Moving liberating structures practices online gas 4 less


purpose of this post is to share learnings about how we transfer facilitation of offline group processes into an online space. In this particular instance, I’m focusing on LS and primarily synchronous online interactions using group meeting tools. My ultimate purpose is to use LS online so that people are easily and delightfully engaged and liberated to achieve their own purpose(s).

When thinking about the online environment, there may be more than one LS to choose in terms of what that structure enables (its purpose), but one of those options may be more suited to the online environment. For example, when the harvest of a process is important, an online environment makes it easy for everyone to type in and capture their input, faster and easier than a wall of sticky notes. The harvest is done by all, not by the facilitator. The data can be quickly organized, parsed and we can bring forth the best of what was produced.

Again, principles exists on different levels. There are my personal principles as a facilitator/participant which drive my practices. gas guzzler tax There are the principles that sit beneath Liberating Structures . (Or whatever processes you use.) There are the principles of the individuals and group involved. I am excluding my personal principles/generic facilitator principles and will mostly focus on principles that arise from the online environment and which inform minimum specifications and practices. The other levels are very rich areas for future exploration!

When in doubt, keep things simple. From technology, to process – simplicity gives room for experimentation and emergence. For example, while we might rapidly restring our structures F2F, we may not always be as prepared to do that as quickly online without a deeper practice. From a tech perspective, we might keep our technology set simple. (Min spec: never introduce more than two new tools to a group. One is ever better!)

This one is much easier because there is little distinction between online and offline. The main benefit may be that online we might possibly include MORE people than we could if we were limited to a face to face interaction. In general, my overall facilitation principles drive me to include everyone who is engaged/impacted by the purpose to participate. Even if they are spread all across the globe. That is one of the driving strengths of doing things online, despite the challenges.

Traditional design and use of online meeting tools have centralized control to the person who has administrative control of the meeting software. gas laws definition chemistry Sometimes additional people can be given these “host” or “admin” roles, partially or fully. But the central design of these tools has prioritized control over emergence, theoretically to offer a more consistent experience. Liberating Structures, on the other hand, is designed to engage and unleash everyone. k electric jobs 2016 So it is super important to figure out how to hack these tools to distribute control. Here are three potential vectors for distributing control. I’m sure there are more. Ideas?

For me there are two intersecting sets of practices: the process facilitation and the technology stewardship. I (along with John D. Smith and Etienne Wenger) have written extensively about technology stewardship. You can get the book (free!) on the Digital Habitats book site, and I will focus only on LS related facilitation and tech stewardship issues. You will also note how these are related to principles stated above!

• Don’t do this alone. Have one person focus on the technology stewardship issues while the other facilitates process. It can be devilishly hard to do both at one time. For example, individuals with tech problems need one on one private “back channel” assistance that doesn’t suck up the time and attention of the whole group. cheapest gas in texas Setting up breakout rooms is best done with attention, not while multitasking with process instructions.

• Select and use technology to facilitate the large group/small group/individual levels of participation that are found in LS. For me the profound difference of using LS online and more traditional “web meetings” or “webinars” is that they enable peer to peer, multi-directional interaction versus being the object of a stream of content from one or few people.

• Use multiple modalities beyond voice. We humans pay less attention to verbal interactions when we aren’t facing each other. Video can help – a bit – but not resolve our lackadaisical listening skills. So important instructions (how to do a LS, the invitation, etc.) should also appear visually on a slide, whiteboard or chat room. Don’t underestimate adult’s ability to quickly forget the instructions as well, so make sure they are visible in breakouts. Use images, drawing tools – whatever it takes to create a closer cycle of information exchange and UNDERSTANDING.

• Keep technology choices as simple as possible. For example, if you pair the web meeting tool Zoom with Google Docs, it may seem really easy if you already have a Google Doc practice. For someone totally new to both, it may be enough to learn one tool at a time. For experts, pile it on! Just because we can use a ton of tools doesn’t mean we always SHOULD. A subset of this is “always keep an eye out for new tech” – the landscape is constantly evolving.

• Don’t restrict yourself . Think through how you will use an LS online based on your purpose instead of slavishly following the instructions in a literal manner. Use your imagination and the strengths of the technology you are using rather than fighting the limitations. This is a great place to expand your LS repertoire. (Again, there should be a whole post on using the LS Matchmaker with an online perspective. wb state electricity board bill pay Some of us have been trying to capture our current state of understanding of this.)

• Give most LS a bit more time online, especially when learning how to do them online. Don’t over-pack your sequence or “string” of structures. While I might do 3-5 in 90 minutes F2F, I’d say 3 online! To date, almost all the LS I’ve used online take more time the first time (sometimes a LOT more time). We get better over time, but if you are always working with new people, build in learning time. electricity tower vector And in a perfect world, get the chance to do these together more than once. It gets richer and richer. Another perspective is spreading out a string over multiple, shorter online meetings. Most of us burn out after 90 minutes of full on attention online.

• Reflect on the similarities and differences of a structure/string online and offline. Chances are this will deepen your overall understanding and facilitation practice, and expand possibilities each time you reflect, learn, apply, and repeat! Better yet, reflect with your peers. Use What, So What, Now What? to debrief at every chance. Share your learnings with the Liberating Structures community