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Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

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7 Facilitating engagement with different perspectives

Most of the time, especially when a group is working hard and is not too large (i.e. six to eight people), everyone’s attention will be on the content of what is being discussed. This is fine, until something starts to go wrong. Then someone, and preferably more than one person, should switch their attention to the process that the group is using, in order to try to sort out what is occurring. Just being aware of the process will help enormously.

Members can contribute to the group process by:

  • proposing new ideas
  • seeking clarification
  • providing information
  • summarising what has been said
  • providing support for other people’s ideas
  • being open to other people’s arguments.

On the other hand, they might impede group effectiveness by:

  • attacking other people’s suggestions
  • being very defensive about their own suggestions
  • talking at the same time as someone else
  • talking aimlessly without adding to the discussion.

Alternatively, one of the group can be chosen as an observer or facilitator whose role is to support the others in the process of generating diagrams but not be directly involved in the content of the discussion and drafting.

Comments or reflections on individual contributions do not have to be profound and dramatic in order to be worthwhile and illuminating. Partly because we get so little practice at this sort of exercise, commenting in this way and learning from the comments are not at all easy.