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Global Flipchart #13


September 2018

Making Humans more Human


By Anja Ebers

In the last issue of the IAF Global Flipchart we explored the Future of Facilitation and Hector Villareal depicted the many possibilities the future holds for our profession as the organizations we work with abandon their command-and-control operating systems and embrace collaboration and self-organization. One might as well say: as they become more human.

Tim Leberecht is an expert when it comes to humanizing business. He believes „humanizing business is to make it more beautiful“. As he’s preparing the next House of Beautiful Business event taking place in Lisbon begin of November, I am curious to hear the his thoughts: What is important when working with humans?

Tim points me to an article by Pico Iyer who writes: „Lines between animate and inanimate run differently in an animist Shinto universe where — you see this in the beautiful films of Hayao Miyazaki — every blade of grass or speck of dust is believed to have a spirit“.  From there Iyer beautifully depicts that our capacity to feel for everyone else – even things – is „the humanity we can’t relinquish“.

This year's edition of the event ‘House of Beautiful Business’ intends to abandon the anthropocentric view of humans. Among the questions they will explore: What is intimacy in the age of machines? How do we open up to „otherness“, to the spirit of the artificial and create transcending experiences? How does the fabric of our society change when it embraces systems of trust-sharing like the blockchain?

Coming from there, Tim summarizes the design principle of the facilitation for this 6-day gathering like this: „we create the space or the conditions to allow transcending experiences together, beautiful moments to remember“.

We as facilitators are in a unique position to help humans be more human when together. We can carefully design spaces that bring forward beautiful moments, together- and otherness with an transcending impact on those who take part.

In his book “The business romantic”, Tim developed 12 Rules of Enchantment. What might they mean in practice, applied to facilitation? I’m inviting you to muse on, refine, challenge my interpretation for a book „Beautiful Facilitation“ yet to be written:

Find the Big in the Small


Integrate small poetic elements into your session design  - go for something beautiful, meaningless at the first glance; it’ll open up for interpretation, surfacing something bigger you couldn’t have thought of designing the session

Be a Stranger


Invite your group to explore themselves with the eyes of a stranger. Help them taking that perspective by taking it yourself

Give More Than You Take


Be generous with time, minimizing the time you take up (e.g. for instructions and summaries). Let go of your role as timekeeper and rather gift them with a profound, unrushed experience of their time together

Suffer (A Little)


Integrate „messy“ parts into your facilitation that bear the opportunity for the group to master them together

Fake It!


Create moments to experience a desired state without being there yet – be bold and integrate improv theatre, roleplay and shadowing into your practice

Keep the Mystique


Set development goals for your work with groups and try out new practices. People don’t need to understand everything of a facilitator’s inner work but they need to understand you care for human encounters

Break Up


Carefully design moments of closure, departure, ending towards an transcending experience of the group

Sail The Ocean


Help a group to commit to the space between beginning and end of your session. Tim points to John Cage here: „If something is boring after two minutes, try four. If still boring, then eight (...) Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all“*

Take the Long Way Home

Help to connect concepts or abstract ideas with representations in the physical world and don’t be afraid of nostalgia.

Strive to create sensuous, tactile experiences or even artefacts in your sessions.

Stand Alone, Stand By, Stand Still

See also Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There**

*John Cage - Silence: Lectures and Writings, 50th Anniversary Edition (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2013)

** Marvin R. Weisbord, Sandra Janoff - Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!: Ten Principles for Leading Meetings That Matter (2007)

More about Tim Leberecht:  In his book The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself he explores why we long for a more humanized business and how each of us can follow ‚rules of enchantment’ to fall back in love with work again. He also co-founded the Business Romantic Society that „creates products, services, and platforms that make humans more human“. One of their platforms is the House of Beautiful Business „a unique space to humanize work in the age of machines“.