Getting to Root Issues and Insights

Occasionally it is enough to simply get a group to come up with a simple outcome from a meeting.  But most often a group will fare better if the facilitated process allows them to think deeply about the topic they are wrestling with.
Getting to the Root Issues
A colleague was working recently with a community coalition that had just opened up a homeless shelter.  They were running into all kinds of issues – from worried and upset neighbours, to homeless people who were very clear they needed much more than just a place to get out of the cold for a night.
Her first thought was to simply brainstorm all the issues and theme them by similar issues.  As she thought about it, she realized it would take the group deeper if they clustered by “similar root issue”, and then named those root issues.  Naming the deep root issues would provide a framework to create strategies that could really make a difference – like looking for the taproot of a particularly persistent weed so that you can see where to effectively aim the tool to get rid of it.
This is the role of the “Contradictions Workshop” that follows the Vision workshop in the ToP Transformational Strategy method.  However, guiding a group to look beneath the surface to root issues is more than just a part of strategic planning.
In her final design, my colleague started with engaging the group in a Journey Wall, articulating all the things that had brought them to this point, and creating a story of their journey so far.   They discerned the trends that were happening, and then did a quick intuitive workshop to discover the real underlying issues.  At that point they identified actions they could take to address the issues. The insights they generated from the whole process took them beyond the despair and conflict they had been experiencing, to positive strategies.  They had satisfying and hopeful results of depth and substance as a group.
Generating Insight
As another strategy for facilitating a group to depth and substance, the Consensus Workshop Method is designed to create new insight that no one individual can come up with alone.  Creating new insights as a group is made easier by starting with individuals recording their solitary thinking, then the group bringing the ideas together in an intuitive process looking for the larger patterns that the cluster of individual ideas reveal. Naming the cluster of these larger patterns often leads to a group “aha!”. This is the process of “gestalt” that is part of the magic of the Consensus Workshop Method:  it is the opposite of sorting unique ideas into pre-conceived categories. New insight is generated by the group, and with that, enthusiasm and commitment.