Facts on fiction

archetypes-velasquez-ninas Wrote a page on facts, fiction and the use of language. http://www.mindatwork.nl/facilitation-guru/facts-or-fiction-yes/

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Introducing facilitation.guru

I have accepted the position of facilitation.guru. Open all our hours for your question on facilitating groups, events and change. I cannot make life easier, but lighter must be attainable. Please visit the page facilitation-guru

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The Legend of Models

Brain as  metaphorDanny Greefhorst asked me, if I knew about the brain dominance model of Nedd Herrmann (HBDI). Off course, since the 90’s. I describe it on page 129 in our (Dutch) book.

I’ve been using 2×2 matrix since 1984, writing my thesis for my MBA. Because a manager, I was told, cannot understand things more complicated then a 2×2 matrix. From Kolb’s learning styles, through Herrmann I arrived at McWhinney, “Creating Paths of Change“. He presents his fourfold model based basis on his studies of change processes. I assume, that a archetypal or generic double division created the structure of our universe. All models (except in fashion) are basically fourfold. With three, there usually is a back ground. Five contains the “quintessence”, the combination of four.

I recognize the criticism on the model ( http://skepsis.nl/hbdi/ ). It holds for every model of the human mind, psyche or learning, like MBTI, Management Drivers, Insights … etc. (Not the enneagram, I consider that a true hoax). Coffield e.a. has investigated over 100 models (in 13 groups) including HBDI (p 103). De validity / predictability of models about human behavior is never more then 70%. Which sounds reasonable to me.

Carl Jung stresses that each and every model of the psyche, mind, soul or human behavior, including his, is a product of the human psyche. And that this psyche is self-aware. So its models elements from that mind, its inventor. This is also true for the models in physics, but these do not “recognize” their inventor – as we do, in our Nobel prizes.

I fancy radical constructivism : we invent models, we do not discover them. Discovery implies that there exists a psychological world outside our mind, without the existence of our own mind. However, we’ve invented our models, because they work for us. That’s why “werkelijkheid is wat werkt”, “reality is what works”.

As human being have a fundamental need to deal with the uncertain parts of reality, we tend to try to control them. Perhaps it is also an aspect of the fact, that we do not know how we invent our models. This region is fundamentally inaccessible (or at, least, when not meditating). In the old days, we would call on our gods, now we rely on our models (now including fashion models, :-)). In the gods, we express our psychological aspects. We tend to ignore these in our models. The “science” of economics is a nice example, how we deal with “not-working” models: the (unexplainable) facts are ignored or the models get more complicated. No model will ever explain human behavior. And the universe itself doesn’t care. As did our god or gods.

Herrmann presents his model as a metaphor. That’s why he uses letters A,B,C en D. All models are metaphors, images, idols.. . What I re-present is a a metamodel, a “legend” (also a true “legend“): how I read a model. And it is fractal: within every quadrant there exists a fourfold model.

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Meta-practice makes perfect

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. – A. Einstein.

In most cases, a difference between theory and practice is being ignored. Sometimes the facts are blamed. “We need more research”. Or we could revise the theory and run into another Einstein quote:

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius (and a lot of courage) to move in the opposite direction.

In facilitation we do have theories. They are also called methods or techniques. They lead to results. In practice, however, an actual situation may require another theory-in-use. As we do not seem to reach the intended result. You may blame it on resistance, unwillingness, defensive routines, whatever. You may try to apply more energy, more of the same. Won’t work.

We need a practice and to practice the practice. A community of practice on facilitation makes perfect sense.

In communicating about this, I call this a meta-praxis. The “meta-practice” I espouse, looks like a theory, feels like a theory, but isn’t a theory. It is about being aware of your practice while practicing. Facilitate yourself, while facilitating. How does this work? Only in practice!

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The meaning of facilitation – and it definition

Cover book Conversations on FacilitationIn my opinion, there is no definitive definition of facilitation. Its definition depends on context: situation, group and requirements. This is true for every concept, but because facilitation is about the creation of meaning – once you know the meaning of you situation, you can decide to act (or not) -, it is double so. On the other hand, here is what I’ve written in our book:

Facilitation Processes or skills by which a (independent outside) party supports → meeting(s) of participants to move toward improvement or resolution of a → problem. Usually more than two parties are involved.
Facilitation can operate at many levels, from providing → meeting space to active intervention as a → mediator, → moderator, → chair, → coach, counselor, → MC, manager, teacher or → trainer.
Supporting parties to set ground rules and designing agendas for meetings, promoting better communication between parties, and analysis of the situation and possible outcomes—in general, helping the participants keep on track and working toward their mutual goals. It may also mean helping them set those goals.
It is procedural assistance provided to enable → participants to → communicate more effectively and move towards agreement.

If you want to know more, please buy our book or download the Glossary of terms on facilitation.

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Relating relationships

Nicholas C. Westbury posted a question in Systems Thinking Network. What is your perspective on ‘relationships’ ?

As a facilitative facilitator, I was drawn to this question. Here is my reply (with some comments between { [and even highlights] }):

300px-DrawingHandsAre you familiar with the drawing by Escher of the hands drawing each other?

{Of course, the picture illustrates a paradox, an illusion. These are not “drawing hands”, but a picture of “drawing hands”. And hands cannot draw each other. Or do they? Furthermore it is a picture within a picture.}

That’s my perspective on relationships: I’m in the process of both drawing something which is drawing me. When I/you relate to something, I/you create (“shape”, or ship) in the same movement, a relationship with my/yourself. So I’m also “drawn” and “drawing” and “being drawn” in the process of drawing. And in doing so, there emerges a (fourth) “thing” I can call “meaning”. In Dutch, the word “drawing” (tekenen) is the same word as “meaning” (betekenis).

{You see [ (:-) ] , I’m drawing – with words – a picture here of both “I” and “U”. Of course, it is a picture of “U” and not you (dear reader). Yet, as you’re reading this – you are relating, creating relationships – you create a picture of “U 2”, and “I” and “U and I”. So you’re both hands too. For practical purposes, we’re not aware of this double interact – off course.

Yet, this “unawareness” is – in my opinion – the source of our (systemic) problems. For instance, the situation with the refugees at the “border” of U-rope has its roots in our “unawareness” of the fact [a word that also means “to create”] that I (relate to) am drawing U and U are drawing (relate to) I. “there are no others, only human beings“. Drawings within drawings, pictures within pictures.}

Meaning, in my opinion, is an emergent quality of relationships. Or, to put it differently, what is being created (“shaped”) emerges from the relationship it-self. So a relationship is also self-referring. Please note the use of “to make” (the Latin facere) and again (“re”) {yes, fact again}. Relationships also recreate “me” {or should this have been “I”?}. We have been trained to ignore, that every relation contains a creator. And this “creator” has to be both “U” and “universal”.

{so from this, it is easy to see how a universal creating [a being I can call creator or g’d or the great drawing drawer [yes, Spinoza’s God. As this being coincides with the meaning and therefor the meaning of life, it explains why it has been written “in the beginning there was logos” (words)”]} is being (re)created from every relationship AND that this creating creates both “I” and “U”. There exists nothing outside creative relationships [facilitating facilitators, pun intended]. I’ve also hinted at a fact [created by me and “I”], that this universe should always be fourfold and that the fourth element – meaning, or fire – cannot exist without the other three [“I”,”U” and US (U and I)], both destroying and recreating “this” full stop.}

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Meta-meeting, being in a meeting implies having a meeting.

cartoon figure of speachCommenting on a Pulse by Ruben van der Laan, it occurred to me, there is a distinction between being in a meeting and having a meeting. In every meeting you attend, you’re having both: you’re having a meeting and are in a meeting. The distinction is subtle and the enigmatic part of “a successful meeting”. It requires a participant (sic) to move between one “part” (having) to another “part” (being). Becoming a facilitator.

People both meet to make sense of their situation and to make sense of the meeting. As a meeting is “a situation” also, the latter classifies the first. You could call the sense making part the “content” (what and how?) and the meeting making part (who and why?) the process. You cannot resolve – to quote Einstein – a problem on the process level through the content. Nor vice versa. A meeting is therefore also a meta-meeting (a meeting about meeting). The latter part often goes unnoticed, AND is the source of difficulties in having a successful meeting. As you do not notice this source, you’re bound to try to “improve” meetings through the what and how, the content. For instance by SMART-goals and better agreements. And reinforcing the stale-mate.

So every meeting also constitutes a pragmatic paradox: there is a social difference between “who is having the meeting”, owning, chairing and “who is in the meeting”, attending, sharing (pun intended). At some point of time, the content part can only be “solved” through the process part. The process part of the meeting (context) becomes the content of the meeting (text). The chair might not notice this and continues pushing the content. Then participants can only “solve” their situation by resisting (escalating), “leaving” the meeting mentally (stagnating) or both. The body is there, but the mind has gone or You check out any time you want, but never leave.

Facilitators have developed a kind of sixth sense to move through these two interlocked parts. They – we – operate at the limes, the border, the edge, moving seamlessness between content and process, to balance between stagnation (“converging”) and escalation (“diverging”), translating the literal into the figures of speak and the figurative into text.

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Complex adapts to complexity

This is part of discussion in Linked-In group Systems Thinking about the definition of complexity

sjabloonfilterComplex as a response to complexity

Over a year ago, I was in a session with a very good friend of my, who introduced us to “Complex Adaptive Systems”. The session ended in total confusion, you might well say: it had become “complex”. I suddenly realized that the psychologist Carl Jung uses the term “complex” for the compensatory mechanism in the human psyche or soul. The complex arises from our need to adapt to our “context” (we generally use the term “environment”, but you could also call it “family”) So “complex” is the manifestation of a “complex adaptive system”: complex is recursive and as such, just another word for “system”, something we also find hard to define.

Another aspect is our tendency to try to get a grip on our context, environment, situation. We have a need to survive and have developed this idea of having to be “in control”. And when we’re not in control, there should be something that “is”. In my opinion, this is a condition for tool making. In order to make and to use a tool, you must control the tool. If you do not control the hammer, or a broom ….

So tool making – as a way to adapt to our environment – lead to the belief (or assumption) that either we should be in control or we’re being controlled. In my opinion, it is both, but not at the same time (i.e. a paradox). You make the choice yourself, but have to stay responsible for the consequences of you choices. A bit like the sorcerer apprentice: when you let the broom fill the well, you cannot fall asleep.

Tool as language as tool as …

Language – according to Rik Smits, Hoe Taal de Mens maakt, – is a by-product of tool making. I agree with him, the signs of this are all over in our language. Language is a meta-tool: you need to have a concept of a hammer to invent a hammer. Use of “invent” intentionally, as I adhere to the notion of an “invented reality”. When we invented hammer, we also invented a (new) reality, a.k.a. environment or “complex”. Recursion again.

But it gets worse (more complex): as language is also a tool: we want to use it “to get a grip” on its meaning, its use and the definition of terms. We are lead to believe, that when we have the correct definition, we know how to use the tool. It is a bit like Alice in the Forest of “no names”: when the deer doesn’t know your name, it cannot be afraid of a human being.

However, when we define a word, we also make choices and what we didn’t choose hasn’t gone away. So when we choose “hammer” for a hammer, we’re also stuck with “not a hammer”. We use our ability to choose “not a hammer”, when we use a shoe or a screw driver to hammer a nail. My mother would say: “that’s not a hammer”. In making the choice, “not a hammer” has become part of “complex”. In order to adapt, we create a “complex adaptive system”.

To add insult to injury (that’s what happens, when you use hammers in philosophy 🙂 ): “… referring to something being non-integrable” (note: quoting from the discussion) IS the very essence of complexity. You cannot control “complex” by defining it; you cannot control complex by definition.

Pay attention please
Here is my most quoted quote from Alice:

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

…. and ….

‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

So just pay extra (with attention), when a word like “complex” is being coined (!). There probably is a hidden meaning about the context, or somebody is playing hide-and-seek.

Dealing with complexity yourself

The real problem is the conception of reality inside our selves: we’re in the business of inventing reality. This, I’m a bit like “nobody expects Spanish Inquisition”, and realizing that shared understanding is the result of working together and not a kind of precondition (again, I’m referring to the discussion: https://www.linkedin.com/grp/post/2639211-6035041153236160516 ).

At the moment, I’m developing the idea of the Lelie cycle, as a compensatory mechanism for the Deming cycle. The rational approach to complexity is PDCA, Plan –> Do –> Check –> Act –> …; the irrational approach works like this ACDP:

Act: do something, based on instinct, intuition or feeling ->
Check: check yourself: is this what I really want? Is this bringing us closer to what we intuited or felt or need? –>
Do: go on, or change and do something else (–> Act) —>
Plan: write a plan, create a history, tell others —->

I developed this approach and a friend and colleague pointed out, that this is how the cynefin (which means “Heimat” or “home-as-in-upbringing”) model approaches complexity: just “probe” (in Dutch, the word “proberen” means “to try out”).

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Techniques for engagement

On Linked-In Meeting Architects, I replied to a question on “What techniques do you use to boost participant engagement?”

Achieving results by using the diversity of the group.

Achieving results by using the diversity of the group.

This is NOT a technical issue, it is relational. Engagement is a paradox too: most participants feel a reluctance to participate.
Engaging is about

  • disclosure – What do you want to share about yourself? What do the others share?
  • trust – How safe is it to share? What does the other really share?
  • intimacy – How meaningful will this relationship be? Will the other be honest to me?
  • regression – How I feel overwhelmed and small by the group.

(See Smith and Berg, Paradoxes of Group Life for more)

Need to participate
Participants “want” to contribute, to play (= regress) and at the same time need to know what they’ll get for. They want to speak out AND want to be heard. So, they (all) wait for each other, concluding – as a self-fulfilling prophecy – better not engage truly. They’ll “go through the motions”, but in the end, everybody will feel dissatisfied AND will not admit it (disclosure, remember). The facilitator will be blamed.

Energy boost?
In most cases, as a chair person or facilitator, we tend to put more energy into the meeting: “boosting participation”, creating an event, presenting things more clearly, using pictures, charts and video’s. Its not wrong, but it may back fire. People may become even more overpowered (more regressed: as a child listening to parents). They’ll feel less intimacy, because of the light, the pictures and the sounds. They’ll have more distrust, because, why do you need so much power? What is NOT being said and they’ll feel less heard themselves. Finally, almost every time, the obvious will be communicated, the clear, what must or shall be done. There’ll be no space for doubts, insecurities, real feelings. It will seem to be engaging, but in the end, nothing will change, no “happening”.

Free to participate
First of all, I assume that everybody wants to engage, and has to become engaged out of their own. As a host or facilitator, I’m not an entertainer, wanting you to be engage. And if you do not want to be engaged: fine with me. I value your presence. The fact that you honor us with your presence, energy, attention and time, is good enough. So, I do you use the techniques – ice breaker, splitting up as soon as possible, polling and presenting (and some more) -, and at the same time with the intentions to stimulate what the participant needs: trusting the situation to be safe enough to regress, share, feel close together.

Show it; fake it, if you must
The best way to this, in my opinion, is to show this behavior yourself, preferably together with your client. You share your own feelings and thoughts, are not afraid to make errors or mistakes, talk about your doubts and insecurities.For instance, play on stage, have an interview, let the participants ask questions. Then you spit them up in mixed groups, let them talk about what they’ve just experienced, have them create how they “see” the problem. Then – after a break – let them build their solution(s), share and formulate actions they themselves can do.

Most client try to shift the burden of engagement to the event organizer. I don’t fall into that trap: the client remains responsible for the engagement of the participants. We’re there to support.

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Surely, a certificate is not a paradox

Faciliteren van dialoog

Faciliteren van dialoog

I’m a bit old-skool. I do think certification is important, for every profession. I took a certification for myself and my Community of Practitioners, the IAF. It is a kind of peer review. There are no objective standards, although I know we try as best as we can.

More and more certification is being used as a marketing tool. A certificate is something which makes us stand out in the crowd. It tends to become a kind of insurance policy for clients, (human resource) managers and (lazy) buyers. A certificate is being asked for each and every action. It makes sense in the aviation and safety industry, but not in our profession. But, in the foreseeable future, there’ll be barrage of certificates (also on facilitation), creating a kind of inflation of certificates. And then there’ll be a super certification process. In essence, it will mean that you’ve paid your dues.

I would recommend a very big disclaimer:
Although we take great care in establishing a sound and reliable certification program, it does not warrant that our certification process certifies a candidate’s facilitative competence or abilities in any specific circumstances. The certificate is not intended as a means of selection between parties offering facilitation services and should not be used as an alternative for an interview.

Paradox of Authority
And, off course, it is a paradox, the paradox of Authority. Authority is a derivative of an authorizing process. The problem in our case – facilitators – being, that authority is closely linked to empowerment. Facilitation is about self-empowerment, being able to act autonomously. For instance, can we still claim to be independent as a facilitator while we’ve been certified as a CPF, binding us to a code of ethics? I have said earlier, that facilitation is a kind of Milgram experiment.

The question becomes: “who certifies the certification and its assessors?”. It will come as no surprise, that they’re self-assessed, creating a strange loop, or infinite regress, the hall-mark of a paradox.

Resistance in hiring a CPF facilitator
This – in my view – is also the biggest resistance against hiring a facilitators, as it does seem to imply that a group (and perhaps mostly it management) feels inadequately empowered to solve its own problems. It is always painful to have to ask for guidance, support or help. When your facilitator comes with a lot of certificates, it may be depressing for you. our kind client.

Again, I’m not against CPF or any certification, there is only a caveat emptor (buyer be aware).

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