Saturday, July 18, 2009

The "coffin corner" of facilitation

The task of leading and orchestrating learning and decision making teams can be both dangerous and exhilarating. Like the coffin corner of flying there is little room for making mistakes but you can fly really high.

When Air France Flight 447 went down in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 coffin corner emerged as one of the contributing culprits.

At high altitude, where the air is thin, there is a fine dividing line between stable and unstable flight. Fly too fast and the plane will become uncontrollable. Fly too slow and the plane will stall and crash.

The controls of a high performance passenger jet aircraft are far from intuitive, but when you align all aspects of the flight envelope - speed, angle of the wings, flaps, rudder and trim tab settings - you get reliable lift that you can use to ascend or descend at an appropriate rate or reliable turn characteristics so you can change direction. At high altitude, you just have to follow the rules more carefully. The same when landing.

I make software that helps teachers, consultants, managers and facilitators reliably lead and orchestrate groups so they become energized, productive and happy teams. And fly higher than ever before.

And although it takes thousands of flying hours to become a great pilot, our newly minted facilitators can perform their role after just one day in our electronic trainer. They perform at their best when they follow the rules precisely. And that takes practice. If we start with a warm up session to establish the norms for the group, they will do whatever you ask for the rest of the day. But only if the questions are fun, start with what they could know or discover and build on these foundations.

Our software (and it's systems/methods) bring together into a single space * an environment for capturing and sharing the fruits of our conversations in pairs * a sequence of questions/activities that take people on an exciting/interesting learning journey * a relating method which orchestrates the group and a * a dialectical discourse method to create new knowledge together.

Some questions to ask:

1. What was the most difficult experience you have ever had as a leader or facilitator of a group? What happened, what went wrong?
2. If you could replay your interaction with the group what would you do differently and why?
3. What was the most exceptional experience you had as a leader or facilitator of a group? What happened, what went right?
4. Develop a set of rules based on our collective best experiences and what we have learned from our worst experiences, for performing as a leader or facilitator in the future. 1..., 2...., 3.... etc.

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