How can facilitation help leaders, change-makers and organisations unlock the power of collaboration and collective intelligence within groups and teams?
A Co-operative World
Most people, if they’re sincere, would want to live in a co-operative and sustainable world. So why is it that the predominant state of the world, at the moment, is the exact opposite: competitive and unsustainable? I’m not here to focus on how things aren’t working and to try to fix it. Most of us reading this have already been exposed to enough dysfunction in the world to the point where we’ve had to step back and say “wait a second, this can’t be it; I wasn’t born to strive, compete and suffer through the achievement of one meaningless ambition after another.” There’s probably a billion and one reasons why we got here, and frankly, I don’t have enough brain cells in me to comprehend them all. However, I do know that there’s got to be another way. In 2017 I was lucky enough to come across Zenergy and whole-person facilitation which, as I discovered, offers us another way.
So how do we live in a co-operative and sustainable way? This question is what led me to spend 5 days in Marrakesh with a diverse group of creative and brilliant people from around the world. Living together in an amazing location on the edge of a desert, we spent large parts of the day grappling with ideas around collaboration, synergy and collective intelligence. We explored these topics not only intellectually, but through hands-on experience, trial and error, real-time coaching and multiple feedback sessions. We demonstrated that it’s not only possible to work cooperatively and in a sustainable way, but we also generated the required conditions that enabled us to do so. In other words, we answered the question by living it.
Generating Collective Intelligence
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ― Rumi
Building on the foundation of Zenergy Stage 1: Discovering Collective Intelligence we took our facilitation skills to a deeper level by exploring 12 key distinctions of facilitation. These distinctions are specific aspects or facets of facilitation that allow the group to function at its optimal potential when they are present and available to the group. When one or more of the distinctions are missing what manifests is some form of incongruity or friction. The group may become stuck, caught in a loop, unable to reach consensus, lack synergy or diverge from its full potential. Over the course of Stage 2, we learned how to demonstrate the distinctions to others, recognise when a particular distinction is missing and to generate the necessary distinction so that the group ‘gets unstuck’ and moves forward to achieve its purpose.
As facilitators, when we can fully understand and work effectively with these distinctions we generate collective intelligence: a state of group flow where unity and synergy emerge and potential is amplified. Here we’re able to draw upon a field of intelligence that is greater than each individual’s contribution. In this space, we can easily identify creative solutions to key problems and operate from a place of vision, excellence and empathy.
Recognising the Distinctions
The distinctions we explored throughout the training included: purpose and culture; safety and trust; being with and intimacy; powerful listening and speaking; intentionality; power-with; fearlessness and ruthless compassion; emotional competence; intuition; completion; affirmation and celebration; authentic community.
The 12 distinctions above constitute a map or a series of guides in the approach to successful whole-person facilitation. This is a key contribution to the art of facilitation by Dale Hunter, Anne Baily and Bill Taylor authors of The Essence of Facilitation which was the primary text for this program. It may be pertinent to note here that distinctions occur in a context: That is to say, we may notice something missing in the context of our given purpose. If I am cooking bread I will notice that flour is missing. If you are a musician you can distinguish ‘being in tune’ as missing. If you are a runner you can distinguish ‘dehydration’. Distinguishing is a useful way of working in any sphere. In the context of facilitation, the 12 key distinctions offer an essential structure from which we can fulfil our purpose as facilitators.
Once we became familiar with each distinction through the readings and experientially in our sessions we learned to develop an appreciation for the questions “What’s missing right now in the group?” And, “How do I generate what’s missing to keep the group moving forward to achieve its purpose and a great result?”
The Whole Person Approach to Holistic Facilitation
“The entire universe must, on a very accurate level, be regarded as a single indivisible unit in which separate parts appear as idealisations permissible only on a classical level of accuracy of description.” – David Bohm
It’s probably a good place to clarify what is meant by whole-person facilitation and the holistic model that Zenergy provides which differentiates this training from most other facilitation programs.
The Essence of Facilitation (1999) outlines that the holistic approach is applied to facilitation through recognising that the whole cannot be separated from the parts. Distinguishing works by separating something from the whole temporarily. Eventually, it will fall back naturally into the whole. To illustrate how this works, let’s consider a group that is unfocused and cannot come to an agreement on anything. This could possibly be as the result of all 12 of the distinctions missing, however, even if only one of the distinctions are missing, such as Intentionality, Purpose and Culture, or Powerful Listening and Speaking, the exact same outcome might ensue where the group is bogged down and can’t reach consensus. This goes to show that each particular distinction is as important to the whole as all of the distinctions together. The skill of the facilitator lies in identifying which distinction is missing at a given time and to generate it as needed in the moment.
Furthermore, the distinctions are intricately related to each other in that we can’t have one missing without affecting the other distinctions. For instance, it will be impossible to generate Safety and Trust in a group that is missing Emotional Competence. Generating intentionality, for example, relies on there being some degree of Fearlessness and Powerful Listening and Speaking. We begin to see how all of the distinctions are interrelated to each other and all of them are essential for the group to function harmoniously.
The whole-person approach to facilitation implies that all three centres; the head, heart and body (belly), are integral for our capacity to be fully present with the group.
“Our experience is that true learning takes place in the whole body, when the two knowledges of head (what we understand) and belly (what we experience) flow together and are integrated in our heart. As whole people, we are people who can ‘speak from the heart’ and have both the thought and experience to back it up.“ – Zenergy
One of the saddest things in life is the inability to see our true potential. If a flock of 400 birds can turn in total synchronicity in half a second without a leader, what is it that limits a group of human beings from communicating and acting at a similar level of dynamic harmony and synergy? In fact, our true potential as humans often lies beyond what we can fathom or imagine. The Zenergy training serves to give us a taste of what is possible when we gather with a shared intention to cooperate and access the collective intelligence that is available to that particular group. We’re given the chance to glimpse the miraculous moments of brilliance that open our eyes to the possibilities that exist when we co-create the necessary conditions that allow groups to thrive.
However, it is only when we implement these learnings in our actual life-work situations that we can attain the mastery required for long-term substantial change to come about. I’ve noticed that some of the tools I’ve taken from this workshop haven’t exactly been that well received in my existing work environments, others have gone down seamlessly adding tremendous value and efficiency to how things were done previously. I’ve realised that building up facilitation from tools and techniques into a whole is a mechanistic approach which although very useful, doesn’t always fit into the particular context that life presents. The beauty of Zenergy and the holistic approach to facilitation is that it allows for the ever-changing, organic, fluid nature of facilitation and the group dynamic.
We started with an intention to do things differently; finding alternative ways of working together that are more cooperative and sustainable. We then looked at distinguishing what’s missing, what’s preventing us from fulfilling our purpose and we finally touched upon the whole-person approach facilitation integrating the head, heart and belly centres. Although this article barely scratches the surface of the actual work that took place in Marrakesh, it may give an overview of some of the key themes that are present in Zenergy Stage 2.
In the 5 days we spent together we constantly showed up, faced our blocks and overcame them together. We laughed, cried, laughed some more and gave it all we had until we finally reached our group purpose “To Burst with Magic”. I hope you all will have the chance to experience the magic of Zenergy Stage 2.
The next Zenergy Stage 2: Generating Collective Intelligence takes place on 23 - 27 September 2019 in Europe. For more information and to register click here.
Sina Saffari, Zenergy alumni, March 2019