At a recent two day workshop, some of the participants joined on the morning of the second day.  As a way of welcoming them to the room, I suggested that the Day 1 participants put together a review of their experience to share with the newcomers.  It worked well and I’ve incorporated it into other workshops that go for two days or more.

Towards the end of Day 1, form groups of 4 or 5.  Allocate 15 minutes only to develop a short (<5 mins) piece to deliver at the beginning of Day 2.  I’ve been using the words “perform, present or relate”.

From the facilitator’s perspective, it’s a great way to observe what stuck and what had meaning.  It confirms how diverse and creative people can be with only a short period of time to prepare.  It’s also a great energiser to get Day 2 going and a good revealer of hidden talent in the room.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia


From time to time, I come across rules in organisations that have been made in response to one incident or because one person has transgressed in some way, shape or form.  This approach doesn’t do a lot for morale.

On a short break last weekend, we stayed in a motel along the way.  I was amused to see this laminated notice in the corner of the bathroom mirror.  I wondered what was the trigger for someone to take time to print off and laminate copies of this sign – one for every bathroom so that all guests could see it.

“I’m curious”, I asked when checking out.  “What caused you to put those signs in the bathrooms?”   “They were cleaning their car engines with the towels”.

Welcome to our motel.  We just know you’re all going to take the towels out and stain them up beyond recognition with car oil just like ‘they’ did.  And it’s gonna cost you when you do……

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia


I‘m in catch up mode on my blog feed reading.  Some wonderful work has been keeping me away from them.  Here’s what struck chords today.

Tom Fishburne on the not-so useful role of the devil’s advocate.  Resistance in disguise.

Katie Chatfield gets shouty about the value of play.

Julian Dobson notices that taking care with exteriors and spaces makes a difference to our cities and their public spaces.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia

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This week I was working with a group who were setting priorities for the next year.  One of the stories shared was about how some people working in a particular system often did not take into account the circumstances in which clients found themselves.  The ‘system’ people were more concerned with pushing a process along, sometimes being intolerant of the perceived lack of action and so-called personal responsibility of individual clients.  Compassion was missing in action.  The ‘system’ was not noticing or understanding the reasons for an apparent incapacity to act.

It’s got me reflecting on the times when we come into a situation and expect another person or group of people to be ready to act or be in a position to respond quickly to something.  We forget that there is often, if not always, a back story.  Reasons why the person may not be ready now or may never be ready, at least not in the way we might expect or assume.  While we do need to notice what’s obvious, it’s not necessarily always about what’s visible.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia

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At the beginning of a recent workshop, I revealed a flip chart with the word AGREEMENTS.  I had taped a big cross over the word.

At the end of the two days, when everyone was reflecting on their experiences of the workshop, someone said “I really liked how we didn’t have any rules on how we should behave.  It felt like we were being treated as responsible adults”.

Just saying.

For some other thoughts about ground rules in group workshops, head on over to Rhizome and their post, Groundrules – empowering or oppressive?

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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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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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Great Ideas.jpg
Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) is the author of Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity.  Early this year he started sending out Hugh’s Daily Cartoon on an email subscription service.  I recommend you drop by Hugh’s website and sign up.  Every day there is a new wonderfully ‘scribbled’ thought.

Resistance is everywhere.  An idea emerges from someone else or from our own head and we begin to ask all manner of vocal and silent questions.  Can we afford it?  Didn’t we try that once before?  How will things change for me? How will it work?  How can we sell this?  How does it fit with what’s happening now?

In The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters, Peter Block pays particular attention to the question “How?”  He begins with an excerpt from his book – Stewardship.

“There is depth in the question “How do I do this?” that is worth exploring.  The question is a defence against the action.  It is a leap past the question of purpose, past the question of intentions, and past the drama of responsibility.  The question “How?” – more than any other question – looks for the answer outside of us.  It is an indirect expression of our doubts ….

Peter Block says that we find ourselves giving in to our doubts “instead of settling for what we know how to do, or can soon learn how to do, instead of pursuing what matters to us and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires”.  [..]  We often ask ourselves the question of whether something is worth doing by going straight to the question “How do we do it?”” He suggests that if we were to go for six months without asking the How question something might shift.  We would focus more on why we do what we do – and create space for conversations, room for discussion about purpose, (room for great ideas) about what is worth doing, about what matters.

There is value in sitting quietly and welcoming the space of uncertainty and allowing yourself not to be distracted by other things. Distractions are resistance at work.  Hugh MacLeod’s first chapter is Ignore Everybody.  Include yourself in that advice.  Resistance is everywhere!

Lynn Walsh – workshop facilitator – SydneyLynn Walsh – workshop facilitator – Sydney

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Where do I start?  How about anywhere?

This morning began as it often does – a cup of coffee and a check-in to the blog reader. Don’t ask me how I got to today’s ‘end point’ because I didn’t track my movements.  From one place, I whizzed off to another site and then another and before I knew it I’d forgotten what got me where I was.  In no particular order here’s what has emerged for me.

Following on from thinking about complexity (see my last post), I dropped in on Johnnie Moore’s blog and watched a PBS video on Emergence. How do bird flocks, fish schools and crowds of people behave so that the behaviour of the whole is the sum of the parts.  How does that work?  These are complex adaptive systems where there is no leader.  Whatever emerges is related to how connected the parts of the system are to each other. Out of apparent disorder, order emerges.

In 1986, Craig Reynolds plugged some steering rules for flocking creatures into a computer simulation he called Boids.   They were:

stay aligned – steer towards the average heading of your flockmates

maintain distance – steer to avoid crowding your local flockmates

cohesion – steer to move towards the average position of your flockmates

Somewhere down the rabbit hole, I found an additional rule.

avoid obstacles – steer away from predators

I ended at the amazing New York Public Radio’s Radiolab site listening to a 2005 broadcast about Emergence.   The broadcast, which you can either stream or download, is an hour long.  If you haven’t that much time, it’s split into three parts.  The broadcast is rich with questions, great production quality and links to the guests.  Here are my takeaways.

There is no leader or conductor for fireflies that somehow know how to light up in complete and silent synchronicity with each other.

There are no instructions for ants.  Their behaviour is a series of accidents driven by the need to find food and survive.  Each individual appears to know what it’s doing, but it doesn’t.  One ant accidentally falls across a food source having left a chemical trail.  Another finds the same source (accidentally) and strengthens the scent trail and so on.

The most interesting and vibrant cities, towns and neighbourhoods form in the same way, from the bottom up through a series of accidental or unplanned decisions.  Everybody and nobody creates them.  How do similar businesses like florists end up co-located?

With birds and bees and fireflies, there is no leader.  There is no plan.  There is mystery, beauty and order in the group.  When planning rules aren’t handed down from the top, wonderful places can emerge.

What if the only rules we humans had were the steering rules? I’ve had a little play with Craig Reynold’s rules.  “Boid” rules for people if you like.

stay aligned - have a shared purpose for being and staying together.

maintain distance - give each other the space to think – physical space – silent space – respectful non-crowding and listening space.

cohesion - be average – we don’t need to do something wildly different to succeed – trust that the group wisdom will emerge with what they need

avoid obstacles – look after each other and notice what’s getting in your way

I’m off now.  On another tangent to explore collective intelligence.  I may be some time.

Lynn Walsh – workshop facilitator – Sydney

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