Noticing more


One of our go-to principles for facilitation is to Notice More.

Organisations are so anxious to make change, often under the motto of "doing more with less". This often puts them in a permanent state of anxiety: pushing people to change whilst experiencing rising levels of stress and fatigue. They are so busy trying to solve problems, they end up solving the wrong problem. (As discussed in our March newsletter)

We enjoyed this excellent summary by Blinkist of Steven Johnson's book, Where Good Ideas Come From. Much of it focuses on the "adjacent possible": new ideas are closer than we think, and often emerge slowly in response to hunches rather than as a result of intense "problem solving": "Both evolution and innovation tend to happen within the bounds of the adjacent possible, in other words the realm of possibilities available at any given moment." If we obsess with the future, we may miss something happening right now that may actually create it.

Dan Pallotta makes a similar point in his article See things as they are, then change them: "It is a testament to our capacity for unconsciousness that we hefted luggage around airports for decades before anyone thought to put wheels on the suitcases. We literally couldn’t see that they didn’t have them…You have to ponder the reality of a thing before you can ponder a new vision for that thing. Before it can occur to you that there could be two different flush volumes for a toilet it has to occur to you that there is presently only one… No presence in the moment no innovation. No now, no new."

We experience this constantly in our work as facilitators and build exercises to increase noticing in our training workshops. We often find that tiny tweaks - a shift of posture, a rewording of a question - can have dramatic effects on how groups work. Often when we are tempted to make a big intervention, we find it much more effective to make a very small observation - such as "I notice you are frowning" and then find the participants themselves have something really interesting to say. A lot of the skill of  facilitation is in holding silences and waiting. The group knows we are present but by noticing more and doing less, we leave more space for something really interesting to happen.

Johnnie wrote on his blog that there may not be such a thing as everlasting love. In reality, love is made up of tiny moments of engagement. By being sensitive to detail, we create more resonance. In quieter, less hurried processes, when we are really listening, a different kind of connection becomes possible.

(Photo by Kyle Popineau on Unsplash)