Written by Cyriel Kortleven
Yesterday, I went to an IAF-conference (International association of Facilitators) in the Netherlands and the main theme was ‘3 times nothing’. The purpose was to explore the value of doing nothing at certain moments in a training or workshop. And the consequences that would have on your group. Some facilitators are convinced that you as a facilitator are responsible for the outcomes of a group. I don’t think that’s true, you are responsible for the process and setting the right atmosphere where a team or group of participants can discover new content or work towards a common goal. So it is not necessary as a facilitator to be responsible for the content and keep a discussion or flow going. Some facilitators start to work very hard if the participants are a bit more passive. But of course, they love it if the facilitator is going to do the work that they should do. So at the conference, all the workshops had something to do with ‘nothing’. In the first workshop, I was in a group were we explored two different paths – one content part – what is nothing, why does it have an added value, … and a very nice dialogue started about this topic. But a second path was more reflective and personal. They challenged us to not do something at certain moments. Eg if you wanted to add an example to a discussion, don’t do it and see what it does with yourself. You could write down the thing that you hadn’t said or done on a paper and decide if you would share this paper or not. So what was very interesting to notice a different track of discussion on the papers.
It became a bit chaotic because some people could only concentrate themselves on one track. So there was getting some tension in the room and some people were almost at the point of leaving the workshop. For me it was very interesting to notice the balance between calmness and tension and it became clear that nothing was exactly in between. If I would react to the tension to relieve it, then the ‘nothingness’ was gone and if I would do anything, probably some people would have left the workshop. So how far can you go? That’s probably different for everybody but I think it’s also an art – the art of doing nothing (and everything). In a lot of cases, when you do nothing, you are probably doing a lot somewhere else. So the topic is still going on and we didn’t come to one conclusion and I guess that’s very good. Leave the open space so nothing can happen 😉