I read Atul Gawande’s book Better: A Surgeon’s Note on Performance a couple of years ago.  Today, I came across some scribbled excerpts which still resonate.

Two years on, I remember an easy read full of engaging stories.  Mostly I remember that when hand washing stops in hospitals, infection rates rise.  He wrote about the importance of collecting evidence, especially when seemingly working against the odds of other people’s response to your theory or view.

My notes are a summary of the book’s Afterword – Suggestions for Becoming a Positive Deviant.   The five suggestions are for those times when you ask yourself the questions – how do I really matter ? – how do I make a real difference?  Although these were specifically written with the medical profession in mind, there are applications to facilitation in each of these.

1. Ask someone an unscripted question.  Something they’re not expecting.  Something that will help you learn something about that someone.  [And something that will help them learn or rethink something about themselves.]

2. Don’t complain.  It’s boring, it wont’ solve anything and it will get you down.  [This applies to all of us no matter what we do - not to downplay the usefulness of the occasional polite, appropriate and well placed complaint.]

3. Count something you find interesting.  Collect the data.  If you count something interesting, you’ll learn something interesting.  [Data and evidence can be critical for many groups.]

4. Write something.  It need only add some small observation about your world.  Don’t underestimate the power of your own contribution, no matter how modest.  [Be average - notice what's obvious.]

5. Change.  Make yourself an early adopter.  Be willing to recognise the inadequacies of what you do and do something different.  [Try something new every time you work with a group.  Every time.]

“… so find something new to try, something to change.  Count how often you succeed and how often you fail.  Write about it.  Ask people what they think.  See if you can keep the conversation going.”

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

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