To Facilitate or Not to facilitate?

So often the question that plagues meeting designers is whether their session be it strategic planning, product development or otherwise would benefit from an unbiased outside facilitator.

And the answer of course is: it depends on the conditions.

One of our Kingbridge Meeting Design Advisors recently encountered an example of this while running a collaborative technology session with a group working on their strategic plan.
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For the first half of the meeting the internal facilitators had worked with a core group to do the preperatory analysis prior to the idea generation phase where they would utilize decision support technology to leverage the collective.  When the idea generation phase arrived so did a few additions to the group represented by some very high level and influential members of the company. 

It quickly became apparent to both the comany’s facilitators and the Meeting Design Advisor, who was guiding the use of the technology, that one of the new group members had a very dominant personality and was unintentionally stifling the creativity and openess of the group. 

In this instance the facilitators turned to the Meeting Design Advisor (MDA) to help get the group re-engaged.  As an unbiased and unconnected member of the group the MDA was able to intervene.  When the dominant personality would begin to pontificate the MDA respectfully interjected with “So if I am hearing you correctly, you believe that………….. and that the correct course of action would be to…………”  Once the statement had been approved and the speaker validated that their point was clear, there was then a focused opportunity to engage the rest of the group. 

The moral of this story is that there is a reason why the first step for planning an effective meeting is to “know the audience” and plan accordingly.  When there weren’t any dominant personalities or pontificators in the session to stifle the creativity the internal facilitators were able to channel the group effectively.  However, you throw a few senior staff members with strong personalities in the mix and the challenge of moderating conversation often becomes more difficult for internal team members than an unbiased outsider.

So, next time you are planning a session consider your audience, not just their positions but their personalities and the way they react under the pressure of a difficult conversation.  Only then will you be able to answer the question of whether ‘to facilitate or not to facilitate’.

This entry was posted in Collaboration, Collective Intellegence, Group Dynamics, Leadership, Meeting Design by John. Bookmark the permalink.

About John

“John Abele is a pioneer and leader in the field of less-invasive medicine, For more than four decades, John has devoted himself to innovation in health care, business and solving social problems.” He is retired Founding Chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation. John holds numerous patents and has published and lectured extensively on the technology of various medical devices and on the technical, social, economic, and political trends and issues affecting healthcare. His major interests are science literacy for children, education, and the process by which new technology is invented, developed, and introduced to society. Current activities include Chair of the FIRST Foundation which works with high school kids to make being science-literate cool and fun, and development of The Kingbridge Centre and Institute, a conferencing institution whose mission is to research, develop, and teach improved methods for interactive conferencing: problem solving, conflict resolution, strategic planning, new methods for learning and generally help groups to become “Collectively intelligent.” He lives with his wife and two dogs in Shelburne, Vermont.”

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