Facilitate … to achieve simplicity

While perusing the Internet recently, I found a wonderful quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., an American jurist.

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity. “

This quote may sound complex; yet, is really simple! And profound. I think this quote applies significantly to facilitation. I help people in organizations recognize that they often need to discuss and decide about very complex issues and situations in order to achieve simplicity. It does not help to try for a simple and “quick and dirty” solution. Rather, people need to dedicate the time to know as many facts as possible about a situation, consider all of the alternative actions and their consequences, and make decisions that will have impact for a long time. Once these decisions are reached and implemented, the group often is able to carry out its activities in a simple manner. The group has achieved simplicity “on the other side of complexity”. facilitator calgary

As an example, some years ago, I worked with seven organizations wishing to create a formal partnership. In our first session, the participants reviewed a document that provided an analysis of each organization; outlining strengths, liabilities, and interest in working together. Many of the participants said that they knew everything about the organizations and did not need to waste time on reviewing the document. I asked them to commit to two hours to discuss the document and then decide upon further review. Once the two hours were over, the participants acknowledged that they knew little about each other and were trying to simplify and hurry a process that was complex. We then designed and conducted a four-month process that culminated in a collaboration model for the organizations. facilitator calgary

As facilitator, I simplify whenever possible; yet recognize when complexity requires more time and attention in order to achieve simplicity.

My facilitation question is: What examples do you have about facilitating complexity and simplicity? facilitator calgary

Facilitate … to achieve simplicity

One thought on “Facilitate … to achieve simplicity

  • May 27, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you Barb! This is such a critical learning because the change required for our rapidly changing world is complex and the changes required will need to be transformative. It is especially important to understand because there are many linear thinkers among us who have a natural proclivity to want to simplify what will be “messy”. If we make the mistake of simplifying too early, we too often miss the opportunities to deal with underlying root causes and innovative responses. Loved your process for dealing with the situation. Sometimes we do have to go slow to go fast to get to the other side of complex!

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