Include the Quiet People

Talking in pairs during a 1–2–4-all session

When facilitating workshops where the aim is to quickly come up with lots of fresh ideas, it’s really important, but sometimes very difficult, to get the quiet people to contribute — especially if they’re in a group with people they barely know.

At UK GovCamp I came across a great facilitation technique introduced by David Heath, which does just that.

I then used it to facilitate a session at OneTeamGov two days later. It was SO effective and SO easy to use I just had to share it.

The technique is from Liberating structures: facilitation patterns to treat everyone equally.

It’s called 1–2–4-all, and it goes something like this…

The facilitator poses a question, then gives time for:

  • personal reflection (1 minute)
  • share and develop ideas in pairs (2 minutes)
  • matchup with another pair and do the same (4 minutes)
  • share outputs of each group of 4 with the whole team (5 minutes)

The whole process takes just 12 minutes and I think that the breadth and depth of opinions and views gathered in the two sessions I’ve witnessed were significantly higher than if we’d gone straight into discussion mode.

The benefits were:

  • Increased productivity
  • Increase in diversity of opinions, ideas and solutions
  • Hearing from the introverts
  • Sharing of ownership
  • Building trust and empathy
  • Avoidance of groupthink
  • Avoids one or two people dominating the conversation

Feedback from the participants at UK GovCamp was positive:

“It was really useful for me as a person who doesn’t usually have the confidence to talk in these settings — and I am now doing this with the group! Writing it down clarified my own views; discussing with others gave me the confidence that I wasn’t talking rubbish”
“I really appreciated the fact that I quickly got to talk to others rather than working alone”
“Gradual opening out from 1–2–4-group feels better than just each person doing alone then sharing direct to group”

Find out more from Liberating Structures.

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