Some of these references are months and weeks old and some a little newer.  All are nuggets of the precious metal of your choice.

Jack Martin Leith says resistance to change is a myth.

“What appears to be resistance is simply an indicator that the value needs of the individual or stakeholder group concerned are not being met”

This exploration of sharing tacit knowledge or expertise from Nancy Dixon promotes the value of conversation rather than a one-size-fits-all explanation.  There are application lessons here for facilitators when helping clients look for more effective ways to ‘present’ expert knowledge segments.

It is in the back and forth of conversation, that is, both parties actively trying to understand the meaning the other is attempting to convey, that tacit knowledge is exchanged.

Here’s what we can learn from ants (and Dr Dan) about leaving a knowledge trail for those who come behind.

And last but definitely not least, this gem from Chris Mowles – a partipant’s advice on what useful facilitation is NOT. There is much more to this post than the excerpts I’ve chosen.  A must read.

Facilitated workshops are a very common feature of organisational life and are sometimes very good examples of the kind of thinking that assumes we need to design a process to have a process.    ……….   My own recent experience of a number of facilitated workshops has made me question whether they really are such positive and productive events, and whether they tend rather to suppress opportunities for learning rather than encourage them, the very opposite of what they intend.  [.....]

Additionally, in highly organised workshops there is often a pronounced anxiety about time, about achieving ‘outputs’ and about ‘capturing the learning’. The deliberate techniques to achieve all three can drive out all spontaneity and substitute mechanism for meaningful exchange.  [....]

If we were to take the more radical insights from the complexity sciences seriously, then there is no way of knowing in advance what is optimal in terms of different people with different experiences meeting together. Indeed, it would be the exploration of these differences which would be most likely to lead to surprising and perhaps innovative thinking, although there would be certainly no guarantee that this would be a comfortable process. Discovering what is ‘optimal’ for a particular group would probably involve quite a lot of negotiation, rather than blindly sticking to the agenda as pre-planned, and would emerge moment by moment. There could well be a role for the facilitator, but the fulfilling of it would partly be about encouraging others to take responsibility for the way that the workshop was running, the things we might choose to talk about and how we might talk about them.

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Last year, I heard and read Viv McWaters talk and write about her “favourite mantra of the moment – conversations, then relationships, then transactions”. It made sense to me immediately and has become one of my key thinking elements in the design and facilitation of workshops.

I have been playing with it – sometimes openly and other times without specifically using the term – and find that it really makes a difference, particularly for groups who want to go straight to the ‘action planning’ piece – you know – “why we’re here in the first place”.   It’s not purely linear.  Some of those conversations can also lead to the realisation that transactions/agreements won’t take place until there is more understanding of x, y or z.

I am also realising ways that its application (or not) applies personally.  I can’t expect others to step out of their comfort zones unless I’m willing to go there too.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia


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Beth Kanter relates what she learned as a participant in Heather Gold’s Unpresenting workshop. As a bonus this video of Heather Gold is included.  This particular ‘unpresentation’ to a group of Google staff members actively demonstrates how an audience can interact and learn from each other as well as the presenter in something other than a one-to-many model.

Here’s what I liked.

It’s the presenter’s [or facilitator's] role to do everything you can to help people to be themselves.

Nothing brings people together like a shared problem….. This is what holds people together – it’s each other.  ….. Part of the reason we solve problems isn’t just to build the bridge to get across the river, it’s because the feeling of doing it together is awesome…..  If you focus on the feeling a lot of information stuff will happen.

The problem with one way presentations is that it’s all listen to me.  I know something you don’t know.

Give before you get something.  Go first.  Be vulnerable. It’s about giving other people a point of entry into a conversation.  Finding something in common.  Understanding why we think differently and what’s important to the other person.

In her presentation the conundrum of how can we all be together AND be ourselves AND be different? unfolds before our eyes.  There is no escaping the emotional footwork of letting people know that they matter and that they are there.

Be yourself.

Ask people what they mean.

Make room for the unexpected.  The more difference, the more energy there will be.

Offering something about yourself is the fastest place for people to meet you.

Don’t contain yourself with your [presentation] tool - eg PowerPoint, notes

There was a good to and fro between Gold and an audience member who was live tweeting – on interactivity, on being in the room, on emotional connections, on what’s gained and what’s lost.

Along the way, people start to open up to what they find hard to understand. Heather Gold has the audience members connecting with each other and puts them in a better place than they were before they started, more ready to connect and have conversations after it’s over.

Bravo!  And thanks to Beth Kanter for her tweet and post.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia

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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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On Tuesday, I worked with a group who are looking for better ways to meet the needs of the people they exist to serve.  Early in the day, they broke into two smaller groups to consider what their clients’ world would look like if there were no barriers.  The intention was for them to come together when they had finished to share their thinking.

As I was introducing the session, I found myself saying “for the first half hour, just have the conversations and don’t write anything down”.  This was not planned.

After the thirty minutes had passed, the conversations continued until they were ready to put their thoughts to paper.  I was struck by the clarity that emerged.  One or two seemingly simple ideas from these conversations seemed to light a spark and were built on through the day.  The conversations alone had provided the space to see “what is really obvious, but, up until then, unseen.”  Less really is more.

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

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