Can you make it more playful and more serious?

picture by Donald Zolan (and, by the way, not my child) http://abstract.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/430791/

picture by Donald Zolan (and, by the way, not my child) http://abstract.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/430791/

What? Everything.

Keith McCandles of Liberating Structures asked me this question when I shared my instructions for the use of network pattern cards with him. He proposed to make it more serious by inviting a group to explore a shared problem and to make it more playful by asking: “What is the pattern you would need to choose if you really wanted to mess this up?” And only after that the group would pick the pattern they think will make them succeed. This follows the idea of the liberating structure TRIZ.

His question stuck with me – way beyond the concrete discussion of how to facilitate a group experience. Now it has a place of honor on a post-it on my office wall: “Can I make it more playful and more serious?” How would my life and work be, if I made it more playful and serious.

When I am with my kids, could I have more playful openness and laugh more about things that just aren’t that important AND have the mindful focus of someone who knows that this is serious, that these few years of closeness run by quicker than you think and that every moment matters.

At my work, what would happen if I played and improvised more freely, inviting myself, my colleagues, our clients to use play for experiencing the changes we aim for in an nonthreatening environment – it’s only play after all. And what if at the same time I was much more serious about my aspiration, much braver about naming and claiming the changes I really care about, allowing myself to really care about them?

What are the things in your life that could be transformed by being more playful and more serious? Are you taking steps in that direction already?

Facilitate! Don’t be a Clever-Bully

Clever-Bully (picture by Diamond Select Toys)

I’ve been teaching Net-Map a lot, lately. And while my participants probably think it is most difficult to find the right Net-Map question or define good links (and yes, those are challenges), what is most difficult to do and most difficult (impossible?) to teach, is to facilitate a Net-Map session well.

So many things can happen in the group that maps, they can misunderstand instructions, get stuck in analysis paralysis, launch into conflict and, oh yes, they can get it all wrong! Or can they? Well, maybe… or maybe you are just being a clever-bully instead of being a facilitator.

What is a clever-bully? Someone who does not help the group to develop their own insights, think things through in their own minds, walk their own winding path to deeper insights but is so impressed by his or her own quick and impressive assessment of the situation that they have to tell the group the “solution” before the group even had the time to think. To be a really good (i.e. obnoxious) clever-bully you have to be so stubbornly sure of your storyline that you try to convince your group of your logic, even if they disagree. Remember, they don’t disagree with you because they maybe know their own story better than you do or they have a different perspective than you. They disagree either to be difficult or because they just don’t get it. So you have to push harder against the difficult ones and explain in more detail for the slow ones. Because what is the value of groups doing their own thinking if the solution you can present is so much better than what they ever could come up with?

How come I know so well what the clever-bully thinks? Maybe because I have one sitting in my head too. And I have to sometimes hold him back, take a deep breath, keep my mouth shut and remind myself that I know nothing about other people’s problems and that watching someone swim has never saved anyone from drowning…