Further to yesterday’s Perfection sucks, I have found some older and recent posts about failure that I’d saved.

Tom Fishburne  nails fail fear with his Wall of Failure post (and cartoon).  Tom’s blog is routinely one of my go-to reads.  Here’s his post on blame-storming too.

William Hall suggests ways to recover from failure at Improv Notebook.  The conversation thread on this post is worth a read too.

Johnnie Moore is planning to get together for a discussion to explore what failure means in an upcoming barcamp in London.  I’d really like to teleport myself across the seas to be there for this one.  So much to chew on.

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I really like this post from Chris Corrigan on giving instructions to groups, and finding that balance between clarity and getting out of the way.

Giving instructions poorly leads to confusion and chaos and can quickly erode the trust of a group.  Being too direct can shut people down and create a sterile meeting.  The art is finding the space between the two.

Chris outlines seven practices for giving instructions.  Here is a taste.

Shut up sooner than you think you have to. …. When I have given the instructions, my role is to get out of the way, cleanly, clearly and fast.

People are more capable to be in confusion than you think they are. ….. Let people be a little confused and they will discover that they can get the clarity they need from each other, and they can get to work on the real sources of fear and confusion in the group.

I find it very useful to unpack how we do what we do.  Sometimes  apparently simple things happen instinctively without us really considering the impacts of our smallest actions.

As Viv McWaters wrote in December, “I’m reading Bill Isaac’s book Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together.  He writes: “We need to become conscious of what we are doing so that we can refine and share it. This does not mean that we must make a theory of dialogue formal and explicit, but that we in some fashion make it understandable and usable to others.”

Thanks Chris for doing just that.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia

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I really love this tool for provocative contracting from Andrew Rixon.  The first questions we ask clients help us understand how open everyone is to whatever happens (and that includes ourselves as facilitator).

Tom Fishburne asks what happens after the brainstorm.  His cartoon and thoughts will resonate with many.

On the back of that, I’m reminded of a post from Johnnie Moore late last month on the limits of brainstorming and giving individuals time and space to think alone.

Another small gem of a post from Patricia Ryan Madson - The Improviser’s Way.

Seth Godin‘s post on unnecessary customer signage that interrupts a small audience reminds me of instances in some organisations I’ve worked in.  I’ve seen rules being introduced and enforced for all as a response to the misdemeanour of one person.  I’ve been called to meetings where everyone in the room is chastised for something that hasn’t been directly addressed to the person or persons concerned.  Signs and rules without thought for the impact on the greater group.  Seth Godin asks – “How important is it? Is it so important you need to interrupt everyone, every single one of your customers?”

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

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Every so often you come across a blog that just makes you feel good.  Louise Hawson at 52suburbs is working her way around the suburbs of Sydney on a ‘search for beauty in the Sydney ‘burbs’.  Her photographs and stories reflect the wonder and diversity of the people and places of Sydney.  It’s all there if we take the time to notice, experience and connect.

John Folk-Williams at Cross Collaborate  considers Scott Page’s book The Difference and how diversity improves collaborative problem solving .

Todd Dewett writes on harnessing the power of diversity – “No amount of diversity training trumps thoughtful conversations within a group”

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

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I may have been distracted from more ‘important’ things yesterday morning.  I took myself to the library hoping for some serendipity.  I was looking for the unexpected and did, indeed, make an accidental and happy discovery.  In this case it was Damon Young’s book Distraction - A Philosophers guide to being free (Melbourne University Press, 2008).

At the heart of distraction is not neurophysiology but an ongoing struggle to flourish within the limits of mortality.  We have only one life and it’s marked by all sorts of deprivations, irreversibilities and entrenched habits.  And we often have to negotiate these with diminishing hours and flagging potencies.  For these reasons, we need to be sincere and judicious in our existential commitments and prudent in our efforts to succeed in each.  To be diverted isn’t simply to have too many stimuli but to be confused about what to attend to and why.  Distraction is the very opposite of emancipation: failing to see what is worthwhile in life, and lacking the wherewithal to seek it.

Distraction: A Philosopher's Guide to Being Free

This book is calling out for a second reading – one less rushed than my first eager skip through its pages.  The stories of artists, philosophers and writers are artfully blended.  There is past and present, work and leisure, endurance and freedom.  Here are some highlights for me.

Neitzsche - “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think.  Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself”

There are stories of Karl Marx, Benjamin Franklin, Henry James, Henri Matisse and others.  Some are absolutely forthright in their views of the world.  Others struggled to find time to become who they were.   And who knew T S Eliot was scared of cows?  This was one of many lovely little snippets that add to the humanity of each of his subjects.

A calm John Dewey warned against the ills of acceleration in the 1930s.  He wrote of the many rhythms of life – the gentle enjoyment we take from completing everyday tasks in their own pace and tempo.  Young argues that by disrupting the rhythms of life, the modern workplace also transforms domesticity, making it a site for rushed fun or vegetative stupor.  ….. We must be our own custodians if we want to reclaim our own rhythms.

He explores busywork. What’s in short supply are the mental and physical resources for actually taking notice of anything and for trying to make sense of it and extrapolates again from Neitzsche. In the modern workplace these [..]remain a challenge for us all: to endure busywork and its distractions, to fiercely say No to subjugation and to claim the leisurely freedom of the child.

Young relates Aristotle’s approach to the necessities of life, yet is realistic about the technological age in which we find ourselves.  “To recover from the distractions of the technological age, what’s required is not Luddite extremism but a more ambitious relationship with our tools – one that promotes our liberty instead of weakening it.

We need to be careful not to be too devoted to our life’s work. In our devotion to work, art and public life, particularly when these are rewarding and recognised, we can be quietly distracted from one another.

Ultimately for me, it’s a book about being and/or becoming who you are.  Taking from Spinoza, Young notes that we are free when we are authoritatively being ourselves and not deferring to the demands and expectations of someone (or something) else.

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

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Patricia Ryan Madson reflects on uncertainty.  “We do not know or need to know what next“.

R. A. in The Economist has some thoughts on complexity, uncertainty and regulation. “Faced with complex systems and considerable uncertainty about the possibility of catastrophic risk, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”  The comments stream makes for good reading too.

And a personal response to uncertainty from Jeffrey Tang on his blog – The Art of Great Things – better ways to live, work and change the world. “Sometimes the unknown sucks”.

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

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Ben Ziegler at Collaboration Journeys calls the Gulf of Mexico/BP oil disaster a failure of connection.  I read his post immediately after watching Mark Earls speak on Why Good Ideas Matter.  The link is to Tim Kastelle’s blog where I found the video.

On the face of it, they’re not about the same subject.  Except each of these posts touches on something I’ve been feeling.   I’m disappointed. Disappointed in political leaders who pretend to be something that they’re not.  Disappointed in those who put national interests ahead of global ones.  Disappointed in how we (individuals, groups, organisations) are not honest with ourselves and others about our motivations which are often based on protecting vested interests and looking after ourselves and our own.  And disappointed when we apparently can’t work together on problems that appear to be too hard to solve.

As Mark Earls introduces his talk, he mentions being at a music industry conference where all he was hearing was conversation based on these words – assets, money, cash, owner, extract, exploit and enforce.   Depressing, especially for an industry built on creativity.   There was nothing about ideas, making things happen or creating things of value.  He produces data demonstrating how culturally embedded habits and beliefs don’t change, and notes that even small changes can take several lifetimes.

Ben Ziegler speaks of how I want to see the world.  A world where we connect with people who are different.  A world where we connect people with nature and where we let natural systems be.   It’s about relationships, sustainable practice and systems thinking.  Where we respect unpredictability and let go of the idea that we can control it all.

Mark Earls talks about how we ‘hack’, improve and/or adapt others ideas and reapply them.  I’ve adapted his 5 questions to ask ourselves when new ideas emerge.  I’d like to see these adapted questions applied to myself and communities of all sizes and scales when we face seemingly insurmountable challenges.

1  What does this challenge?  (What’s at stake here for each and everyone of us?)

2. How can we explore it further?

3. What’s the offer for us here?

4. Where does this suggest things are going?

What must I/we absolutely – can’t wait – do next?

5. How might this make our (being part of this world) more (connected)?

Disappointment is not a useful place to be.  This is what’s challenged me this morning.  I want to connect the dots and work towards understanding what the offer is, and then (with a sense of urgency) act on it.

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

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Patricia Ryan Madson over at her Improvising our Lives blog has been posting every day about every day things – about noticing the every day objects in her life.  On Day 35 she gives us a delightful diversion that both celebrates the joy of gibberish and sends a small warning at the very end. Enjoy.

Shawn Callahan at Anecdote builds on a list post by Troy White – Storytelling for non-story tellers. “To get to a story you need to get to a time and a place“.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator- Sydney

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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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I like the five points by Olivia Mitchell at Speaking About Presenting on avoiding information overload in your presentations. “A presentation is a taster for what you have to share. It can raise awareness of your topic. It can provoke different ways of thinking about an issue. It can inspire and motivate.”

Seth Godin asks us to focus on creating genuine connections, even in the midst of on the job frustration – to quilt not quit.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

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