What is facilitation?
Facilitation is a decision-making process wherein stakeholders or representatives of stakeholders are convened to collaborate on the issues and craft solutions. Facilitation is particularly effective for problem solving when large groups are involved, such as multi-party conflicts, inter-corporate departments, community and neighborhood associations, and public meetings.
What does the facilitator do?
The facilitator is a neutral third party, who guides the participants through the meeting in a manner that supports and encourages group collaboration. The facilitator assists the group in clarifying interests, identifying problems and creating solutions. The facilitator helps the group establish guidelines for the meeting and then aids the participants in following those guidelines.
How do I choose a facilitator?
Like choosing any consultant, a client should make his or her decision based on the facilitator’s credentials, experience and personality. It is recommended that you do your homework to find out if the facilitator (1) knows how to effectively conduct a session; (2) has the appropriate skill set and training to do a good job; and (3) is personable, quick on her feet and results-oriented. Ask the facilitator for references and information on her skills training and experience.
What are the benefits of facilitation?
- Stakeholders affected by a decision are represented.
- Stakeholders have equal opportunity to state opinions and present ideas.
- Improved team relationships.
- "Safe environment" in which to express opinions creates greater motivation to craft solutions.
- Better understanding of the problems when interests are clarified.
- More ideas available through group participation.
- Less recurrence of problems when group decisions are made.
- Greater implementation of the agreement due to input of stakeholders.
What is the difference between mediation and facilitation?
In mediation, the focus is conflict resolution. The parties are already involved in a dispute, and the mediator helps them to communicate and resolve their conflict. The mediator is not the decision-maker. If the parties do not reach resolution, then the dispute may go to a decision-making neutral (arbitrator, judge, etc.). The mediator may or may not have prior knowledge of the case matter. Mediation is confidential and voluntary.
In facilitation, the focus is on process expertise, team building and collaborative negotiations to assist groups in accomplishing their work. The facilitator gives process advice and designs agendas for the participants. Facilitation involves multiple parties, and the participants are usually representatives of the stakeholders. The facilitator always learns about the subject of the facilitation and the goals of the group prior to starting the facilitation. Facilitation is not always confidential nor considered voluntary.
Great ideas are not born in a vacuum. The best ideas for products or solving problems are most often a collaboration of several keen minds, guided by a facilitator who knows the process and navigates the participants through the process effortlessly.
Synectics© facilitation is a specialized method of ideation or brainstorming that relies heavily on the use of metaphor for developing ideas. Synectics© started as a brainstorming methodology for consumer packaged goods companies several decades ago but is now recognized as a useful ideation technique for any brainstorming process in any product category.
Synectics© facilitation concentrates on forging connections between unrelated objects or events and then tying those connections to ideas for new products or new processes. Synectics©, unlike some other ideation processes, focuses heavily on the next steps after a facilitation session, outlining specific future action by date and responsibility. Synectics© sessions are held for at least a half day, and often one- or two-day intensive sessions.