An Ancient Practice To Help Generate New Ideas

The Question
[Inspired by a circle!]
How might you tap the wisdom of the ages to foster new ideas?

The Answer
Get rid of your tables and sit in a circle!

I have been facilitating a variety of strategic planning, innovation, change management and problem solving sessions with leadership teams, board directors and more. Some of these sessions involve sitting around tables. Sometimes you need a table to work on.

I have been experimenting with removing tables completely. Sitting in circles is a practice that my kids demonstrated in Kindergarten. It seemed to work for their teachers!

The act of sitting in a circle evokes memories of wise elders gathering around campfires. Even though it’s a practice that has been around a long time it is somewhat rare in many corporate settings. It does make some people uncomfortable, at first.

The Challenge
I would encourage you to try removing tables (see the photo). This photo is of a circle that was filled by 25 board directors of a ‘wish granting’ not-for-profit organization. While it might not seem very revolutionary, the act of removing tables naturally shifts the energy in the room. People show up in a different way. There is nowhere to hide!

Sitting in a circle is one piece of the puzzle that sets a different tone for a group conversation. While it may feel uncomfortable for some people with the right set up and facilitation it quickly creates a safe, trusting space for people to speak their minds. Sitting in circle is one small shift you can take to help your team show up differently to dive into problems, create new ideas and commit to take action.

“We came into the session with our current strategy in mind as not all members of the team were as far down the path of desired change as we might have expected. We had some challenges determining the root causes that prevented everyone from universally embracing the change in direction. Brent created a safe space for everyone to step out of their comfort zones, unpack the issues, generate a lot of solutions quickly and develop doable action plans for the best ideas. Brent kicked off the day with a fun assessment and ended the session by asking the team to identify the impact they expected as a result of implementing their best ideas. The result: a significant step forward towards our goal in just one day.”

Diane Roach, CHRP
Director, Human Resources and Volunteer Services