If there is a revolving group of strangers who come and go and stand on the side of the room and watch and listen – and chat amongst themselves – it’s a bit unnerving for the participants, who start to feel in a fishbowl and get self-conscious, which effects their ability to express themselves freely. It’s remarkable how our process will help people will begin to trust each other and take intellectual risks. The presence of an observer can thwart that, instantly, unraveling the trust that we’ve spent two days building.
KI’s Sandpits and Ideas Labs are very intense and immersive, bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and disciplines in order to generate ideas for radically novel research proposals. KI has developed a process that helps these extreme ideas emerge, but there’s another very important component to the success of these workshops: the collection of participants in the room. Here’s how we counsel our clients to organize a group for one of these events.
Before you can find out how to make something work, you need to find out what’s in the way, what’s keeping it from working. This exploration can unlock the puzzle of resistance by getting at a root problem, or uncovering an aspect of the problem not thoroughly considered before. This will move your thinking from the problem as presented to the problem as understood.
We have a tool for this, it’s called Webbing.
It‘s usually in a moment of feeling blocked or stalled that there’s a fierce temptation to seize the nearest reasonable solution. This is when we need a tolerance for ambiguity. It means staying in uncertainty, or staying with the question, despite the discomfort of not knowing the answer, or not knowing where we’re headed. It requires relinquishing control – even though a solution isn’t always guaranteed – to make room for new and emerging connections to crystalize into a clear direction.
Graphic recording (also called graphic facilitation) requires a number of talents: artistry, certainly. You have to be able to draw. You also have to be able to listen and synthesize. It’s not far from a simultaneous language translator or sign-language interpreter; you have to be able to listen and translate – in this case from words to images – at the same time.
Workshops can be expensive. You need a budget for hotel and food and the meeting organization. The travel is an additional financial and carbon cost. These days its hard to coordinate people’s calendars so that you can actually get the right people in the room to address the challenge. So as much as we enjoy facilitating workshops and working face-to-face with groups, KI has also been exploring how to take advantage of the virtual capacity that, each year, is more and more realistic and user-friendly.