Ordinary work environments are designed to discourage collaboration. There is no way to gather the entire constituency related to a large issue together for an uninterrupted period of time. The architecture of the buildings channel communication in unhelpful ways, workers time schedules prohibit long periods of uninterrupted time, and they are constantly interrupted by pagers, cell phones and other distractions. The only collaborative space in many organizations is by the water cooler.
We have to create the containment vessel for the transformation to occur with our client. Clients sometimes view their journey as the travel that gets them to the ASE space. But the real voyage takes place within our walls. By shutting off the outside world we create a special space where their work can advance rapidly. We are more than some magical philosopher’s stone, we have a set of principles and understand how to create what needs to happen.
A containment vessel is the concrete shielding around a nuclear reactor or chemical reaction. It allows huge pressures to build up on the interior, as it reflects the energy of the reaction back in on itself. The shape and materials of the containment vessel can channel the reaction, as a ‘shaped charge’ explosive directs a jet of hot gasses in one particular direction. In the same way, our space and actions within that space send powerful signals to the participants about how the space is to be used. The behavior cues they are used to are removed and that unfreezes a chunk of their culture.
A vessel is also a container that moves. It is used to make a journey or transport people and cargo to a new place. Travel generates a sense of adventure, of discovering new things, and changes in temporal and physical location. The participants journey was not to get to the space, but really takes place within it.
In order to create that containment vessel for the set of participants we need to pay attention to important patterns and principles.
· Make it a safe place to say the un-sayable. Create and structure a sense of security, so that hard things to be said can be said and embryonic ideas have time to gestate to term before they are challenged to survive in the open.
· Create a business dojo, where it is all right to be a learner and not know the answer right off the bat.
· Engage their culture to bring into the process tools or techniques that will appropriately change it. Frequently the biggest barrier to success is the organization’s own culture.
· Create boundaries – event and process – to keep the energy focused internally. This is where boundary conditions like ‘no visitors’ and ‘everybody stays for the entire session’ come from.
· Facilitation is the vessel and creates the vessel. It is what ties together the environment, the processes and the people and creates the ‘ASE magic.’ Enfold the participants with the space, the krew and the energy.
· Facilitate the energy over the three days so that it peaks at the Act day.
· A sense of openness, movement, and possibility allows groups to challenge and overcome their barriers.
· Make sure their experience forms a bond, a feeling of having been in the trenches together. Serve up challenges in a difficult but surmountable form, so they generate a momentum of solving problems and creating solutions. When they leave the space at the end of an event, they should feel that they have taken a journey together and are disembarking to a new place.