A year later … (1 of 3)

August 20, 2019

IMG 1428So its Tuesday, second day of this years retreat at the Brew Creek Centre near Whistler in Canada.  We’ve just come back from an afternoon walk to the ‘train wreak site’ which makes for a good break.  A 1956 train crash (they went too fast around a bed) throw trucks into the wood and they are now a sort of art’s site, attracting graffiti artists as well as walkers.  The banner picture shows the Centre and the intext one a carriage in the woods.  Over the last year I’ve been developing the Tricotocon facilitation technique which was used for the first time, with some success, a year ago.  It was good be back at one of the nicest sites we have used, and it was a chance to lay some ghosts.  I’ll talk more about the faculty and the content in a post later in the week but for the moment we are at the half way stage and its a chance to reflect.

Now I have been developing methods and tools for most of my adult life, and over the last two decades I’ve been using natural science constraints as a key enabling constraint.  That means recognising reality: inattentional bias is life, we listen to rebut, a few dominant personalities can change the nature of an event very quickly.  Add to that some personal experience: Keynoting is fun but you tend to attract groupies and don’t get challenged too much; unconferences are fine but are easy to game, as is open space and lack challenging input; good people are not afraid to have an argument, inadequate speakers can’t cope with dissent.  I could add a few others but you get the drift.  As the earlier links show I devised the Tricotocon as an alternative.

So over the last year and several retreats, along with reviewing other people’s use, the core method has stabilised as follows with each stage being a half day – I describe one stage below. In this case we have three faculty – academics in this case – who all have an interested in decision theory but come from very different backgrounds.   We then have twenty one participants organised into Raven Trios of three people.  I’m facilitating and adding comments and there are three people recording what goes on and generally helping out.   The technique will sale significantly but starts to be problematic when participants from below nine/twelve.

  1. Faculty Member one presents for around 90 minutes to silence without questions; faculty member two then responds critically over then to fiveteeen minutes followed by faculty member two.  My role is to add to that process, throw out some questions and problems.   There are no questions or discussion
  2. The Raven Trios get coffee and find somewhere to have a 45 minute discussion about what they have learnt, think of questions and comments etc.
  3. The Raven Trios return and each nominates one of their number to enter the Raven Circle who then spend 45 minutes discussion and comparing notes – the faculty just have too listen and learn how their ideas have been taken without the chance to correct.
  4. Finally each faculty member, in reverse order, comments on what they have heard.   The whole group then go to a meal and get ready for Stage two – again no discussion.

That was Monday morning – stage one.  The next stage repeats but this time Faculty member two presents with members one and three responding.   The Raven Groups go out before, but when the Raven circle forms it is a new member of each trio who takes part.  That took us to dinner yesterday and then this morning in Stage three, Faculty member three presented with members one and two responding and the Raven circle had the one person left who had not being part of it.

So in a day and half we got a lot of input and, critically a lot of listening.  Faculty are happy to challenge each other and it can be entertaining to watch them listen to the Raven Circle.   The first Raven circle has the more confident people, by the time it gets to the least confident they have seen the process and are comfortable.

So after that we had the half day walk to complete the day.  Tomorrow I move to syntheis – watch this space

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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