Liberating Structures London Meetup Recap — October 2021

A couple of weeks ago I reached out to David Heath. Here’s a dude with some real grit who has been one of the longstanding coordinators of the Liberating Structures London meet-up. Along with LS Cardiff coordinator Alexis Pala, he’s been keeping the LS community meetups running in an online format throughout the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic I had helped David to co-ordinate the meet-up a few times in person. I always found doing so to be super energising, a great opportunity to improve my practice in a safe environment and a cool way of meeting a bunch of interesting folks. Recognising that in the last 18 months I’d massively underinvested in getting better at what I do and on building new relationships — I offered to help out again.

It’s been a few months since the meet-up…met-up, so David sent out a survey to find out how folks wanted to use it.

What was cool was that there was a nice balance of folks who were just getting started, others who wanted to deepen their practice and a small number who were interested in how they could help spread the use of LS more generally.

With this feedback in mind, David and I decided to try and kill a few birds with one stone. We started with no introduction. We got straight into Impromptu Networking. What was cool about this was that rather than start by explaining why these structures make sense to those who were new to them, they just got to experience this for themselves. One of the things we often talk about at Basis is that it’s much easier to act yourself into a new way of acting than it is to act yourself into a new way of thinking. People had a go and realised for themselves that this stuff just works.

As part of the survey, David also asked folks what structures they’d most be interested in trying out. Appreciative Interviews came out on top. I found this super interesting and also totally unsurprising. After 18 months of fighting fires and constant troubleshooting, people were more interested in talking about the root causes of success than they were in problems — figures? Whether or not anyone consciously made this decision I don’t know, but my hypothesis is that people have almost as much problem fatigue as they do Zoom fatigue!

Recognising that some members of the group were interested in how to sustain the meet-up and grow the use of LS, the invitation we set was: “Think of a time where you witnessed or participated in a community that successfully sustained and grew?”

Predictably this helped to identify several patterns and themes that could help us to accomplish this aim. We captured these in a Jamboard — and here is what one of the groups came up with:

A few observations from the evening

  1. Some folks found it hard to identify examples of success at this time, now. The conclusion drawn by those who felt this way was this might be a consequence of being pretty exhausted from wading through the swamp that is Covid-19 for the last 18 months. I wonder what thought other LS users have about how to prime people at the start of a session to help them think in terms of the root causes of success rather than of problems.
  2. Several folks found the process of thinking about successes to be really energising. This mirrors my own experiences of helping front line teams in the public sector. Particularly in teams where things are not working as they should, highlighting successes feels way safer than delivering straight into the problems. Solutions that would otherwise be considered taboo with a ‘problem frame’ somehow bubble up to the surface and are often a great starting point for identifying local solutions to really complex problems. Another structure that works really well in this way is Discovery and Action Dialogue.
  3. People are really keen to understand how to apply LS virtually. Those of us who have been facilitating online non-stop since the beginning of the pandemic have been figuring this out through trial and error. Some of this learning has started to be captured in a Virtual LS Community Handbook. If you’re new to using LS online — this will shorten your learning curve.

Get involved

If you’d like to come along to a meet-up — you can connect with the community via Slack, follow us on Eventbrite here, and keep track of our movements on Twitter @LibStructLDN. Peace!

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Joseph Badman

Joseph Badman

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MD @WeAreBasis. I help public services solve messy problems one sprint at a time. Part-time wizard, meet-free meathead & self-management nerd 🎩🌍🤓.