A Process for Mobilizing Learning

Shakhawat Hossain - 0xShakhawat
2 min readFeb 28, 2023

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Prepare before bringing factions together. Do you understand their perspectives? What do they stand to lose? What learning, i.e., changes in stakes and perspective, need to occur? Speaking with individuals separately can also provide invaluable insight and help you gain informal authority.

GATHER ALL VIEWS

Let each faction speak for itself. How do they view the work of resolving the shared adaptive challenge? What are their perspectives and commitments, and to what extent do they own the need to change, too?

CREATE, SHARE, AND ENFORCE GROUND RULES

Establishing or asking for clear and consistent ground rules can help depersonalize the process and keep the work at the center. Try to get rules and norms for the group established early. For example, what information is confidential? Who sets the agenda and how?

ORCHESTRATE CONFLICT

Share out the competing perspectives, values, and competencies. As perspectives emerge, factions will recognize the conflicts and the heat will increase. Part of being an orchestrator involves recognizing when participants are avoiding conflict. Look for the clues. Are individuals minimizing the differences among factions? Are they ignoring the issue entirely using common work avoidance strategies like blame or scapegoating? Remind participants that it’s your role to surface and discuss these tensions.

PROMOTE HONESTY ABOUT LOSSES

Rather than minimizing loss, help the group recognize and reflect on what each faction stands to lose and what the implications might be for their various constituents. How might constituents react?

EXPERIMENT

How will you address the challenge? Generate multiple experiments to test out potential solutions. Remember to build consensus around what will be tested and don’t grow too attached to any one idea or solution. The goal is to learn as much as possible, and a failed experiment can teach you a lot.

HARNESS THE POWER OF PEER CONSULTING

We learn better together. Encourage individuals to seek out the advice of peers throughout the Get on the Balcony process. By modeling this behavior, you help establish new norms of collaboration that value diagnostic work and action equally.

Credit: Adapted from Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2009), pp. 150–153.

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