The two-day experience, held at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD), was designed to equip design professionals with the frameworks, strategies, insights, tools, resources and confidence needed to guide diverse groups of people (like organizations and communities) in the development of solutions to big, complex challenges.
The workshop participants came from all over and from many different walks of the business and nonprofit sectors — among them, an actor; a guy from the U.S. Treasury; a team from McDonald’s; gal from Google; geek from GrubHub; independent contractors; middle management corporates; and a couple of Canadians. All generously shared their perspectives and unique sphere of expertise with the room.
The co-facilitators, Renna and Jeremy, had some serious chops in both the design world and the realms of social strategy and collaborative processes. Watching them facilitate facilitation was metacognatively fantastic and instructive. Their yin-yang style of engagement set the tone for a rich, varied discussion guided by a very comprehensive, well-paced process and punctuated by bits of deeply resonant wisdom. Not something you get every day.
Eleven note-worthy sound-bites on the theory/practice of facilitation:
- The facilitated space is a “controlled environment” … a “productive environment” — in this “intentional and special” space — everything counts
- As a facilitator, you must be agile — you must be “in-the-moment-responsive” to what is happening in the room
- The facilitator “parachutes in” to do what is needed — “use me how you want me“
- The design-thinking facilitator needs to get their head out of “design hubris” — the most effective approach is a service mindset … humility … partnership oriented
- Be a champion of Big D Design — “I can help you change the world” vs. small d design — “I can design a swell logo for you“
- In facilitating conflict situations, “externalize the conflict” by acknowledging it directly and dispassionately — “facilitator as psychiatrist” is an advantageous skill-set, particularly in situations where power plays, resistance and narcissism can crop up
- “Embrace the ambiguity“
- Become adept at “real-time synthesis” — “Ok, here’s where we are … here’s what I heard … here’s where we’re going next … “
- Use a “challenge/opportunity statement” as both a North Star and anchor — a uniquely aspirational and grounding point of reference; Note: iterating a simplified version of the challenge/opportunity statement can function as an excellent mid-session “reset” button
- Pick someone in the room to be your wingman — every Batman needs a Robin … every Johnny needs an Ed … every Jimmy needs a Higgins … every Penn needs a Teller … ok … we get it
- M&Ms are the third rail
The Take-Away: Designers have an unprecedented opportunity to bring the design thinking approach to bear on collaborative outcomes for business and social impact challenges. To that end, Design for Good supports and sustains designers’ catalytic role in the community …
“As designers’ roles continue to evolve, the ability to successfully facilitate a diverse group and create effective solutions across a variety o sectors is a critical skill set to master.”
The AIGA Facilitation: by Design workshop is an inspiring, informative and empowering value-add. Coming to a city near you — not to be missed.