Facilitation, The MINDSHIFT Way
By: Ayla Khosroshahi

A facilitator aims to find ways for discussions, strategy sessions, workshops, and meetings to run more effectively and efficiently. The role of the facilitator is to encourage communication, collaboration, and cooperation, and to cultivate a synergy and consensus among the participants.

At MINDSHIFT NINJA, when we talk facilitation, we look for ways to work with your brain. Our objective is to work optimally and inspire new thinking; to keep the brain interested and challenged, for both the facilitator and participant. The following approaches aim to optimize productivity, creativity, inspire leadership, and organizational capacity building to — do better by thinking better.

  • All voices are not created equal.
    When you want to inspire insight, promote healthy exchange, and get feedback from participants, it’s best to ensure that you are addressing the various ways people think and share. Ensure that the information is presented in various forms to address participants’ learning styles and preferences. When possible, play with media to reach participants on multiple levels: auditory, visual, tactile, etc. Beyond media, remember that activities should encourage both solitary and social learners. Cultivate space for communal conversation in small and large group discussions. Ensure that expression does not always have to be outloud. Create space for personal reflection to open up new insights. Be sure to establish an avenue for anonymous feedback to provide an alternative space for sharing and exchange.
  • All words are not created equal.
    Accessibility is key. Use a common language to encourage participation. Use language to build bridges — not borders — between people. Encourage dialogue that keeps the audience in mind. Instead of trying to find the perfect words, focus on the purpose of what is being said, and why. Don’t get lost in semantics; try and extract the essence of the dialogue, and communicate with heart.
  • Progress not perfection.
    Focus is invaluable. Focus on progress not perfection. Create rules to ensure that participants stay on track. Train participants to focus their thoughts and interests on relevant matter. All input is not always useful. Ensure that movement forward focuses on adding value and helping the group to move forward in a positive way. Use the passion of the participants and the purpose of the discussion as propellers — not anchors or dogma.
  • Solution-only approach.
    Keep a forward moving momentum throughout the day. Start and end the facilitation with points of excitement or interest, e.g. What’s going great today? What are some key insights so far? What are you most excited about going forward from now? Focus discussion on assets vs. needs. This doesn’t mean that criticism or needs cannot be raised. But ensure they are coupled with solution-focused approaches. Leading the facilitation in this manner will help keep the brain engaged and inspired to move forward, and avoid getting stuck in the weeds.
  • Don’t get too comfortable.
    Keep the brain interested. Change it up. As a facilitator, ensure you move around the room as you talk. As your voice moves it will keep participants interested and awake. Make participants move. Ask everyone to get up and change seats at regular intervals throughout the day. Movement inspires new thinking and encourages new perspectives. The brain automatically creates new pathways when novelty is introduced. This will help make your brain think in new ways. Finally, don’t forget to schedule regular breaks. For optimal productivity, take a break every 50 mins for about 15–20 mins.

For more information on how your facilitation can be more strategic and meaningful, or to ensure your next workshop, meeting, or event optimizes insight generation and productivity, contact us.

Originally published at mindshift.ninja on May 19, 2016.