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October 10, 2005 » 4:51 pm

Designing for Minimal Facilitation

Gail Taylor once explained to me her philosophy of designing large-scale events. If you have a large enough group, you will generally have all types of people, from obnoxious type-A personalities who dominate the conversation to thoughtful facilitator-types (whom she would call Yellow Threads).    (JV0)

If you’re designing an event for such a group, facilitation is more a result of your design than of designated facilitators. The trick is to mix people up and create an environment where folks facilitate themselves. Active facilitation of a large, diverse group is a pretty good indication that you’ve failed in your design. It’s not that it can’t work, it’s just that you’re not maximizing group potential.    (JV1)

Gail told me a story about an event she facilitated for a large company, where several of the higher-level executives were being uncooperative and impeding the entire process. Her solution? She didn’t admonish them or intervene with their breakout groups. She simply assigned them to their own breakout group and let them go. By the end of the event, everyone had achieved their objectives successfully except for that small group of executives. More importantly, these folks realized and acknowledged first-hand their failures and failings.    (JV2)

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