Focused Readings Exercise

Posted on by Brandon Klein

A common Scan module is Syntopical Reading: that is, the reading of work from several authors around a given theme. This is the opposite: as a Focus assignment, giving a team one author to read, study and understand in depth. For example, in one DesignShop, each team was given a single copy (one book) of a work on systems theory to read and understand. Each team had to read the work out loud, re-reading and discuss passages until understood before proceeding.

To have the participants learn something difficult to master by other means, or learn it from a credible source (the author), rather than the facilitators and staff.

When we’ve done this module in the past, it’s been with groups we’ve worked with for awhile; and from the credibility established, we could say, “you need to learn this; we’re going to spend the next 24 hours on it.” This is a lengthy module: 5 to 7 hours.

Strengths — Can introduce participants to new information. Weaknesses — Participants may resist (and may resent) being “put back in school.” Participants will tend to be frustrated at having to work at the group pace rather than each working at his or her own pace. Specifications for Success — 1 - Make sure you have the credibility with the participants to pull this off. 2 - Make sure the assignment is meaty — worth their time. 3 - Make sure this is the right work at the right time. Could this be done as a read ahead?

Good focused reading materials. Used in the past: The Fifth Discipline (Peter Senge) The Brain of the Firm (Stafford Beer), Living Systems (James Grier Miller), The Art of Strategy (translator: R.L. Wing).