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Rhapsody for Strings

One Liberating Structure can transform a meeting.  A powerful string can draw out much-better-than-expected results in a way that forever shifts the pattern of working together. Below, accomplished maestros share and rhapsodize about their favorites.
As familiarity with the LS repertoire increases, there are an infinite number of combinations and riffs.  AND, there are certain strings that simply knock your socks off. With the suggestion that a picture tells a thousand words, the editor [Keith] has limited the narrative from each maestro to a puny three sentences. Future LS News will feature interviews that dig deeper into details (e.g., invitations, twists, turns, and LS punctuation).   
  1. Building Financial Literacy with High School Students
  2. Liberating Learning Together:  Using LS in Our Work
  3. Leadership Retreat: High Dive Into Collective Strategy-Making
  4. Tap the Founder’s Story To Uplift Next Level Innovation
  5. Management Meeting: In Charge But Not In Control
  6. Get Over Yourself, NOW! Prepare To Go Deeper with Your Customers
  7. Cross-Sector Community Groups Catalyzing Learning + Action
  8. Catalyzing Nursing Knowledge for BIG Data Science
  9. Strategic Planning to Tactical Plans in Three Fractal Movements
We know there are many more maestros who have strings to share. There is an experiment underway on Slack for people to give and get help from other practitioners. Joining is clunky at the moment (if there are any Slack maestros out there, help us?!): Email Fisher to request access. 
In a high school classroom, this seriously-playful string generates awareness of the need for financial literacy: 1-2-4 All (What is money?); TRIZ (How would you live like a Kardashian?); and, Critical Uncertainties (What two elements critical to your financial security are out of your control?). Composed by Greg Myers.
Used in a series of workshops with educators on “Liberating Learning.” The first phase was used to help participants see both shared and unique challenges (assumption going in: they are all unique. NOT!), then moving into exploring individual LS and strings in small groups, then cross pollinating across the groups, reflection and next steps. Composed by Nancy White.   
My top five LS microstructures that anchor a very productive 2-day strategy retreat.  Waves of “looking inside” (9 Whys, 25/10) and “looking outside” (Critical Uncertainties, Ecocycle) help deepen insights and action. The retreat wraps with unambiguous commitments made to each other via WINFY (What I Need From You). Composed by Keith McCandless.     
For an organization that is 100+ years old, this string taps the founding story as a wellspring to inspire and motivate all the stakeholders. The pace was quick and punctuated with with lots of sense-making through 1-2-4-All and W3 and the day ended with clear action items and next steps using the Gameplan. This string beautifully combines learning, discovery, and kicking things into action! Composed by Liz Rykert.      
A favorite “everyday” string for a weekly project management team meeting addressing an entangled challenge that may involve a budget problem, a structural change, or a new opportunity—or all three at once.  Prior to the meeting, the topic has been discussed (but not resolved) in the halls and in sub-meetings via 1-2-4-All.  The leader shares the challenge and gets immediate practical help from all the managers. While the leader is in charge, the decision or next steps often “emerge” out of the collaborative group interaction sparked by this string. Composed by Neil McCarthy
Reach beyond the empathy horizon and practice neglected forms of listening and helping. Get familiar with new patterns of relating to customers before launching an action research project or beginning field work. Give-and-get immediate feedback on the micro-behaviors that shape the quality of your interactions with customers. Prepare to let go of your ego and humbly learn at the feet of your customer. Composed by Fisher Qua.
For big community or learning collaborative meetings, I invite people to start out with reflective nonverbal expression by using Drawing Together, then sharing their images via Impromptu Networking.  Next, a lively User Experience Fishbowl helps people “play” with some of the complex challenges they face across organizations. From there, the large group is well-positioned to: make paradoxical challenges more explicit with Wicked Questions; face up to the juicy Wicked Qs via a DAD; and then, close with practical action steps via Troika Consulting. Composed by Anna Jackson.   
Over two days, this string was used during the “National Agenda for Big Data in Nursing” conference at the University of Minnesota. The conference was organized around the work of the past year (hindsight), current events and issues (insight), and attention to future emergence (foresight). Description of what happened. Composed by Dan Pesut
Movement I:  Impromptu Networking followed by an introduction to and application of P2P. Then, Purpose:  9 Whys + 1-2-4-All an 8 word purpose statement; Principles via Min. Specs; Participants via Social Network Webbing; Structure via 1-2-4-All conversation re: control and power distribution; and, finally Practices via Ecocycle + 25/10 Crowdsourcing (If you were 10x bolder, what would you add to or advance within the Ecocycle?
Movement II:  Groups form based on who wants to advance the top 25/10 ideas. The P2P cycle is repeated to develop tactical plans via Purpose; Principles; Participants; Structure; and Practices via a Design Storyboard including specific milestones, who will do them, and how you will know they are done.  Fractal turtles all the way down! 
Movement III:  Improv Prototyping + Wise Crowds to develop tactical plans initially developed in Movement II.  Use Wise Crowds in 3 iterations to give honest feedback, and steal liberally from other groups as each round of Improv Prototyping progresses. This is an efficient way for everyone to be in the know about what sub-groups are working on and to offer feedback and help on each plan despite only working on one in the moment. Then, 15% Solutions to move initiatives forward. Composed by Tim Jaasko-Fisher

LS in Development: Do You Like Failing Forward?  

For the intrepid interested in field-testing nascent LS, you can check out Talking with Pixies, Network Patterning Cards, and MindMeld here. The simplicity of a LS comes out of multiple efforts to strip away everything except the essential Min Specs.

Each needs more extreme testing to build “reliable surprise” into the microstructural fabric. If you like looking under the hood and failing forward, this is your cup of tea.  

We ask only that you provide feedback from your experience via evaluation criteria. Each nascent LS has a detailed survey to assess the performance of your field tests:

Upcoming Immersion Events & Learning Experiences

  • Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana: Features a workshop within a workshop for experienced practitioners who want to design and structure their own immersion experiences. 
  • Portland, Oregon: Hosted by the Association of Change Management Professionals, we will engage with seriously playful curiosity around the infusion of LS into change initiatives of all stripes. 
  • Vancouver, Canada: Many LS were initially field tested across Canada. We'll be rabble rousing with a perfectly diverse mix of educators, healthcare professionals, and software developers - among many others. 
You can keep track of other LS learning opportunities here. 
Illustration by Tracy Kelly
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