory design calls to discuss the structures they selected and the invitations they prepared. After each workshop, we had debriefing sessions to give feedback.

6. Investing in the practice

These workshops accelerated the learning process. They gained valuable experience that allowed them to break with old meeting habits.

We are all experts.
We know how to have efficient meetings.
We are Liberating Structures literate.

Aryanti Radyowijati

7. Expanding the practice

As Liberating Structures practitioners, they continue exploring what more is possible and how to keep their new meeting approach alive and fresh and sharp.

The interview

With Ewen Le Borgne, I had a fascinating conversation with Aryanti Radyowijati, director, and Nur Hidayati, team leader, about the steps they took, what challenged them, and what they learned.

Listen to the whole journey here.

You can find a guideline for all the structures mentioned in the post – 1-2-4-all, 9 Whys, Impromptu Networking, Mad Tea, Spiral Journaling – on the Liberating Structures website: https://www.liberatingstructures.com/

Feel free to contact me if the story piques your curiosity and you would like to explore Liberating Structures. Or immerse yourself into the interaction structures in June and July: Dates and details are here.

Enjoy your learning moment,

Read also Ewen Le Borgne’s blog post: When Liberating Structures becomes a lot more than ‘a toolbox’ and reveal their true transformative power…

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