36 methods
Liberating Structures

Simple Ethnography

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You can enable participants to find novel approaches to challenges by immersing themselves in the activities of the people with local experience—often their colleagues on the front line or anyone who uses their product or service. You open the door to change and innovation by helping participants explore what people actually do and feel in creating, delivering, or using their offering. Their observations and experience can spur rapid performance improvements and expedite prototype development. The combined observations may make it easy to spot important patterns.

Sandra Gentizon

Conversation Café

The format of the Conversation Café helps people have calm and profound conversations in which there is less debating and arguing, and more listening. Sitting in a circle with a simple set of agreements and a talking object, small groups will engage in rounds of dialogue with little or no unproductive conflict. As the meaning of their challenge pops into focus, a consensual hunch is formed that will release their capacity for new action.
Liberating Structures

Critical Uncertainities

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You can help a diverse group quickly test the viability of current strategies and build its capacity to respond quickly to future challenges. This Liberating Structure prepares a group for strategy making. It does not produce a plan to be implemented as designed but rather builds resilience: the capacity to actively shape the system and be prepared to respond to surprise. This means being better able to see different futures unfolding, better prepared to act in a distributed fashion, and more ready to absorb disruptions resiliently.

Liberating Structures

What I Need From You (WINFY)

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People working in different functions and disciplines can quickly improve how they ask each other for what they need to be successful. You can mend misunderstandings or dissolve prejudices developed over time by demystifying what group members need in order to achieve common goals. Since participants articulate core needs to others and each person involved in the exchange is given the chance to respond, you boost clarity, integrity, and transparency while promoting cohesion and coordination across silos: you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again!

Liberating Structures


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You can help a large group of people identify obstacles and opportunities for spreading ideas or innovations at many levels. Panarchy enables people to visualize how systems are embedded in systems and helps them understand how these interdependencies influence the spread of change. Participants become more alert to small changes that can help spread ideas up to other system levels; they learn how shifts at larger or lower system levels may release resources to assist them at another level. With better appreciation of the Ecocycle dynamics at play, the group creates “opportunity windows” for innovations to spread among levels and across boundaries.

Liberating Structures

Design StoryBoards - Advanced

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You can avoid many of the traps that turn transformation initiatives and innovation projects into failures: the lack of a clear and common purpose, overall and for every stage of the initiative; inadequate engagement and participation; voices that are essential but not included; frustrated participants and nonparticipants; resistance to change; groupthink; nightmarish implementation for a disproportionally small impact.

A comprehensive design is a series of basic designs (see Design StoryBoards–Basic) linked together over a period of time. The design unfolds iteratively over days, weeks, months, or sometimes years depending on the scale of the project. Small cycles of design operate within larger cycles, scaling up and out as the initiative proceeds. You can easily include more people and more diversity in the design group for larger-scale projects. You can reflect the twists and turns in a transformation or innovation effort by a careful and ad hoc selection of participants (including unusual suspects since they are often the source of novel approaches).

Liberating Structures

Drawing Together

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You can help people access hidden knowledge such as feelings, attitudes, and patterns that are difficult to express with words. When people are tired, their brains are full, and they have reached the limits of logical thinking, you can help them evoke ideas that lie outside logical, step-by-step understanding of what is possible. Stories about individual or group transformations can be told with five easy-to-draw symbols that have universal meanings. The playful spirit of drawing together signals that more is possible and many new answers are expected. Drawing Together cuts through the culture of overreliance on what people say and write that constrains the emergence of novelty. It also provides a new avenue of expression for some people whose ideas would otherwise not surface.

Liberating Structures

Shift and Share

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You can quickly and effectively share several innovations or useful programs that may lie hidden within a group, organization, or community. Shift & Share gets rid of long large-group presentations and replaces them with several concise descriptions made simultaneously to multiple small groups. A few individuals set up “stations” where they share in ten minutes the essence of their innovations that may be of value to others. As small groups move from one innovator’s station to another, their size makes it easy for people to connect with the innovator. They can quickly learn where and how new ideas are being used and how they might be adapted to their own situations. Innovators learn from the repetition, and groups can easily spot opportunities for creative mash-ups of ideas.

Liberating Structures

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

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DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices.

DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

Liberating Structures


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You can help a group move from either-or conflicts to both-and strategies and solutions. You can engage everyone in sharper strategic thinking, mutual understanding, and collaborative action by surfacing the advantage of being both more integrated and more autonomous. Attending to paradox will reveal opportunities for profound leaps in performance by addressing questions such as: What mix of integrative control and autonomous freedom will advance our purpose? Where do our needs for global fidelity and consistency meet the needs for local customization and creative adaptability? This makes it possible to avoid bipolar swings in strategy that are frequently experienced by many organizations.

Liberating Structures

Impromptu Networking

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 You can tap a deep well of curiosity and talent by helping a group focus attention on problems they want to solve. A productive pattern of engagement is established if used at the beginning of a working session. Loose yet powerful connections are formed in 20 minutes by asking engaging questions. Everyone contributes to shaping the work, noticing patterns together, and discovering local solutions.