Blog > Facilitation and equilibrium

September 30, 2014

Some beliefs and theories in facilitation have always bothered me. What appears to be sane and sensible on paper, in reality, just simply don’t stack up when working with a real, live group of humans. One of these is divergent thinking and convergent thinking. It presumes that people will engage in divergent thinking (coming up with different ideas etc) and then, after a period of struggle, will converge on a smaller set of ideas that are acceptable to everyone. What’s always bothered me about this can be explained by the principle of preferential attachment in networks (and yes, a group of people in a workshop is a network). Basically, people are attracted to the more popular ideas (it’s the rich get richer phenomenon). What if the really innovative, radical, game-changing idea is not one of these?

Exactly. It gets lost, and business continues as usual doing much the same as before with little or no disruption. Everyone leaves happy, but probably feeling a bit dissatisfied.

Until recently, we have believed that equilibrium is possible, and preferable, in biological (including human) systems. However, research is now showing that convergence to equilibrium is now the exception rather than the rule. Is it time to rethink our systems of facilitation and let go of the unrealistic equilibrium states some clients yearn for?

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