In Our Work with Groups

by Augusto Cuginotti

You and the Collective

Just out on another day of hosting a group of people doing their business in collaboration.

When things go well, ego invites to the dream that it was all about how wonderful my work is and how great I was today, but time had shown that it’s not about me at all. People are just good at doing this.

At the same time, our work hosting groups is essential as an instrument to sustain the experience of collaboration and not let the conversation fall into the same old patterns usually in place. Those learned patterns are revisited so many times that it’s like falling into an old habit.

On the other hand, when things go a bit sour, we can again choose the path of taking it on our incompetence or inability – much of the same “it’s all about me” behaviour – or even just blame an external source of disaster and become the poor victim of it all.

Either way, both carry the assumption of conversations being mere cause and effect events that can be simplified by finding something or someone to blame and, of course, to fix it.

It’s never about us and also we play an essential role in it.

We are both insignificant to what will unfold and at the same time essential as we create context and container for it.

Context, Container and Content

In this work we listen and act understanding and choosing the conditions needed and then paying attention when things are unfolding.

Those can be expressed in 3 Cs: Container, Context and Content.

Before we even meet the group as a whole, we are up and running to create context and container for the conversation, usually with a great deal of previous work, some interviews to adquire language, a good choice of space and structure, etc.

Here, though the energy is diluted, is where 80% of the amount of work is done. Context and container will do some of the important work later on.

And finally when we meet, it is time for the art of being present and some deep listening to be aware of shifts in context and the emergence of content – being those feelings, actions or concepts.

This is energy intensive but less quantitative work. One does not see much being done as the job is really to just stand there paying attention.


Read More

  • Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!: Ten Principles for Leading Meetings That Matter – Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff – e-book at Amazon
  • The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter – Juanita Brown, David Isaacs and the World Cafe Community – e-book at Amazon