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«Interview with Keith McCandless Episode: 59 Published: October 4, 2016 Amiel Handelsman: Keith, first of all, I wanted to mention to you that I’ve ...»

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That’s the first thing that happens in the group. There’s ownership. You don’t have to get buy-in later. You don’t have to force people to do anything -Amiel: Yes.

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-- and that, I’m kind of convinced that that is a value that we hold and lots of places that we include people; everybody has a voice. We say all these things, but almost all of our habits, the microstructures -- Sorry, this is language that we’re using because we don’t have very good language for this. I know you like language, but the little patterns of interaction, the smallest microstructures. That’s what we’re changing. That’s what liberating structures are. The liberation, that comes for free, but you’ve got to learn before you start using these little shifts in the microstructures, and that makes it possible for us to live in a way to live our values, so if our value is everybody has a voice, we include people, and this is what you’ll hear in almost every organization, every church, every government, and when you introduce liberating structures and the group starts to use them, they’ll go, “Oh, my!” Their breath is taken away, and I believe it’s taken away because they’re actually able to act on the values. Their values. They can live them now rather than say them and know that they’re only partially realized.

Amiel: And they can do it themselves. I think, too, is that you’ve demystified these, and I want to encourage listeners while we get into some of the actual structures to go to the notes, to the episode, and I’ll include a link to the menu of liberating structures that shows names and icons and more, and they’re very short and simple names. I almost imagine that you and Henri set a limit on the number of syllables you could have. Did you?

Keith: We focused on -- Well, early on, we had a sense that this work, these microstructures, should be in the drinking water everywhere in the world for young people, for everyone, for future generations, so we wanted something that would translate everywhere in the world, so simplicity –

Amiel: Right.


-- so the number of words, visually appealing, all of those things for two people like Henri and myself to do that; I’m hooked on theory, organizational theory, and he’s hooked on management stuff. We tried really hard to put this all in the vernacular, make it as simple as possible, visually appealing, and for your listeners, that’s all true, and we still find that the repertoire is a bit overwhelming, so, Amiel, there’s something called The Liberating Structures Selection Matchmaker, and what we did with that is just -And anyone can do this -- No understanding. They don’t have to know a thing about liberating structures or any of the icons or any of that stuff. It’s a sheet with thirty-three short phrases and it asks the person -- You can try and see if it works for you, and it asks, “Given what you’re trying to accomplish in the world, read through these thirty-three.

Circle five or six or seven that if you were able to accomplish this with the people around 6 | P a g e Transcribed by Melissa Southerland Interview with Keith McCandless you; if you were able to do this thing that this little phrase says, circle it,” and let’s say you have seven items after you’ve circled them and they’re all very simple what they’re saying. Maybe the idea underneath it isn’t as simple, but they are things that any person can say, “We need to do that to move forward.” They circle those and that’s the beginning of what we call a string, and it’s a logical sequence of things you can do to make real progress on a challenge you face or what you’re trying to accomplish, and that is the simplest we’ve been able -- That’s really our goal. Anyone and everyone. We weren’t trying to create a set of tools for consultants or coaches or anyone like yourself who’s really into this stuff. We’re trying to give something, provide something to anyone on the front line to liberate themselves and their colleagues.

Amiel: Well, I’d love to have us get into some examples and why don’t we just start with 1-2-4-All and just a brief description of what that is and when a group might use it.

Keith: Great, so it is exactly what it sounds like, so the “1” of the 1-2-4-All is one minute to think for yourself, and this is our nod to introverts.

Amiel: Yay! Introverts. Yes! I’m an introvert.

Keith: Yes, introverts. Yes, and your brilliance is far too -- I’m speaking generally, but specifically -Amiel: I was feeling good there for a second, Keith. You can speak specifically.

Keith: Hey, you should feel good.

Amiel: I want all the other introverts to feel included, so, yes, speak generally.

Keith: Yes, yes. Because it’s not enough, but it’s something, okay, and it happens repeatedly because you use 1-2-4-All a lot, so in that one minute you get to collect your thoughts, which never happens. This never happens in typical settings, and we encourage people to write “it” down; whatever it is, an insight or this could be on any topic. It could be, “What should we do next to move forward,” so that’s one minute you might jot it down just for yourself. The “2” is two minutes for two people to bounce their ideas.

They aren’t asked to agree. They’re just sharing their ideas. All of our activities, liberating structures, are designed to work with difference, to make more out of difference, not to quickly try to converge things. We want to hold the difference, so the “2” is two minutes talking about that idea. The “4” is four minutes together in a group and that little group of four is looking for patterns, what’s really different, what’s really the same, and our ideas about how to move forward, and then there’s five minutes or whatever number of minutes you have, but it should be no more than five to talk together 7 | P a g e Transcribed by Melissa Southerland Interview with Keith McCandless as a whole group, whatever size the group is. Typically that conversation in the “all,” a very standard is put on “Did something in your group of four (of what you would share with all) did something in your group of four that came out of the interaction from the time of the “1”, the “2”, the “4”, did something so magnificent happen; you know, pop into view that it must be shared with the whole group?” Amiel: High standard.

Keith: A very high standard, and you should see -Amiel: Much more than usually in a big group.

Keith: Much more than usually and people think, “Oh, that’s so exclusive,” or the first time you see that done, it’s like -- Well, what that does -- You’ve just taken -- Let’s count up the minutes. It’s one minute, two minutes, you know…four; that’s seven plus five. Now you’ve spent twelve minutes. Well, did we get anything fabulous that’s going to be spectacular? No, let’s spend another twelve minutes on “What are we going to do next?” Just do another round, and it’s so counterintuitive that a rapid iterative cycle of that kind. It doesn’t try to push toward consensus immediately, would be that productive, but it is. It puts a lot of pressure. It reduces -- Well, it does a lot of things, so maybe I should stop there and any questions about -- You’ve used it, so you kind of know how it works. Any questions that you have about that?

Amiel: Yeah. Well, I want to clarify. It sounds like you are not telling people to simply say, “Here’s what our group agreed on.” Is that correct?

Keith: Correct.

Amiel: Because I have seen that happen and you’re also not saying “summarize everything.” You’re saying, “Give me some great stuff.” Does whoever is leading the exercise let everyone know that if there’s no spectacular or wonderful idea that they’ll have a chance to do it again, because I didn’t do that when I did it.

Keith: We’ll try it next time. You’ll see. You don’t have to give it an advance. I get this kind of look on my face, or if the group is kind of -- As we’re starting into this, the habits need to be broken, and one of the habits are we quickly need to gain consensus in the people with the conventional ideas that usually they win, or their ideas, they’re louder or whatever it is, so what I’ll do after the round, will get the three or four and of those fabulous ideas that come out the ones that do, once the stuff is out there, I’ll go, “Well, is that the peak? Is that the highest peak we can reach or is there anything deeper that we haven’t -

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Amiel: Yes.


-- Is there any reason to try again?” If the answer is no, it’s good. We’ve got enough to take the next step, and so the next step could be any number of things, but if it isn’t and people admit, “That’s a little flat. There’s nothing there that’s different. I’m not excited about that.” Okay. Based on the mediocre stuff that just came out -Amiel: Yes, if it takes twelve minutes.


-- let’s go another round. Why not?

Amiel: Twelve minutes of your life.

Keith: It takes twelve minute. Yes, and compare that to the tip of old productivity of any meeting really, and it’s just laughable how quickly, so the speed of it takes people’s breath away and the yield, the quality of what’s generated is -- Well, it’s up to the group, and I think one of the most interesting things for me is it’s pretty hard to tell where the fabulous stuff came from. It’s pretty hard to give attribution, and as you’re doing this (It sounds like you do this kind of thing, too) is not everybody has to have a good day, right?

There’s a lot of people. If you do multiple cycles and all the liberating structures kind of do pretty quick cycles, you’ll make a contribution in some places and not in others, and so the group, the collective imagination and the collective intelligence of the group, very quickly demonstrates its power in a way that just is very rare with conventional microstructures with presentations and open discussion and brainstorming. It’s so obvious that this reveals much more and starts to generate momentum, even so much as -This is people -- I’m going to say it just because we’re there. Many of the decisions that normally get kicked upstairs, you know, and we’re waiting for the decision, they just get in this process of 1-2-4-All or multiple cycles of it. A whole bunch of stuff gets handled and this incredible focus on the leaders need to make decisions all of the time, that’s a failure -Amiel: Yes.


-- of the way we’re working together. For me, it hurts. I can barely watch it anymore, and this is 99% -- I can’t participate in it. I can barely watch a conventional meeting, a strategy meeting, a staff meeting -Amiel: It’s like kryptonite for you?

Keith: It’s any kind of meeting is painful to me how -

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Keith: Well, as it turns out that I need to be there once in a while because that’s my work, but once you see the alternative and you know that anybody can do it, it is kryptonite.

Amiel: I’d wondered if we could go to, and I’ll invite you to pick another simple liberating structure and folks will see that in the menu, there are thirty-four or thirty-eight (something like that) and they are very simple in the upper left and more complex in the lower right, which I think is helpful because it’s how the eye tends to look at the page.

Could you pick another of the simpler ones and describe it briefly?

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