The Liberators
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The Liberators

Trying out MindMeld — a Liberating Structure in Development

Liberating Structures are interaction patterns that allow everyone in a group to be unleashed and involved — from extroverted to introverted and from leaders to followers. If you’d like to experience Liberating Structures first-hand, make sure to join one of our Immersion Workshops. Or join the Dutch User Group to practice with Liberating Structures in a safe-to-fail environment.

Last month I attended the Liberating Structures Meetup in Nieuwegein. It’s a monthly event to practice and explore different Liberating Structures in a safe and inclusive environment. This time we used Open Space Technology to construct the agenda for the Meetup which resulted in a wide range of topics to cover. In the third round, there was a topic that caught my eye: MindMeld. It’s a Liberating Structure which is still in development.

Unfortunately, I had proposed my own topic for that round: “What if people get bored of 1–2–4-all?”. This meant I couldn’t attend the MindMeld slot hosted by Harry Nieboer. Thankfully Harry shared his resources with us, so I could go and give it a try myself.

As I mentioned, MindMeld is a microstructure still in development, which means it’s not yet part of the 33 official structures in the LS menu, but it is a promising one in the works. MindMeld is a combination of forming Mindmaps by using the structure What, So What, Now What? (W3). I’ve used W3 several times now and I think it is a powerful structure to use when you need your audience to come up with concrete actions of a certain challenge. You do this by first taking two other steps in which you take the time to observe the data available before drawing conclusions and moving into action mode.

“MindMeld is a combination of forming Mindmaps by using the structure ‘What, So What, Now What’ (W3)”

I was asked to facilitate a session of a department which wanted to take a look at the collaboration within the group. This was the invitation I came up with:

“How do you experience the collaboration and joint vision of this team?”

I first explained the 3 steps of the What, So What, Now What structure:

  1. WHAT? What do you notice? What stands out?
  2. SO WHAT? Why does it matter, is there an important pattern or implication?
  3. NOW WHAT? What are the first steps or actions to address the challenge?

Then I explained how they would use these steps to create their MindMeld. The centre of the map consists of the above invitation. While you branch outward, you walk through the 3 steps of the W3 structure using a different colour post-it for each step.

1–2–4-all was used to combine (meld) the maps together:

  • 1: Each person individually draws their Mindmap on an A4 paper. (7 minutes)
  • 2: Find a partner and share your Mindmaps, take out the duplicates and meld them together to one big MindMeld on a flip chart, using the post-it colours as in the example. (10 minutes)
  • 4: Each pair finds another pair to share and combine their Mindmaps on one flip chart. Again, take out the duplicates and meld the maps together. (10 minutes)
  • ALL: Gallery walk. Each group presents its MindMeld to the other group(s). (5 minutes per group)

We only had an hour, so in the end, we used dot-voting to see which topics to prioritize for a follow-up session. It was clear that the following two items were the first ones to tackle:

  • Unclear team vision and goals
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities within the team

I think everyone in the room was already aware of this, but seeing it up on the wall finally made it concrete and obvious that it needs attention. The MindMeld helped develop a visual picture of people’s concerns and frustrations regarding collaboration. It was also clear that everyone was on board to make an effort to improve collaboration and become a better team.

“MindMeld helped develop a visual picture of people’s concerns and frustrations regarding collaboration.”

If you are interested in trying out the new Liberating Structures, they are listed here. I’ve already filled out the MindMeld evaluation, hoping it will be added to the LS Menu soon!

Want to learn the language of Liberating Structures? Join one of the upcoming 2-day upcoming ‘Immersion Workshops’. The workshop in May is already full, but we’ve got more coming up in Barcelona, Boston, and Amsterdam (see link).



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Saskia Vermeer

With a smile and my enthusiasm I hope to create the right environment for people and teams to excel at what they do best.