Summer Residential Intensive Masters Program
Dr. Wendy L. Schultz
Infinite Futures

intro/overview | creativity | facilitation
scenario identification and analysis |
scenario building
visions and visioning
strategic planning and change management
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COURSE MODULE: facilitation :-) ;-) :-/ :-0 :-) ;-) :-/ :-0 :-) ;-) :-/ :-0 :-) ;-) :-/ :-0 Survival Guide
5 June
Facilitating group communication and creativity.
Discussion: what hampers communication and idea-sharing in groups?
Exercises: Nominal group brainstorming, OARRs.
Read: Ringland, 1-110, Pt. IV; Brin; LeGuin; Michael.
On-line resources:
Interaction Associates, "Daily Tips"
Grove Consultants, "Team Performance Model"
Harrison Owen, "Brief Guide to Open Space"

Module resources:
  • Bernhardt, "Brief Guide to Six Thinking Hats"
  • Wilkerson, "Six Thinking Hats for Futurists"

  • Survival Guide to Group Process Facilitation

    The great basic primer on group process facilitation:

    [These notes courtesy of Stuart Forsyth, unless otherwise noted.]
    • Doyle & Strauss, How to Make Meetings Work
    • Groundwork --
      • Find a good location
      • Arrange it
      • Everyone around a U so they can see each others' faces
      • Open portion of U facing the wall notes
      • Figure out the clear and specific purpose
      • Get the relevant information
      • Send it out in advance
      • Only invite those necessary
      • Post the schedule
      • Timekeeper
    • Deal immediately with --
      • Why am I here?
      • Why are all the rest of the people here?
      • What are we doing here?
        [orientation: first step suggested by
        Grove Consultants, headed by David Sibbet (used to be called "Graphic Guides"), first step of a seven step dynamic common to all human process, which Sibbet adapted from Arthur M. Young]
      • Doyle and Straus and Sibbet both suggest you:
        • mail the agenda in advance AND post it clearly in the meeting where every participant can see it;
        • begin the meeting with introductions and an explicit statement of the roles for everyone involved (who called the meeting, who is facilitating, who is recording, how results will be disseminated and by whom, who the participants are and why they were invited;
        • allow the participants to express their expectations of the meeting and, if necessary, adjust the agenda accordingly;
        • clarify and POST the groundrules for the meeting process.
      • Go around the room
      • Introduce yourself
      • Say what you think you are going to get out of this meeting
      • Outcomes
      • Expectations
      • Make things as explicit and obvious as possible
      • Be creative
      • Process
      • Outcomes and expectations (from each participant)
      • Agenda (vetted and revised, if necessary)
      • Roles
      • Contribute ideas
      • Contribute information
      • Make presentations
      • Rules (established by the group)
    • Approach very flexible, dynamic; antithesis of Roberts' Rules of Order:
      • Very hierarchical
      • Very structured
      • Not easy to brainstorm in such a meeting


    Nominal Group Technique*

    Objectives of Nominal Group Technique [NGT]:
    • To ensure different processees for each phase of examining and solving a problem;
    • To balance participation among members; and
    • To incorporate mathematical voting techniques into the aggregation of group judgment.

      Advantages of the NGT Method:

    • Unique group processes are used for the separate phases of a) independent idea generation; b) structured feedback; and c) independent mathematical judgment;
    • Increased attention is given to each idea; and
    • Each individual has greater opportunity to ensure that his or her idea is part of the group's frame of reference.

      Two flip charts;
      Marker pens -- for recording items on the charts;
      Masking tape -- for hanging flip charts on walls;
      Pads and pencils for participants; and
      3" x 5" cards for participants.

      Welcoming Remarks

    • Extend a cordial and warm welcome;
    • Give the group a sense of the importance of its task;
    • Clarify the importance of each member's contribution; and
    • Explain the use or purpose of the meeting's output.


      Step 1. Presenting the Question and Silently Generating Ideas in Writing

    • Present the question to the group in written or verbal form;
    • If presented in written form, read the question aloud;
    • Ask the group to write three to five ideas, in brief phrases or statements, that respond to the question; and
    • Ask the group to do this work silently and independently.

      Step 2. Round-Robin Recording of Ideas

    • Begin with one person in the group and ask for one of his or her responses;
    • Write that response verbatim on the flip chart;
    • Ask a second person for an idea, and write that on the chart;
    • Continue around the group until each person has given one response [taping pages of flip charts on the wall as needed]; and
    • After completing the first round, begin a second and continue the process until all ideas are recorded.
    • Important: Do not allow discussion of ideas at this step. As the leader, do not remark on the worth of ideas.

      Step 3. Serial Discussion for Clarification and Merging.
      Serial discussion means taking each idea listed on the chart, in order, and allowing a short period of time to discuss it.

    • Point to item one, read it aloud, and ask if there are any questions about the idea; for statements of clarification; for statements of agreement or disagreement; and for further discussion of the ideas;
    • Do the same for all other ideas, in the order they were suggested. Important: Do not allow an inordinate focus on any one idea. Do not allow discussion to become argumentative.
    • As each item is reviewed, ask if any of the previously reviewed items are the same as the one currently being examined. If they are the same, link them together and consider them as one combined item.

      Step 4. Preliminary Vote on Item Importance
      The purpose of this step is to aggregate the judgments of individual members in order to determine the relative importance of individual items. Ask group members to select from the list of ideas the five priority items each thinks are the most important. You then have two options:
      Option One: [standard process]

    • Have group members place each of the five priority items on a separate 3" x 5" card, using the number of the item(s) recorded;
    • Have the group members rank order the cards, numbering them from "1" to "5" with "1" being the highest priority;
    • Collect the cards and shuffle them; and
    • Record the votes on the flip chart.
      Option Two: [abbreviated process]
    • Have group members record the numbers of their five priority items;
    • Through a show of hands, record the number of people who selected each item by asking, "How many selected item 1? Item 2? Item 3? (etc.)";
    • Tally the votes for each item; and
    • Review those five items that received the most votes.

      Step 5. Discussion of the Preliminary Vote (not used in the abbreviated process)
      The purpose of this step is to provide an opportunity to discuss again those items which are perceived as receiving too many or too few votes.

    • Explain that the purpose of this discussion is to clarify, not to apply social pressure;
    • Discuss the items serially; and
    • Keep discussion focussed and brief.

      Step 6. Final Vote (repeat Step 4)

      *Source: United Way of America, Environmental Analysis, Guideline Booklet No. 2, in Strategic Management and the United Way -- A Guideline Series, Appendix 2. Strategic Planning Division, 701 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria VA 22314-2045, USA.

    [notes from Stuart Forsyth, continued:]

    DeBono, Six Thinking Hats [see handout]

    • White hat
      • Neutral and objective
      • "Just the facts, Ma'am"
      • Facts and figures
      • Generally creates action items
      • Keeps people honest re the data they use to back up arguments
      • What information do we need?
    • Red hat
      • Emotions and feelings
      • Never justify the feelings
      • Two types of feelings
      • Ordinary emotions
      • Gut feelings
      • It is valid to have an emotional response
      • Keep it very short
      • Quick, gut reaction
      • Do not say why! Feelings are entirely subjective, cannot be explained rationally, and SHOULD not be.
    • Black hat
      • Critical evaluation
      • Negative assessment
      • Not argumentative
      • Objective negativity
      • Judge the idea against the past or the future
      • Points out weaknesses
    • Yellow hat
      • Speculative-positive
      • Positive assessment
      • Positive spectrum from logical & practical to dreams, visions & hopes
      • Constructive and generative
      • Synthesizes ideas
    • Green hat [classic brainstorming]
      • Creative-lateral thinking
      • Search for alternatives
      • New ideas
      • Movement forward instead of judgment
    • Blue hat
      • Control of thinking
      • Focus (of all thinking)
      • Control and monitor
      • Program design
      • Summaries and conclusions
      • Sensitive to the process
      • Facilitator's hat
      • Make communication as clear and explicit as possible

    • The difference between a regular facilitator and a futures facilitator:
    • Futurists
    • Have to do more training;
    • Have to teach people how to think about the future; must often offer examples
    • Facilitators more focussed on staying neutral, less likely to offer examples
    • In either role, don't judge;
    • Create an atmosphere of trust;
    • Use deBono's rules of six hat thinking and communication;
    • THEN apply his provocations for creativity:
    • Challenge
      • Ask "Why?"
      • Question everything
    • Exaggeration
      • Taking something to its most absurd
      • Ask "What if?"
    • Distortion
      • Take the familiar and render it unfamiliar
      • Put something in another context or to a different use
    • Reversal
      • Reverse assumptions
      • Reverse a situation
      • State it as its logical opposite
    • Wishful thinking
      • Daydreaming
      • Visioning
      • Ask "What do you want?"
    • DeBono's views on creativity -- "lateral thinking" -- and what constrains it:
      • We tend to want to reduce chaos in our life
      • We build boxes of categories in our mind
      • We try to force new information into existing boxes
      • Synthesize
      • See the world from a different perspective
      • DeBono's "po"
      • Something outrageous is about to happen here
      • Enact a creative function in this space
      • "orchid" po "chorale" results in
      • A flower that sings
      • Think of as many outcomes as you can that combine these two concepts

    Pretend that we are GM:
    Car (personal transport device) po kangaroo / butterfly / squid / gazelle


  • Michael, Donald N., The Futurist Tells Stories
  • Le Guin, Ursula K., The Language of the Night
  • Brin, David, "Afterword" from Earth
  • Parnes, Sidney, J., ed., Source Book For Creative Problem-Solving: A Fifty Year Digest of Proven Innovation Processes