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  • The Green Water Bottle: Collective Sense-Making

    June 7, 2018 | Teamwork
  • At a client site yesterday I was introduced (by my wonderful co-facilitator¬†Dawn Kinsey) to a group mindfulness exercise in collective sense-making, where the group spend a minute mindfully inspecting an object (in this case a green water bottle), and then each in turn offered a non-judgmental observation about the object using the phrase “yes, and…”:

    Person 1: The bottle is green.
    Person 2: Yes, and the bottle has an orange cap.
    Person 3: Yes, and the bottle has a lightning bolt on it.
    and on it went, several times around the groups of five, with more and more nuance and insight building.

    We then discussed the question, “What if this water bottle was a new user story? How might this collective sense-making exercise help the group to see the task more clearly?” Lots of ideas emerged:

    • Collective sense-making reveals new information about the object being examined, things that I might not have noticed on my own
    • Collective sense-making provides new ways of thinking about the object: language or terminology I would not have used but which deepens my understanding of it
    • Collective sense-making ensures that everyone on the team has a voice and that each perspective is heard
    • Collective sense-making reduces the tendency to “rush to judgment” that so often happens when something new and scary (or shiny) appears on the scene. The process reinforces the habit of taking action deliberately and with a full awareness of circumstances.

    I come away full of enthusiasm for the power of the process, but also deeply curious about ways to use this collective sense-making technique in the context of the daily work that gets done, and how to skillfully apply it so the best possible thinking can emerge as teams face new challenges big and small.