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June 25, 2009

[reboot] Ton Zijlstra on how to facilitate

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Ton says the biggest obstacle is one’s own apprehension. He says facilitators cannot give content and participate. Don’t mix and match content and process. Stay in control by letting go. “If you want people to start generating idea, don’t give your own ideas, not even as examples.” “Push everything back into the group.”

Always make the rules clear. When there’s an infraction, don’t assume immediately that it’s out of line. Attract people to the desired behavior.

“Create energy by doing nothing.” Be patient.

Avoid the usual introductory round. Try breaking people into groups of 4-5 where each introduces herself and moves on to the next group.

Worry about the form of work second. First: What is the purpose of the session. Work forms: Open Space, knoweldfe cafe, sticky notes….Find one and then improvise.

Prepare with your ‘client.’

Capture the results, but keep them as close to the work at the session as possible. E.g., photo the flip charts rather than writing up a report. Then “share your shit.” And play.

Audience participation:

Q: How do you handle blabbermouths?
A: You have to get over your hesitancy to step in.

People should remember that not everyone speaks Engish.

The focus on action is good.

Q: [me] Is it appropriate to call on people?
A: Yes, sometimes. I use it to get silent people speaking?

Q:[me] How do you deal with groups ho may feel powerless to speak?
A: you have to know about that ahead of time. You may need to send the managers out, or put them in different subgroups.

Q: What goes on in the mind of facilitators? General energy level in the room?
A: [not Ton] We also think about the space. E.g., we could set the chairs so we’re looking at one another. I do pay attention to the energy in the room.
A: [not Ton] I facilitate smaller groups. I worry about whether they’re happy and attentive.
A: [not Ton] Are people falling into their usual bad habits.

[Lot of conversation. I’m transcribing little of it.]

A: [me] Do you point out the relationships among remarks? E.g., “What you just said enhances/contradicts what so and so said earlier”
A: If it’s more about me bringing my expertise, yes. Otherwise, it gets in the way of the session participants owning the results.

Q: Do you bring into the group what’s being said in the private conversations?
A: Depends.

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