Designing facilitation — what’s your other potential?
A couple of days in sunny Copenhagen on a facilitation course with The Other Potential got me thinking… what do I really mean by reaching my full potential? And then another question came my way… what might be my other potential?
To me, facilitation is a great tool to help people get the best out of themselves and each other; in either the capacity of being facilitated or through doing facilitation.
So what is facilitation?
The term facilitation means literally ‘the action of facilitating something’ — nice one dictionary. But I think the physiological definition (above) sums it up pretty well to me. I believe a facilitator stimulates individuals to think, do, reflect and change through learning and understanding.
And why is facilitating humans to think, do, reflect and change a good idea?
It’s people that make a group
It’s people that create things
It’s people in a company that run a business
It’s people that matter
Put humans first, help them learn and grow. They are the glue to building better and smarter teams and building stronger organisations.
We’ve started to understand that today we are working in a world where workers are individualists, and more and more people expect to be their own leaders. We’re moving from a mechanical approach of commanding and controlling people, to a place of liberation and experimentation. And with this comes more emphasis on designing culture and understanding people.
To facilitate a session effectively, we need to understand context, competencies, and methods.
The role of facilitation is to make an action or process easier. Similar to how I see the role of a designer, it is our job to make a very complex set of methodologies and principles simple and seamless for everyone else.
Whilst the designer understands and interjects insight and content, the facilitator interweaves the process to keep direction and momentum going.
When I was in Brazil a few years ago I decided to push some personal boundaries and paraglide of the hillside in Rio. I did it as tandem with an instructor/facilitator, who knew more about the methodologies and process for us to achieve a good result. Before jumping off the very tall cliff, the facilitator turned to me and said “run as fast as you can off the side, if you don’t we’re going down…” Not exactly what I expected but it was what I needed to hear… I trusted his process and understanding. What I learned from that experience (well really the moment after it when I was flying through the air full of adrenaline and a simultaneous zen-like state) was to trust the process.
Designing the process for a facilitation session needs to include planning around the objective and goal, the program and activities, the method for the group, roles and space design. Create frameworks to make sure there is balance between people, process and product. One framework might look like this (below) with scales to suits — for example would you like the energy to be safe or challenging.
Key things to think about when planning sessions are: the purpose of the session, the amount of information needed to connect people and track group progress, understanding energy levels and actions, and the operations of individuals and groups working together.
Facilitation has a lot of complexities - design, psychology, methodologies and understanding behind the scenes. In my opinion a good facilitator is often like an invisible hand, guiding the group or individual without strangling them. There are a lot of plates to spin, with facilitation it’s important to keep all the plates spinning together and hope that no-one falls and cracks!
So what was my other potential? Was there something that I’ve not ever considered? Is there something I could be doing? How do I seek out these things? I’m not sure I’ll ever stop learning what other possible potential I may have, I don’t think I want to either.
In the words of the wonderful Alan Rickman, “I suppose with any good writing and interesting characters, you can have that awfully overused word: a journey.” And yes, we’re all on one…
(illustrations by the wonderful Rita Cervetto based on reference by The Other Potential)