Liberating Structures

Wise Crowds

by . Last edit was 23 days ago
15 - 60 5 +

Wise Crowds make it possible to instantly engage a small or large group of people in helping one another. You can set up a Wise Crowds consultation with one small group of four or five people or with many small groups simultaneously or, during a larger gathering, with a group as big as one hundred or more people. Individuals, referred to as “clients,” can ask for help and get it in a short time from all the other group members. Each individual consultation taps the expertise and inventiveness of everyone in the group simultaneously. Individuals gain more clarity and increase their capacity for self-correction and self-understanding. Wise Crowds develop people’s ability to ask for help. They deepen inquiry and consulting skills. Supportive relationships form very quickly. During a Wise Crowds session, the series of individual consultations makes the learning cumulative as each participant benefits not only from being a client but also from being a consultant several times in a row. Wise Crowds consultations make it easy to achieve transparency. Together, a group can outperform the expert!

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Additional info

Goal

Tap the Wisdom of the Whole Group in Rapid Cycles

Attachments

You will be able to upload attachments once after you create the method.

Materials

  • paper
  • markers
  • microphone (larger group)
  • index cards (larger group)

Instructions

Five Structural Elements – Min Specs for Small Wise Crowds

1. Structuring Invitation

  • Ask each participant when his or her turn comes to be the “client” to briefly describe his or her challenge and ask others for help.
  • Ask the other participants to act as a group of “consultants” whose task it is to help the “client” clarify his or her challenge and to offer advice or recommendations.

2. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

  • Groups of 4 or 5 chairs arranged around small tables or in circles without tables
  • Paper for participants to take notes

3. How Participation Is Distributed

  • Everyone is included
  • Everyone has an equal amount of time to ask for and get help
  • Everyone has an equal opportunity to offer help

4. How Groups Are Configured

  • Groups of 4 to 5 people
  • Mixed groups across functions, levels, and disciplines are ideal
  • The person asking for help, the “client,” turns his or her back on the consultants after the consultation question has been clarified.

5. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation

  • Each person requesting a consult (the client) gets fifteen minutes broken down as follows:
  • The client presents the challenge and request for help. 2 min.
  • The consultants ask the client clarifying questions. 3 min.
  • The client turns his or her back to the consultants and gets ready to take notes
  • The consultants ask questions and offer advice, and recommendations, working as a team, while the client has his or her back turned. 8 min.
  • The client provides feedback to the consultants: what was useful and what he or she takes away. 2 min.

WHY? Purposes

  • Generate results that are enduring because each individual and the group produced them together without “outside expertise”
  • Refine skills in giving, receiving, and asking for help
  • Tap the intelligence of a whole group without time-consuming up and sideways presentations
  • Liberate the wisdom and creativity that exists across disciplines and functional silos
  • Replace boring briefings and updates with an effective and useful alternative
  • Actively build trust through mutual support and peer connections
  • Practice listening without defending

Tips and Traps

  • Invite a very diverse crowd to help (not only the experts and leaders)
  • Invite participants to critique themselves when they fall into traps (e.g., jumping to action before clarifying the purpose or the problem). See Helping Heuristics for a complete list of unwanted patterns when helping or asking for help.
  • Remind participants to try to stay focused on the client’s direct experience by asking, “What is happening here? How are you experiencing what is happening?”
  • Advise the consultants to take risks while maintaining empathy
  • Avoid having some participants choosing not to be clients: everybody has at least one challenge!
  • If the first round is weak, try a second round
  • Invite participants not to shy away from presenting complex challenges without easy answers

Riffs and Variations

  • Restrict the consulting to asking only honest, open questions, focusing on helping the client gain personal clarity. In other words, forbid recommendations and advice (thinly veiled as a question) or any speeches whatsoever! This is also called Q-Storming and is similar to a Quaker Clearness Committee.
  • Can be used with groups of up to 7 people but not more.
  • The “large format” of Wise Crowds makes it possible for one person to ask a whole room for help. See the detailed description of the five structural elements/min specs below.
  • Use Wise Crowds with virtual groups by using the chat function to share answers from a small number of consultants, then opening the chat line and whiteboard to the whole group for additional feedback
  • Link to and string with Helping Heuristics plus Heard, Seen, Respected (HSR), Nine Whys, Troika Consulting, What I Need From You, and Appreciative Interviews. These Liberating Structures offer a variety of productive choices for helping.


Wise Crowds for Large Groups (1 hr.)

Five Structural Elements – Min Specs for Large Groups

1. Structuring Invitation

  • Ask the participant who is the “client” to describe his or her challenge, the status of any work in progress, and the advice or help he or she is looking for
  • Ask the other participants to act as a group of “consulting teams” whose task it is to help the “client” clarify his or her challenge and to offer advice or recommendations.

2. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

  • One chair for the client in the front of the room
  • Screen and projector only if absolutely indispensable
  • Three chairs for the primary consultants in the front of the room
  • Groups of 5–8 chairs arranged around small tables, or in circles without tables, for all the satellite consulting teams
  • Paper for participants to take notes
  • Index cards at each table to write recommendations
  • Microphones for the client and primary consultants

3. How Participation Is Distributed

  • The client has a specific amount of time to present and ask for help
  • The primary consulting team has a fixed amount of time to offer help
  • Everyone else on each consulting team has an equal opportunity to contribute help during the balance of the time, which is also fixed

4. How Groups Are Configured

  • Individual client
  • One group of 2 to 3 primary consultants
  • Any number of satellite groups of 5 to 7 people as consulting teams
  • Mixed groups across functions, levels, and disciplines are ideal

5. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation

  • Each person requesting a consult (the client) gets one hour broken down as follows:
  • The client presents his or her consulting question and selects the 2-4 individuals who will form the primary consulting team. The primary consultants move and occupy their chairs in the front of the room. 2 min.
  • The client presents the challenge and request for help. 10 min.
  • The primary consultants pose clarifying questions to the client, using microphones so that all participants can hear them. 10 min.
  • The client turns his or her back to the primary consultants and gets ready to take notes.
  • The primary consultants jointly form advice and recommendations, working as a team while the client has his or her back turned. Microphones are used so that all others in the room can follow their discussion. 7 min.
  • Every satellite consulting team separately critiques the work of the primary consulting team and generates its own recommendations for the client. 10 min.
  • While the satellite teams work, the client turns around and uses this ten-minute period to discuss with the primary consulting team.
  • Do one round to gather the critiques from the satellite teams first and then a second round to gather their recommendations. Gather only one comment or recommendation per team, with no repeats. It may be useful to ask the satellite teams to write their recommendations for the client on 3-by-5-inch index cards. 10 min.
  • The client provides feedback to the consultants: what was useful and what he or she takes away. 2 min.
  • Invite a full-group conversation reflecting on the process, so what, and now what. 5 min.

NOTE: The timing for each step can be adjusted depending on the complexity of the problem and the size of the group, but it is essential to stick strictly to the schedule and not let discussions drag beyond the time set. It is always better to have a second round instead.

Examples

  • For multisite research/learning groups to support and learn from each other
  • For professionals in a national fellowship program to share progress and get help with the action learning projects
  • To replace progress presentations and reviews
  • For managers trying to solve problems associated with a merger
  • For foundation grantees trying to scale up their socio-tech innovations
  • For getting advice on improving a relationship with one other person
  • For salespeople (distributed over a large geography) getting help with developing and keeping new customers

Background

Attribution: Liberating Structure developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless. Inspired by Quaker Clearness Committees.

Source: Liberating Structures

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