June 10, 2014
I am about to step into a large workshop with my 2 Rusty Brown team mates. Despite having clarity about the overall purpose of the gathering, we struggled to pull together a coherent design for today’s workshop. Our Skype call featured lot’s of ideas and periods of silent reflection with me filling the space with more ideas – that’s what I do when self doubt creeps in!
After watching the latest Game of Thrones episode and a great night sleep, I reflected on yesterday’s struggles. Some events, no matter how thorough the planning and briefing is, are impossible to pre-design in any sort of detail. This is where we rely on sound principles and practices to get through and serve the groups we work with.
A room of 60+ individuals (who have just been part of a re structure) is a complex system made up of many, connected parts. It is not possible to ‘know’ which are the best moment by moment processes ahead of time. When we start interacting with the system (in about an hour from now), we will get feedback which will inform our decisions and the processes that follow. It feels messy and challenges our need for certainty and detailed plans … but that’s facilitation for you!
And to throw in a distantly connected piece by Johnnie Moore (Game of Thrones & the stories we tell ourselves), Johnnie says about the stories we tell ourselves …
“We love them, but we get tripped up by them. Something to remember when working with people.”
Re listening/watching Johnnie’s latest reflection (at the link above) has helped me to focus for today’s event.
Facilitation, Living Systems & Complexity, Yes!And Improv
May 19, 2014
Much of my recent work has been with Russell Fisher and Suzie Brown. Under the banner of Rusty Brown, we have combined our skills and blended our experience. As we learn more from the doing together, we are remixing the way we work and our offering to the world. Personally, I have a renewed passion for my work and a clearer purpose than I did when flying solo.
Last week I was co-facilitating with Russell and there was a moment when I repeated a set of instructions exactly as Russell had just given. Russell and I have a relationship where feedback is valued as a gift and, in a quiet moment, he rightly asked me why I had repeated his instruction. I wasn’t even aware of it and initially his feedback caught me by surprise!
On reflection, Russell illuminated a blind spot that I often get tripped up by – and a very good reminder to re-read a post called “The Art of Giving Instructions” by Chris Corrigan. Russell’s feedback is always perceptive and I am grateful for the opportunity to further hone my craft. Even when I work on my own, as I did on Friday and again tomorrow, I am able to draw on Russell and Suzie. Our collaboration provides me with an intangible kind of confidence and company when I need it most.
For the first time in my consulting career, I am investing in building something beyond my own solo-practice. It feels right and I am excited by the possibility.
May 18, 2014
As the title suggests, much of recent work has been with Russell Fisher and Suzie Brown. Under the banner of Rusty Brown, we have combined our skills and blended our experience. As we learn more from the doing together, we are remixing the way we work and our offering to the world. Personally, I have a renewed passion for my work and a clearer purpose than I did when flying solo.
Last week I was co-facilitating with Russell and there was a moment when I repeated a set of instructions exactly as Russell had just given. Russell and I have a relationship where feedback is valued as a gift and, in a quiet moment, he rightly asked me why I had repeated his instruction. I wasn't even aware of it and initially his feedback caught me by surprise!
On reflection, Russell illuminated a blind spot that I often get tripped up by – and a very good reminder to re-read a post called “The Art of Giving Instructions” by Chris Corrigan. Russell's feedback is always perceptive and I am grateful for the opportunity to further hone my craft. Even when I work on my own, as I did on Friday and again tomorrow, I am able to draw on Russell and Suzie. Our collaboration provides me with confidence when I need it most.
For the first time in my consulting career, I am investing in building something beyond my own solo-practice. It feels right and I am excited by the possibility.
March 27, 2014
I am not a huge fan of ‘ACRONYM’ models, but this framework – called SCARF – from neuroscientist David Rock is one of the more useful ones.
As many of us, within the Anglesea and surrounding communities, unite to SHUT DOWN the Anglesea power station, we discover that some people see the world differently to us. It’s easy to take the moral and intellectual high ground and say “We’re right and they’re wrong!” … but that sort of thinking will never unite a diverse community of divergent views. Applying the SCARF framework to our engagement strategy will help.
Here is a summary of this document by David Rock – http://www.davidrock.net/files/09_SCARF_in_2012_US.pdf – I have taken direct quotes and added a little of my own interpretations as well …
The SCARF model is a framework that can activate a reward or threat response in social situations. SCARF can be applied in any situation where people collaborate in groups such as at community lead rallies and information nights. The SCARF model involves 5 domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Here’s a brief description of each domain with a footnote … advice for any community leaders who are trying to SHUT DOWN a local coal mine and power station.
Status is about the relative importance to others. If people feel left out, or in a minority group at a social gathering, the associated drop in status generates a strong threat response. When threatened people often defend a position that doesn’t make sense to avoid the perceived pain of a drop in status. If leaders wish to influence other’s behaviour, more attention must given to reducing status threats in social situations.
Certainty concerns being able to predict the future. The human brain craves certainty so that it can predict the future. Without being able to predict, the brain uses far more resources and energy to process our experiences. So, as our community lobbies to SHUT DOWN the local coal mine, it opens up new and uncertain future scenarios. Large uncertainties like this one can be highly debilitating and cause people to stop listening and snap judgements. This is why we must communicate and discuss plausible and relevant future scenarios that don’t include a coal mine.
Autonomy provides a sense of control over events and a sensation of having choices. As soon as a participant at a community event feels a reduction in autonomy (with no sense of control), the experience can be threatening. When inviting people to take action, statement like “this is what you have to do now!” should be avoided at all costs. Providing people with a choice between different options can shift the perception. The set up of the room and types of processes used also plays a significant role in the experience people have.
Relatedness is a sense of safety with others, of friend rather than foe. In the absence of safe social interactions, the body generates a threat response. People naturally like to form ‘tribes’ where they experience a sense of belonging. So, as Anglesea attempts find a community voice, we should be tapping into this tribal sense of belonging. For those opposed to the SHUT-DOWN campaign … no matter what ‘we’ do or say they won’t change! Neurologically, we are wired to adopt messages from those who are ‘like’ us … from the same tribe.
Fairness is a perception of fair exchanges between people. The need for fairness may be the driver behind the formation and energy of the Surf Coast Air Action group and the SHUT IT DOWN campaign. Members of our tribe experience internal rewards for doing this volunteer work to improve our community – born out of a decreasing sense of fairness in the world. For our upcoming event in Anglesea, we need to be completely transparent about our purpose and our mission to rally support Shut the Mine down.
I’ll finish with a couple of quotes from philosopher Theodore Zeldin about the deeply social nature of the way our brains are wired together and connected in social networks …
“When will we make the same breakthroughs in the way we treat each other as we have made in technology?”
“The kind of conversation I’m interested in, is one in which we are willing to emerge a slightly different person.”
Brain Science & Research, Community & Belonging, Facilitation, Leadership
February 18, 2014
Every now and then, something special happens … and you say to yourself, “I wish I had a camera right now!”
Well, at last year’s Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival, there was a moment when Mark Seymour (yes, the 1 & only) stopped singing for 30 seconds and ‘stared-down’ someone in the front row. That someone was our youngest boy. Young Hamish (now 6 yo) has an uncanny knack of engaging with people of all ages. In his own unique and genuine way, he brings attention on himself. He doesn’t show off and he’s not loud. He simply connects with people and he draws them in.
Mark went on to comment about his little staring game with Hamish and said something like … “You know when look into someone eyes that they are going to be trouble at school!” After Mark’s sensational performance (with his current band The Undertow), we had a photo taken of the 2 of them. It’s nice but it didn’t capture “that” priceless moment during the performance.
A few night’s ago I discovered a treasure trove of images from last year’s festival over at Peter Marshall’s photography website. And there on page 5 was “that” moment – a series of images the captured the essence of engagement.
Humor & Fun, Just observations, Music
January 28, 2014
Co-conspirator of mine, Chris Corrigan, has shared a post he titled – Dealing with your slaves and seeing the world. This piece is a timely reminder about how we perceive the world around us. For me, it’s a little challenge to my own perspective … and to the stories I make in my mind about any problem that I am tackling.
I’ll only focus in on 1 angle of Chris’ post here. This quote from Adam Kahane is at the core of his post …
“Bill Torbert of Boston College once said to me that the 1960s slogan “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” actually misses the most important point about effecting change. The slogan should be, “If you’re not part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.” If we cannot see how what we are doing or not doing is contributing to things being the way that they are, then logically we have no basis at all, zero leverage, for change the way things are — except from the outside, by persuasion or force.”
When I hear people (and myself) talking about any problem – communication at the local school, device/screen addiction in their kids, the Alcoa Coal mine – the image in my mind looks like this …
Imagine if we could really see our own part in every complex problem we perceived – local or global. I think this self perception would fundamentally change a lot of conversations. A deeper understanding about our part (and the parts other’s play) in the problem helps to build up a better picture of the whole. You can apply this to different scales – individual, team and organisational, national.
Chris concludes his post with a few questions:
“So, what is your experience in affecting change from inside the problem? How do you work towards justice while recognizing your complicity in the very problems you are addressing?”
The practice-challenge to myself is a question about how I reframe things in my own mind. Here is one personal example I’ll apply it to:
What is my part (and how am I complicit) in the device-addiction that has crept back into our family life since returning from our 5 month trip last year? And then … how can I affect change from within the problem?
Being Present, Facilitation, Just observations
January 14, 2014
The line that separates my work and play isn’t really a line at all. Experiences with family and friends teach me as much about myself as time in front of a group. Each serves the other and they are connected. So, the notion of a work-life balance doesn’t make sense to me anymore – I am seeing this term through new eyes … with a new perspective.
In 2014, I’ll be keeping this Pattern Card (from the Group Works set of cards) at the top of the deck. It serves as a personal reminder to step into the shoes of others and listen. I’ll use this card when designing group processes and support individuals, teams and organisations to notice more and see things through other perspectives. And at home this card (like many others in the deck) are a great teaching tool.
Being Present, Facilitation
December 12, 2013
2 years ago I worked with Chris Corrigan and Steven Wright at the first World Indigenous Housing forum in Vancouver, Canada. With over 600 delegates, a key technical design challenge was about “how to” harvest individual and small group ideas and from a group of that size?! In a long story short, we engaged the brilliant Luke Closs to build us a text2cloud system. Our brief was to enable delegates to text their insights to a central number. We needed to be able to access the data quickly and discover themes using online tools such as Wordle. We needed a ‘digital’ harvesting tool that would capture the essence of (analogue-style) conversation between people.
Luke’s system worked beautifully for our team in North America and I couldn’t wait to use it back home in Australia. I hit brick wall after brick wall and – due to the militant policies of Australian mobile carriers – I just could’t find a way to use Luke’s brilliant code.
Then just a couple of months ago, friend and colleague Fran Woodruff asked for my advice on text2cloud systems after hearing my Vancouver experience. That’s when Fran alerted me to Poll Everywhere – a online service that essentially replicates what Luke built from scratch over 2 years ago. Thank you Fran!
Last week, I had the pleasure of working alongside Viv McWaters and together we experimented with Poll Everywhere at the Game Changer Conference with over 350 delegates. It worked and here is what we learned about using a text2cloud system to harvest ideas from large groups …
1. Text2Cloud is a useful replacement to the traditional (and tedious) post speaker Q&A session
As questions came in from the delegates, our MC and Viv reviewed the questions as they scrolled up their computer screens. The texts arrive in real time and provide the reader with an instant snapshot of the emergent questions that usually remain invisible. For some people their questions never get seen or heard. We were able to synthesise the breadth of the questions and select the most compelling or common questions to ask the guest speaker. Speakers also agreed to provide brief answers to every question after the conference – this formed part of the proceedings.
2. Text2Cloud is a great way of harvesting priorities from group dialogue and cafe-style conversations
At the end of small group conversations, we invited participants to text in the priority ideas and actions. We were able to harvest these easily and reflect them back using the large screens as they ideas came in.
3. Reflecting back the themes/patterns (in real time) from large groups is powerful
4. Applications are not just limited to working with groups in the one room. Why not use this system to capture feedback/responses from anyone involved in a project or initiative even if they are geographically dispersed!
5. Everyone (well at least 99+% of people) knows how to text and most carry text-enabled devices with them to group events
6. Poll Everywhere is a text2cloud system that is easy to learn and it does what it claims it can do!
Let’s keep experimenting with these new harvesting technologies! When used well, they can be a great compliment to processes involving dialogue and group conversations.
Facilitation, Vizual Thinking
November 8, 2013
Ingrid and I were married 15 years ago.
It seems impossible that a decade plus 5 years has passed. But, as we reflected (just now) on all we have done, experienced and created in that time … well, it’s like a lifetime of moments compressed into 15 years.
We bring out the very best in each other and this has been the secret to our relationship flourishing. I have the deepest admiration for Ingrid – as a great mum, a loving partner, a caring health professional and a committed member of our community. I count myself as one of the lucky ones.
We share a passion for living life and being present with our boys as they grow. We don’t want to miss a second of their journey toward becoming good men. As close friend of mine, with 2 boys (now young men) who have left home keeps reminding me, “Geoff, these are the golden years!”.
Our family celebrated Ingrid’s 40th on a boat, swimming with Whale Sharks. Ingrid didn’t want a party … she wanted our family to experience something memorable. And for me, this photo of Ingrid says everything … happiness, reflection, contentment and wonder.
Gone Supping, Just observations
October 4, 2013
I’m in Melbourne enjoying an early breakfast at a familiar cafe on Spring Street. The streets are cold, but clear skies promise a warm spring day. It’s exactly 5 months since I’ve been here and I feel like a first time visitor … like I’ve lived another life since that time.
Everything looks and feels in slow motion – including my own thoughts, breath and walk. I am noticing things that I’ve either forgotten, or simply not noticed before. Sitting in this familiar place feels a little surreal.
I’ve just spoken to the cafe owner (who knows me by name only) and he asked, “How long has it been Geoff?” He couldn’t believe that 5 months had passed. For me it feels like a year … or more.
Our family witnessed new places, met new people and lived new experiences every day for 5 months. It was intoxicating and at times we needed a break … time to sit in one place and rest. In parts our journey around Australia seemed to fly by. Other stages seemed to live on and on. As a whole, the journey (for me) felt like a lifetime. Now that we’re back … I am seeing everything differently.
Being Present, Just observations
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