Comparing complex and traditional facilitation approaches

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Do you love facilitation?

I’m not sure someone can ‘love’ facilitation. It’s such a technically challenging process that requires huge investments of self, both cognitively and emotionally. Keeping your wits about you while ensuring a process gets momentum with a group, all the while keeping tabs on how the content evolves is a mammoth task. In reality, being a good facilitator is more of a love-hate relationship all the while managing the tension between what you get out as a reward of facilitation and what you need to sacrifice of yourself to assist a group.

Enough of that rant! I’m actually wanting to address the differences between two modes of facilitations: traditional and complexity-based.

After a few years of training up Cognitive Edge practitioners, I have learnt that for many people, complex facilitation techniques represent a conundrum. It is just so counter-intuitive to the way they have facilitated processes before. I remember one delegate saying in exasperation, “What you’re asking me to do is NOT facilitation … it’s a free-for-all!”

Let me give you an example: the traditional facilitation paradigm suggests that you as a facilitator needs to be a part of the content of the group, where as from a complex facilitation perspective, the biggest mistake you can ever make is to get involved in the content of the group.

Another example revolves around disruption. Traditional facilitation requires that you keep a group on track towards a stated goal, doing your utmost to remove any barriers in the process and content. Complex facilitation requires that you disrupt the group, and disrupt often.

Now, let me be careful. Traditional facilitation has it’s place and usefulness … but within certain boundaries. The same is true of complex facilitation. The key is knowing when you need to apply the relevant paradigm, and not get the two confused.

My point is simply this: deconstruct what your own facilitation paradigm is without being sensitive to the mode you have become accustomed to, or trained in. The reality is that working with human beings is a complex task which requires complexity-based approaches more often than not.