Stuck in a Rut? Try Freeing Yourself with Liberating Structures

Are you struggling to make meetings productive, or processes efficient, or your office a cohesive unit? Liberating Structures may be the answer!

Liberating Structures is a group of 33 methods designed to change how people work together. All are simple to do, but done well they can offer deep insights into what needs changing so that everyone, managers and underlings alike, is productively engaged. Among my favorite methods are:

  • Troika Consulting: In Troika Consulting, two people discuss a third person’s challenge while the third person listens. If you are that third person, this is trickier than it sounds because you are only allowed to listen – not contribute to the conversation.
  • 25/10 Crowd Sourcing: Bearing some semblance to brainstorming, 25/10 Crowd Sourcing can be used, for example, to determine the next big idea. The first step is for each person to write his big idea on an index card. Index cards are then passed around and scored, but both the idea generator and the scorer are anonymous. After five rounds of scoring, ideas are ranked based on how they scored. What distinguishes 25/10 Crowd Sourcing from typical brainstorming is that everyone shares an idea (no index cards left blank!) and that all ideas are shared anonymously.
  • Nine Whys: Nine Whys is intended to elicit a common purpose for a group. Working in pairs, then in progressively larger groups, participants ask each other why their work is important, whether to them as individuals, to the organization as a whole, or to the community at large. Finding that common purpose can take asking “why?” several times, so these conversations can sound rather like a toddler’s persistent questioning.

More Liberating Structures resources, such as descriptions of how to use all 33 methods and success stories, are available under a Creative Commons license at liberatingstructures.com.

What in your work environment would benefit from being let loose with Liberating Structures?

Elizabeth Slack is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She grew up in Maryland, earned BA and MS degrees in the Midwest, and saw more of the world in Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.  After working for state government, she landed at Florida State University.  Now a Grants Manager in Sponsored Research Administration, Elizabeth is responsible for helping faculty and staff with external funding.  Among her proudest achievements is co-creating an award-winning form. During her time off, Elizabeth enjoys spending time outside in sunny Florida with her family.

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