How to Honor and Recognize Diversity, Ensuring Meeting and Workshop Inclusiveness

The primary responsibility of a facilitator is to protect the participants.  Secondarily, the facilitator helps drive the group toward its desired deliverable.  Since the deliverable is built to serve the participants, the people should take priority over the issues.  To some extent, both people and issues are managed by creating an environment that is conducive to productivity.  Easier said, than done.

Additionally the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) aspires for you to:

  • Encourage positive regard for the experience and perception of all participants

    Cultural Plurality

  • Create a climate of safety and trust
  • Create opportunities for participants to benefit from the diversity of the group
  • Cultivate cultural awareness and sensitivity”

Dr Edward de Bono provides expert insight about parallel thinking; ie, there can be more than one correct answer.  Listening to others, their perspective, and rationale will create a more robust product.  Since we are all guilty of selective perception, the aggregation of all points of view provides stronger understanding and insight than any single point of view.  When facilitating a group of nine people for example, we are looking for the tenth answer.  The FAST technique refers to this concept as N+1, where N equals the quantity of participants, we are always seeking the +1 perspective.

Remember to embrace and enforce meeting and workshop ground rules to create a climate of safety and trust.  See our earlier discussion ( for more specific comments and suggestions.

Diversity, or plurality as we prefer to call it (suggesting the beauty of a mosaic rather than the fracturing of something), is undoubtedly the key to innovation.  Embrace de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats (modified to Seven Thinking Hats with the FAST technique to also include the “Process” or royal purple view) or others means of facilitating perspective found in your FAST manual or in other expert sources such as Roger von Oech‘s Creative Whack Pack (most recently made available for the iPhone®).

Consider special ice breakers, break out sessions, or team building exercises that emphasize the value of plurality.  Scannell and Newstrom offer hundreds of options (eg, among other expert tools.  Take this opportunity to leverage the tactile sense, and consider some of the professional Legos® activities or others designed to prove the value of plurality and its positive impact on the quality of deliverables.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

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