I always wanted a happy ending.  Now I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.  Delicious ambiguity. Gilda Radner

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

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Some good reading and questions around the value and facilitation of conversations.

Dave Pollard has produced a great list - Ten Reasons Why Conversations are so Valuable

John Findlay on the need to move from outdated “knowledge telling” models of teaching and learning to ethical dialectical discourse.  It’s about listening to many points of view and deeply understanding what people mean.

At the Rhizome Network, the question is - full group or full participation?

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney- business and strategic planning – team conversations

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Always the beautiful answer who asks the beautiful question

e e cummings

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

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I spent a day last week with a group of people who were happy to begin the day with no agenda.  The starting point was “A conversation about who we are and what matters to us is an action”  from Peter Block’s book  The answer to how is yes.

During the day, the team explored six principles of improvisation starting with a series of quotes from Robert Poynton’s Everything’s an Offer – how to do more with less, and Patricia Ryan Madson’s Improv Wisdom – don’t prepare, just show up.

The six principles were: Start anywhere - Use everything - Notice more - Let go – Be average - Say yes

Here’s are some snippets that emerged from their conversations.

Start anywhere

“Improvisers … distinguish between action and activity.  If someone is changed by what happens they call it action.  If not, it is activity.  … Embracing change in this way is not an attitude many people habitually adopt.  Yet how can an organisation learn, or create action, if the people in it don’t.” Robert Poynton

I plant supposedly impossible seeds in conversation, then if something comes of it, we get going.

We said – let’s go see [….a person…..] and see what happens.  Something did happen.

I realise that my presentations are becoming more ad lib – I am getting better at just turning up and starting anywhere with a new group of clients.

On [one large project], we knew and trusted the formula, so we just set the date and went for it.

Use everything

“The focus of the conversation (could) be “what can we make with the idea of a ……. .” instead of “Do we like a …… or not?”   Thus seeing things as offers leads to the kind of conversation which automatically generates new actions, ideas and energy.  And think of the effect that this behaviour has on people around you.  Who would you rather work with, talk to, or go on a journey with?  Someone who consistently looks for ways to use whatever is happening? Robert Poynton

The [….] project began out of nothing.  All we had was our networks and contacts.

A recent conversation switched from “what are we going to do without this” to “what do we have – as the list started to flow, energy levels changed.”

I think we use everything every day.  We just don’t notice that we do.

In future, we could notice everything we have (skills, knowledge, resources) before we act, including opportunities that we haven’t seen yet.

Notice more

“Being present allows you to pick up the clues that enable you to choose the path to take through the territory you have prepared”. Rob Poynton

As a team, we’re good at noticing what’s important to our clients and their needs, because that’s our focus.

What if we missed THE conversation by not noticing it, by being caught up in our own thoughts?

We could take care to notice that we are working with a shared focus and not at cross purposes.  For example, are there operational anomalies getting in our way?

We could notice where we are making assumptions that get in the way of us understanding where the needs of our service are.

Let go

”Are there times when you have avoided speaking because you thought that you lacked preparation or didn’t know which words to use?  When the human heart has something to say, saying it is always timely.  Improvisers always speak without a plan.  Discover the freedom that comes when you trust that you have what you need.  Remember, there is always something in the box.” Patricia Madson

Before, we used to introduce process changes to our clients. Now we ask them to let us know what they need.

In IT, we let go of old ways constantly when new applications and new software are implemented.

We could let go of expectations and assumptions we hold.

Be average

“Giving up on perfection is the first step; the next is to stop trying to come up with something different.  Striving for an original idea takes us away from our everyday intelligence, and it can actually block access to the creative process.  There is a widespread belief that thinking “outside the box” … means going after far-out and unusual ideas.  A true understanding of this phrase means seeing what is really obvious, but, up until then, unseen.” Patricia Madson

The […] is a great example of offering an ‘ordinary’ service to the client base.  It has made an extraordinary difference to their lives.  That was ‘giving the obvious a try’.

We could be careful with expectations of ourselves and of others.  Those expectations may be blocking us and them.

We could get the basics working well.  It’s not about getting things perfect.

Say yes

“Saying yes (and following through with support) prevents you from committing a cardinal sin – blocking.  Blocking comes in many forms;  it is a way of trying to control the situation instead of accepting it.  We block when we say no, when we have a better idea, when we change the subject, when we correct the speaker, when we fail to listen, or when we simply ignore the situation.  ….. Saying no is the most common way we attempt to control the future.” Patricia Madson

Showing up is like saying yes.

This is hard.  We could help each other be aware of when we are blocking and help each other to be more open to offers.

We’ll use new question starters, like “What can we make of the idea of …..?” when proposing new ideas.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney- business and strategic planning – team conversations

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I’m excited about facilitating two workshops for an amazing not-for-profit organisation.

I’ve worked with this team before.  They have a shared sense of purpose.  They understand that being aware of and acting on what’s happening now opens up possibilities to improve the lives of the people they serve.  They’re up for exploring what’s within each other and the organisation, as well as what’s out there;  what is working or what might work.  On our first day together they will be having some conversations around all of this to see what emerges.

While preparing for these workshops, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll call ‘assumption statements’ that frame conversations.  I’ve often hear people in a group say, “There are no wrong answers”.   What if we added “Yes….and there are no right answers”.  I reckon that using them together adds new dimensions to a discussion - apparently contradictory, yet not.  I am not wrong and I am not right.  It is what it is, based on my experience of the world up to this point in time.  Others will have different experiences to bring to the conversation.

I like the freedom of this.  I like that this team’s pre-workshop reading is out of the ordinary.  It’s opening up different ways of thinking about how an organisation can make a difference to the future they are creating.  As I write this I’m reminded of one of the Open Space Technology principles is  Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.  That’s why I’m excited.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

Here are some links that celebrate taking time to play, explore and be.

Life and Music The end is not the point.  An Alan Watts animation via Andrew Rixon at Babel Fish Group.

I want to go to Tinkering School.  Thanks to @johnlacey for posting this.

A recent Vizthink post pointed to Viznotes’ James Macanufo and the set of visual frameworks he’s posted on flickr for feedback.  For any facilitators interested in graphic representation, these are worth a look.   Thanks @Vizthink.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

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Recently, when designing a workshop for a large group (around 50 participants), I was picturing a particular activity that needed shared conversations and responses to specific questions.  For some reason, breaking the group immediately into 6 groups of 8 (give or take) didn’t feel quite right for this particular element.

From somewhere came an idea to build up to the break out groups.  In this case, the six break-out spaces were ‘prepared earlier’ with templates on flip charts.  The final process went as follows.

Start a conversation in pairs  – one : one.

Find another two people to become a foursome – share your views.

When you’re done, find another foursome.  Keep the conversation going and share any changes in your perspective since the discussions started.

Find a wall space and record your findings.

By starting with one on one chats, everyone got a chance to put their views into the mix from the beginning.   There are more than likely variations and different applications on this theme that are possible.  Has anyone else tried something like this as a lead up to break out groups?

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney- business and strategic planning – team conversations

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney- business and strategic planning – team conversations

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