Etikettarkiv: Facilitation

Book Review: Generative Scribing

Generative Scribing: A Social Art of the 21st Century by Kelvy Bird is, as the title says, a book about generative scribing, which is a visual practice and an art form, functioning in the moment, across boundaries, as a device for social seeing.1 The primary value of generative scribing is in-the-moment collective sourcing and reflection. Through scribing, a group can see a course to take and find their direction. The scribe aids the group to induce a greater vision and turn it into action.2

Generative scribing activates and makes visible the unseen—yet felt—inner life of the social field. This means that scribing only takes place within a group of people. It doesn’t depend on one scribe’s view, but on the input of many views. The drawing has the power to influence and to transform the thinking in the room.3 With the aid of seeing together, a group can more clearly choose and chart its path. Views become shared and problems become solvable.4

The book is intended as an approach to the practice of generative scribing and is divided into five sections:5

  • Be: Bringing forward your most authentic self. Being matters.6 When we draw, disconnected from interior knowing, we represent an interpreted reality and miss the opportunity to create from inside out.7 Scribes need to stay open and connected to the flow of meaning that wants to be mapped. Staying open, while listening and drawing, is a key skill and a real challenge.8 By staying open the scribe becomes a channel for what wants to come through, for something that wants to be seen.9 Scribes contribute to social fields by showing up from inside out.10 By being in touch with themselves at the truest level, scribes are in a position to meet the truth in the room through what they draw.11
  • Join: Engaging across boundaries. Boundaries dissolve when we activate our deeper humanity.12 Scribes meet intuitive knowing—beyond the literal understanding of words and concepts. Relaxed, scribes can receive and join as conduits for the flow-through of meaning.13 The meaning doesn’t come after the interaction. It comes alongside and involves listening. Listening is a through line to any generative practice.14
  • Perceive: Noticing with a broad, systems view. Seeing is how we perceive our way into thinking and structures, to reveal dynamics and shift outcomes. To see is to comprehend.15 Moving through uncertainty, we experiment. With experimentation, we experience and perceive. Through perception, we orient and choose. And through choosing, we direct our action.16 It is far too easy to inadvertently close our minds to what is actually going on. A closed mindset serves no one.17 If something is not clear, slow down.18 The framing of the mind influences the organization of the drawing. What others see influences their understanding of the structures in play.19 Reframing allows us to see things from multiple perspectives.20 It is directly related to seeing with fresh eyes.21
  • Know: Discern coherence to inform choice. In any moment, when we want to understand, we can inquire into the underlying order by asking: How does this make sense?22 Trying to see the greater context enhances our perspective.23 In generative scribing, we can impose structure and/or we can inquire into what is seeking new form. Seeking coherence demands trust. And trust encourages us to consider that this drawing or that conversation is exactly what is meant to unfold in this particular moment. It is a piece of the greater context that is becoming known.24 Scribes have to choose what to draw. Part of this is subjective, based on listening skills; part is objective, based on ordering ability; and part is generative, based on connecting with source.25 Listen deeply to the space between the words for what wants to be seen. If nothing comes, nothing is yet meant to come.26
  • Draw: Giving form to content. Drawing is a weaving together of multiple inputs from the social field. Through our drawing we have the power to represent the possible, and to help initiate it into the present moment. Scribing helps the unborn to birth, and brings a new reality to life.27 We draw what we must draw, in the present moment as it unfolds, in the right time.28 Generative scribing is a drawing process with which we open to the unknown to bring it to life.29 If our craft or practice is something other than scribing, then we can apply a generative approach to that too.30

To summarize, this is a book for all who care about how we exist together, and who want to explore our interior functioning, both as individuals and as a group.31 Generative scribing is fluid motion. The book can be read in the same way. It is written in such a way that it encourages the reader to jump around at will to find what is most needed.32 Kelvy Bird’s writing and drawing resonates deeply with me. This is the kind of book you don’t stop reading!

1 Kelvy Bird, Generative Scribing: A Social Art of the 21st Century (PI Press, 2018), p.1.
2 Ibid., p.5.
3 Ibid., p.5.
4 Ibid., p.10.
5 Ibid., pp.12–13.
6 Ibid., p.49.
7 Ibid., p.50.
8 Ibid., p.53.
9 Ibid., p.56.
10 Ibid., p.61.
11 Ibid., p.63.
12 Ibid., p.67.
13 Ibid., p.71.
14 Ibid., p.77.
15 Ibid., p.87.
16 Ibid., p.92.
17 Ibid., p.93.
18 Ibid., p.97.
19 Ibid., p.100.
20 Ibid., p.102.
21 Ibid., p.103.
22 Ibid., p.120.
23 Ibid., p.122.
24 Ibid., p.123.
25 Ibid., p.124.
26 Ibid., p.127.
27 Ibid., p.133.
28 Ibid., p.142.
29 Ibid., p.143.
30 Ibid., p.146.
31 Ibid., p.11.
32 Ibid., p.14.

The fine art of shutting up

Ernesto Sirolli

If people do not wish to be helped, leave them alone. 1

The most important thing is passion. … The passion that the person has for her own growth is the most important thing. 2

Planning is the kiss of death of entrepreneurship. 3

We have discovered that the miracle of the intelligence of local people is such that you can change the culture and the economy of this community just by capturing the passion, the energy and imagination of your own people. 4

1 Ernesto Sirolli @ (05:02), Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!, YouTube, Published 26 Nov 2012. (Accessed 27 March 2016)
2 Ernesto Sirolli @ (06:26).
3 Ernesto Sirolli @ (10:44).
4 Ernesto Sirolli @ (15:41).

Holding space

Heather Plett writes here what it means to ”hold space” for people, and how to do it well. It’s something all of us can do for each other. She writes (my emphasis in bold).

”[Holding space] means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” 1

”To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.” 2

1 Heather Plett, What it means to “hold space” for people, plus eight tips on how to do it well, 11 March 2015. (Accessed 19 March 2015)
2 Ibid..

A wide-ranging hangout with Simon Robinson

Simon Robinson, co-author of Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, shares in this wide-ranging hangout his view on holonomics, wholeness, leadership, change, human values, and the dynamics of seeing deeply. Simon says that there’s lot of talk about collaboration, co-creation, sustainability, and sharing, but that these are just words if there’s no authenticity and a lived presence of human values. I fully agree.

Related posts:
Book Review: Holonomics
Book Review: First Steps to Seeing

Self-organization is the real operating system

Here are quotes of Daniel Mezick from an email to the World wide Open Space Technology email list March 20, 2015. (My emphasis in bold.)

Harrison you once said recently:

The real operating system is self-organization, Daniel. Everything else is an app. Open Space included!”

I’ve just recently integrated this idea more fully into my thinking. I must admit it has taken ”some time.”

That said, my current belief is: most organizations are at a very low level of development and can use/typically need the ”app” of Open Space…and/or the ”app” of Scrum… and/or the ”app” of Sociocracy, what have you.

I think [facilitation] does fit nicely as a kind of component or ”widget” in each ”app” (facilitation being part of OST, Scrum, Kanban) …all of which run on the real OS of self-organization.

So these are all self-org ”apps.” The ”f” word does after all has the connotation of: ”making it easy.”

Daniel Mezick continues writing the following in an email March 22, 2015.

My current belief is that self-organization is what actually scales, not some app. Not some ”framework.” Now, if folks are compelled to ”do it the way I say”, or ”do this framework like I tell you…” … does positive self-organization happen again?

Because… truth be told, I do not see how any kind of Agile stuff can scale FOR REAL without creating the fertile conditions for self-organization to go enterprise-wide. Thousands of people. Isn’t self-organization what ACTUALLY scales?

Because…well…. I have simply never seen it done any other way.

I’ve never seen it done by forcing stuff on people without their consent, without invitation. And I’ve never seen it done with inviting the folks affected to express what they think and feel about ”the solution we are using”…

I think Harrison Owen and Daniel Mezick are right. The follow-up question then is: What can we do to enable and sustain company-wide self-organization? My search continues…

Related posts:
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?
Facilitating an Open Space
How to enable and sustain self-organization
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology

Dynamic facilitation

Jim Rough and Rosa Zubizarreta has written a Manual and Reader for Dynamic Facilitation and the Choice-Creating Process on evoking practical group creativity and transformation through generative dialogue. The manual covers the groundwork, basic elements of the facilitator’s role, how to get started, key aspects of the different meeting stages, and applications. The reader part includes a selection of Jim Rough’s writings.

What Wikimedia can learn from the Quakers

Sue Gardner has written three blog posts on what Wikimedia can learn from the Quakers. Gardner is interested to see what values and practices the Quakers and Wikimedians share, and whether there are things the Quakers do, that the Wikimedians might usefully adopt. There is a reading list about Quakers in Gardner’s first post, an elaboration on the following practices in the second post:

  • Everybody who’s part of the movement shares responsibility for helping it succeed.
  • Nobody gets to sit on the sidelines and watch things fail.
  • Setting the right tone is critical for success.
  • Sometimes you have to kick out difficult people. Maybe.

Finally, there is a summary of expected behaviors of meeting attendees, clerks, and committees in Gardner’s third post.

Beliefs influence results

Peggy Holman writes in Open Space Technology: A User’s NON-Guide, pp. 48—50, that different methods can work in a given situation but what matters most are the beliefs of the facilitator.

My belief (and I don’t have sufficient empirical evidence for it to be more than an opinion) is that while method may be one factor in success or failure the beliefs of the facilitator are an even greater factor.

The core beliefs of the facilitator influence their actions and the unspoken cues they send. Are there methods that are better fits in different circumstances? You bet. And yet, I can take the similar circumstances and put different facilitators in them using the same method and get results with widely differing impact. Further, I believe I could take the same facilitator, use different methods and get similar results. I don’t have empirical evidence for this. It is an opinion reached by observation of, discussion with, and reading of comments from a variety of people using a variety of methods. I think what started me down this path was the deep conviction of virtually every expert that their way was the most effective.

My untested theory is the factors involved in success include sponsor beliefs (particularly around their passion for and audaciousness of the desired future, sense of invitation to participate, generosity of spirit), facilitator beliefs (particularly around people’s capacity to act wisely for the good of the whole as well as themselves), and method.

When there is a perception that people need to be led, then they will prove that out. If the perception is that participants will figure things out for themselves, they somehow do.

Facilitating an Open Space

Harrison Owen wrote the following on the OSLIST Email Community in April 17, 2014:

So in the peculiar situation of facilitating an Open Space: Why do we do it? Doubtless each person will have to answer that one for themselves, but I am very clear why I take on the role of facilitator. My purpose is to create an environment in which the people can experience their own power to the maximum and do things they never thought possible. To achieve this objective, the people will need the most time/space available – which means that I need to fill up as little space/time as possible. Something about being totally present and absolutely invisible.

…what I discovered over and over, and over again is that people have a marvelous capacity to help each other, and further – that when they learn to help, or maybe even more importantly, ask for help… Everybody is stronger.

Related posts:
Pre-conditions for self-organization
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?
Facilitating an Open Space
How to enable and sustain self-organization
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology

Book Review: The Art of Convening

The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations by Craig and Patricia Neal with Cynthia Wold is a book on the art of gathering people for the sake of authentic engagement. As with the way of circle, convening has ancient roots. People have always gathered and naturally related to each other. Convening is really an art of relationship. Authentic relations are relations where we express what is true for us, and listen to what is true for others. The authors believe that meaningful connection and engagement are not only possible, but also imperative for obtaining sustainable satisfying results.

The role of the convener is to gather and hold people in a safe and generative space, which enables essential conversations, emergence of new outcomes, and a true desire for action. The convening wheel in the book visualizes the path of convening as a whole. Its circular forms guides the convener’s way of being and doing. It’s worth emphasizing the the convening wheel is flexible. The path of convening isn’t rigid or static any more than our relationships. The parts of the convening wheel are called aspects. The aspects build on each other, but it is possible to correct the course at any juncture along the convening path. Each aspect is examined in detail in the book. Here is a short summary:

  • At the Heart of the Matter. Knowing who I am allows me to be in authentic engagement with others. It is a big subject and a life-long journey to increase our own clarity, confidence, and sense of belonging so that we may hold others in a safe generative container. Unless we reflect on who we are, we don’t give others something real to connect to.
  • Clarifying Intent. Our fully embraced intention feeds our power to actualize it. To clarify intent, we need to identify those motives or desires that might distract us from what is primary. The tendency for many of us is to move too quickly from the heart to the head and then to the outcome. If we are to maximize the depth and effectiveness of our gatherings, we need the patience to hold off the impulse to move too quickly.
  • The Invitation. The essential and often overlooked quality needed to make an invitation effective is sincerity. When our invitations are made wholeheartedly, all manner of possibilities open to the gathering. The combination of sincerity, hospitality, and generosity is a strong attractor for full presence.
  • Setting Context. People want to know how they fit into the context. It is risky to assume that purpose and meaning of the gathering have been fully understood by everyone in advance. The convener needs to restate the purpose and intent of the gathering as articulated in the invitation. The participants need to understand what the gathering is for and about. They can then choose to place themselves in the best state of mind, heart, and being to engage in this context.
  • Creating the Container. This is about providing an environment for the gathering that is enlivened, has boundaries, and is safe. It is important to prepare both an outer and inner container for the gathering. The outer, physical, container reminds us of our aliveness and encourages connection. The inner, energetic, container provides safety so that those within may freely express themselves. Safety is achieved by having strong boundaries, that is clear protocols and agreements for the gathering.
  • Hearing All the Voices. Each voice is needed and wanted. When all voices are heard, everyone sees and is seen by one another. Our spirits expand when we are received with interested, non-judging listening. The more we are tuned to each other, the more we are able to serve the purpose of the gathering. A more whole picture begins to emerge. People become an integral part of the group and have a stake in a successful outcome. All are in this together.
  • Essential Conversation. Introducing thoughtfulness and meaning into what we say and how we hear each other enables essential conversation. This is the time to open the floor for reflections and comments. Splitting the group into smaller groups of 3-5 people encourage deep listening and sharing. Being with the heart of the matter evokes the wisdom of the participants. When people sense their interdependency, they see that their future is tied together and begin to function as a unified ”living system”.
  • Creation. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Something new emerges when people bring their full unique presence, sharing purpose and trust. If we have done our work well, the group will almost take care of itself. The convener needs to hold the container, honoring the individuals in relationship with one another, so the new that emerges is consistent with the group’s purpose and intent.
  • Commitment to Action. Without commitment, the creation that has emerged may be lost. We have spent our time together for a purpose, so desire for action is a natural driving force now. Purposeful action is embedded in the group and in seeing a shared future that all can agree upon. More than an item on a to do list, the action can be a decision or a determined stake in the ground. If true commitment is to come forth, the participants will hold themselves accountable. This kind of commitment cannot be achieved by coercion or manipulation.

Learning the art of convening is like learning how to drive—practice strengthen habit. This book is a great guide. There are in depth discussions exploring challenges and situations the authors have come across over the years. If you are serious about making a difference in the lives of those you gather, then I would definitely recommend this book.

This book is also a great companion to The Circle Way.


Principles of conversation

The following principles of conversation are from The Art of Convening by Craig & Patricia Neal with Cynthia Wold:


  • … with respect for all the voices.
  • …  without fixing, problem-solving, advice-giving.

Speak from Your Own Experience

  • Speak from the “l,”from your own experience.
  • What is on your mind/heart?

Slow Down the Conversation

  • Allow pauses between speakers.

Suspend Certainty

  • Notice your assumptions.
  • Look for the surprises.

Allow Space for Difference

  • Be aware of your judgments.
  • Honor the questions and the inquiry.
  • … and, you can always take back what you said.

The Convening Wheel

The Convening Wheel is a way to visualize the nine aspects of convening which are described in depth in The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations by Craig and Patricia Neal with Cynthia Wold:

  • At the Heart of the Matter. Who I am in relationship with others.
  • Clarifying Intent. The alignment of our intention with the purpose of our engagement.
  • The Invitation. A sincere offering to engage that integrates purpose and intent.
  • Setting Context. Communicating the form, function. and purpose of our engagement and intent.
  • Creating the Container. Creating the physical and energetic field within which we meet.
  • Hearing All the Voices. Each person speaks, is heard. and is present and accounted for.
  • Essential Conversation. Meaningful exchange within an atmosphere of trust.
  • Creation. Something new that emerges from engagements of shared purpose and trust.
  • Commitment to Action. An individual and/or collective agreement to be responsible and accountable for the way forward.


Shape Your Thinking

Brandy Agerbeck, who is an artist, graphic facilitator and author of The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide, shares how to Shape Your Thinking in this visual and inspirational TEDxWindCity talk. Brandy goes through the five powers we hold in our hands to visualize and understand our thinking: Chunk, Sort-Group, Connect, Scale, and Grasp.
Brandy then describes how people with different thinking styles can meet in LIBLABs to create new meanings. By shaping our thinking we become better learners, critical thinkers and decision makers.

When software developers embrace visual facilitation

Øredev is an annual software development conference held in Malmö Sweden. The program staff at Øredev were so excited about visual facilitation that they invited ImageThink be conference speakers and teachers. Here’s the story: ImageThink in Sweden. One of the conference participants thought that ImageThink’s workshop was probably the most useful event at the conference.

Visual facilitation training (continued)

I have had two fantastic days with Fran O’Hara in her Graphic & Visual Facilitation Training at Wallace Space in London. Visual recording is a very effective way of capturing the essence and key messages of a meeting. It became very clear during the training that Fran has many, many years of experience. She has an excellent ability to meet the needs of the course participants. I left the training with new basic skills and a strong motivation to continue practicing. What took me with surprise is how physical the visual recording is. I really enjoyed the contact with the paper and the experimentation with different techniques. The training was a great, positive experience. Thanks!


Visual facilitation

The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide: How to use your listening, thinking and drawing skills to make meaning by Brandy Agerbeck is about serving a group of people by making the conversation visual. This helps the group to become more focused and attentive, which in turn helps the group to create shared meaning and understanding. It’s a great read.

The world will always need people who can see the big picture, who listen, who find patterns & make connections.
– Brandy Agerbeck