Facilitating a conference on facilitation!

There is one conference that I make it a point to be around, it is the India conference of the International Association of Facilitators. For a variety of reasons. For one, it is a brilliant community with loads of equanimity. For another, there is no question of sitting back, staring at a deck of PowerPoint slides, slickly produced corporate videos and listen to suave speeches or a panel discussion, which is the staple fare of most other conferences. Nothing wrong with that.

Just that, the IAF conferences require active co-creation, reflection, and meaning making as an integral part of every minute. IAF events are truly immersive experience for everyone in the room. Never a dull moment. Perpetually inclusive and trusts the wisdom of the community to keep it moving along. That is a rich wisdom and I have always been enriched after each meeting!

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To share, learn and grow with the community is a narrative that is dear. We (Me and the L&D team from Asian Paints) were there this time around too, to share our experiences with facilitation, but more importantly to co-evolve along with all participants, a ideas and thoughts alongside our experience.

We ran a concurrent session and here are some highlights and reflections that we shared and helped co-create

a. The detachment that is necessary from labels & tools and in order to attach ourselves to outcomes seemed to resonate with many. The ‘lightly-tightly’ way of working. There were several models that got built atop that vector.

b. Every tool has a place and needs to be respected for that. Overuse can undermine, and under use can be a travesty of what is possible if that tool too had been used. Training, Facilitation, Coaching etc are different tools. ( Tools that carry different meanings in the minds of many). Attachment to outcomes, can bring about a focus on interplay and ownership.

c. Questioning of assumptions can alter the dynamics of how the future (and organisational processes like ‘reviews’)  can be differently built. To begin working on a problem as its stated, but to enable reframing of the ‘problem’ by all stakeholders, with imagination, can cause considerable shifts. We shared a couple of examples, the group constructed a few that were neat.

d. Of course, there were multiple rounds of discussions on ‘dismantling the hierarchy’ and the imaginative ways of co-creation that can be enabled by simple sharing and ‘letting go’. I would reckon the ‘letting go’ bit is a difficult but necessary pill (if it were to be one), for outcome effectiveness to reign.

e. We had begun by getting the group to imagine ‘all interactions’ within an organisation. The choices made by random diverse groups reiterated to me, how common organisational dilemmas are. And more importantly, for how long they have been around. We need new ways of working with and resolving these dilemmas. The old ways don’t work, for they were meant for an old time. And of course, we ourselves are new.

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Another feature of IAF Conferences is the open, transparent way of gathering and collating feedback. What you see above was feedback sheet of participants from our session. It left me smiling, while serving as a pointed reminder of the work to be done.

The world and the #FutureOfWork, need an inclusive approach to life, living and work. The foundations of ‘facilitation’ stretch far beyond a clutch of skills. It presupposes an inclusive, generous, mindset that is not bound by ‘control’ but lead by ‘a letting go mindset’ and get everybody to take responsibility. It is a key skill to imbibe and get proficient with, for now and the times to come. With an emphasis on community, common ground and development. Skills to stitch together the future in the face of ever widening differences, are critical. Now, more than ever before.

It was in 2011 that I first attended the Asia Conference of the IAF in Bangalore. There were delegates from many parts of the world and every corner of Asia. It was 2011, the world was still reeling from the shock of the earthquake and Tsuanami that hit Japan. That conference had a number of facilitators from Japan, who detailed and demonstrated how ‘facilitation’ was getting deployed to rebuild the community in Fukashima. It was a deeply moving and a very thorough experience.

The conference provided perspectives, a clutch of skills and a sea of global friendships. I remember leaving that conference thinking if facilitation could aid complex community building work (like the Fukashima example) from the ground up, adapting it to the precincts of organisational  realities required a dash of courage and oodles of imagination. Nothing more. In more ways than one, it sparked a fresh bouquet of thoughts and has kept us busy for a long while.

Heres some news : The Asia Conference of the IAF is coming back to India ( It went to Schenzen in 2012, Tokyo in 2013, and Singapore in 2014).  Sometime in August 2015, Mumbai will play host to the IAF, Asia Conference. Thats the best news I have heard in a long time.  Watch this space for more.

In the meanwhile, here is Brig.Sushil Bhasin’s generous take on our session. Do read and give him a shout! 🙂 His energy is infectious.

16 thoughts on “Facilitating a conference on facilitation!

  1. Vinay Kumar says:

    Thanks Kavi for the excellent summary and insight. More importantly Asian Paints and your participation in this community is one of the many reasons that makes this community vibrant and exciting.

  2. Kavi says:

    Coming from you, thats humbling Vinay. I look forward to staying connected and do whatever I can to enrich Process Facilitation. Given the problems that face the world and having seen what Process Facilitation can accomplish, we sure have a job at hand! 🙂

  3. I have generally come out of workshops / seminars and jotted down some learnings. More often than not, the notes keep decorating a shelf in a cupboard. After I attended a seminar on ‘Winning Psychology’ by Brian Tracy and I decided to put down all I learned on my blog post. I did that the same night and gave finishing touches it in the flight next morning. Things changed dramatically. I now jot down the essentials and include them in my ‘Goals” and action plan, the same day. It worked wonders. Its now a habit.

    Spending those 2 days (and that was too little) in this conference followed by what you have written and crystallising my thoughts on my blog is giving me a great feeling. A feeling of truly re-inventing myself. Many questions that I had for myself got answered.
    By today evening I will write a detailed blogpost on the entire conference/

    Looking fwd to the Asia Conf next year

  4. Kavi says:

    Thank you Sushil. You Work out Loud well! Am happy to have met you again and I look forward to staying connected. Thanks for your very generous comments! 🙂

  5. chaula shah says:

    Your blogs and writing are getting better and better as i mostly follow your write ups..

    Honest and generous sharing every time..:-)

    I have one opinion…when you say ..Attachment to result, detachment to process…it still eventually create attachment in the process…

    one’s maturity is very critical anyway as a facilitator/trainer/coach/leader.

    detachment, intention, ownership are according to me very evolved space to be….tough though…but worth it.
    Takes life time honesty and deeper journey to be that in a training/facilitating premises..

    This is my understanding & self-expression..

    A BIG THANK YOU To all of Asian Team…We ALL LOVED THE PROCESSES & SHARING that happened in the class.

  6. Kavi says:

    Hey Chaula! Thank you. Appreciate your wishes and thoughts. Keeps me focussed on getting geared for more. Thanks for stopping by and expressing your thoughts.

  7. Natesh says:

    Thanks Kavi for sharing . IAF looks like a place where facilitation is lived & fostered in spirit.. will aim to participate in it in its next editions .. i could relate with the ‘process/tool taking precedence over the outcome’ dynamic.. a few days back i was part of a coach training session & this very topic cropped up .. You point on letting go Vs control mindset for effective facilitation is both fundamental & powerful .. thanks.

  8. Kavi says:

    IAF indeed is a place for that. Am glad you are considering participating in the next editions. There are a number of events that happen in Bangalore as well. Would be great to see you around!

  9. Anita Dagar says:

    Thanks for recapturing the points here.i experienced your session as full of hope …for a beautiful life…hope to BE wholesome without lables and without hierarchies, hope to BE limitless, hope to rise beyond self. I experienced so much oneness in your words and your being, in your team and you , your connection with the participants. Thanks for this wholesome session!

  10. Kavi says:

    Thank you Anita! It was a pleasure to meet you and stay connected. Cherish your thoughts. Thanks again.

  11. susanta saha says:

    Great insight on fecilitating and by you, just presenting the conference to me in blog. Great, I become your follower.
    @susantasaha

  12. susanta saha says:

    Please correct the typo error, facilitation

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