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The mystery of group and facilitator revealed within problem solving

Bell, S and Morse, S (2010) The mystery of group and facilitator revealed within problem solving OR52 Keynotes and Extended Abstracts - 52nd Conference of the Operational Research Society 2010. pp. 18-27.

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In problem solving methods facilitators often ask of themselves questions such as what makes a "good" group (and indeed what does "good" mean), how can group dynamics be improved and does it matter it terms of the quality of the problem solving which that group engages in? On the surface these questions seem to be straightforward. Indeed those who have helped facilitate many participatory workshops will think they intuitively know the answers to these questions; they can, from their professional practice, "feel" which groups are doing well and producing novel insights and those which are functioning less well and perhaps generating something which is less imaginative and more routine as a consequence. They will sense how they can intervene (or not) to help keep the energy in the room. They will also have a view on whether an analysis is weak or strong and be able to link that to what they have observed of the group dynamic. The intuitive, practice learned insight will depend upon a rich array of visual signals which become more obvious with experience. Thus a facilitator with a rich store of practice will be able to identify signs of friction and harmony, of hard work and focus, of dominance, of tiredness, of "soft" and qualitative variation and so on. More importantly a facilitator with many years practice will be able to change the pace of the process or introduce "tweaks" to enhance energy. All of this represents a mysterious, unwritten and little discussed (at least in the academic literature) matrix of instinctive solutions and puzzles. These questions and answers are readily shared and dissected amongst practitioners when they meet, often illustrated with examples, but often the narratives are not written - they are spoken forming an acroamatic record. This paper asks the question as to whether there is value in being much more open and analytical about these questions and answers. If so then how can we make the unwritten written? Indeed, open to whom? Indeed added to all of the above is how much of any insights should be shared with those engaged in the workshop? Do participants have a right to know what their facilitators think during the workshop, even if this may be interpreted as being critical? We provide some responses to all of these questions based upon our combined experiences with problem solving workshops in many contexts and places over some 30 years.

Item Type: Article
Authors :
Date : 2010
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 13:11
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 16:51

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