Cooking Up an Original Dish of Group Facilitation

I facilitate the way I cook: study the fundamentals, work with what you have, and take a few chances in mixing up an original experience.   

Studying the fundamentals of different methodologies is like stocking the pantry or refrigerator with possibilities. When I start investigating a methodology, I often am not exactly sure how I will use it.  I just try to understand the theory behind the method, when it might be useful, what outcomes it promises to deliver, and what the basic moves are. Sometimes I watch others in action, but if I can’t find or afford that opportunity, I read methodology books and articles just like cooks did for generations before the Food Network.

In cooking, working with what you have is more a function of the situation than the ingredients on hand.  What’s the timing of this meal, who will be present, what has been served recently, and what would stimulate the appetite? When I facilitate change, the questions are quite similar.  While organizations are rarely as different as they believe they are, they do face new circumstances with emerging priorities and new people mixing up the group dynamics.  What you have to work with is constantly changing.

Then comes the creative part in my cooking or facilitation: mixing things up to get the outcome I want.  Most of my cooking improvisations stem from missing ingredients, kitchen devices I don't own, or short cuts around tedious processes. (Reader advisory: these improvisations seem to invite disaster in baking.)

In facilitation, I mix up methods to adapt to the situation, intentionally disrupt old thinking patterns, and encourage people to believe in their ability to do a new thing together. Recently I did a mashup of action learning and visioning culminating in consensus recommendation processes.  My Forward Design approach to strategic planning is a mashup of anticipatory learning and design thinking.

I love cooking and facilitation for the same reason: they are ways to nurture the people around me.  Perhaps it is no surprise I approach both with the same mind and heart.