I think one of the great arts of facilitation is to keep things simple. The pitfall for many facilitators is that they try to embed in their work all the lessons they learn as they go, so that they create more elaborate processes. In theory, these build in useful lessons from the past, but in practice it often results in ways of working that take a long time to explain. The facilitator thus has a big role to play in explaining things, something they may secretly rather like.
I increasingly want to do the opposite. Default to using the simplest methods, involving the least explanation from me, and giving more time and power to the participants. Among the simple things are:
Simple rules to make sure everyone gets a reasonably equal turn
Breaking conversations into smaller groups so everyone gets more air time
Taking longer breaks and using reflective processes so people don’t get tired out
Have people write their thoughts to shared flip charts to help keep a level playing field
I think if you pay attention, participants will then produce provocative, meaningful work, far more easily than if you try too hard to steer them through an elaborate process or with some fancy technology.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning says this:
One of the key tasks of management is to create an organization that stimulates the complexity of those who belong to it.
I believe it’s often very simple interventions that let the group work at its complex best. Over-clever processes often take that creative freedom away.