14. The Design Team Process


This chapter is the empowerment chapter. Chapters 2-6 provided the mechanics for re-thinking the assumptions and expectations of all traditional social institutions, organizations, and democratic processes.

Chapters 7-13 described the standards needed to advance a democratic nation forward in its social and political evolution toward social stability, peace, and social sustainability. Now, chapters 14 and 15 will discuss the means for citizens in every local community of every democratic nation can create that evolution as a conscious and intentional process of social change for desired results.

The Design Team Process is capable of empowering local community citizens in every democratic nation to begin the process of transforming their UNsustainable society, politics, and economies to SUSTAINABLE. For myself, perhaps I am being selfish, I do not want to leave my grandchildren in distress for the world that I and the Baby Boomer generation and the “me-generation” will leave them. What I want to do is to provide the means to this and all succeeding generations with the capability to transform and sustain their communities and nation with an improving quality of life.

The empowerment of the public is a necessity in any era of democratic nations, and particularly so when the evolution the democratic process has not kept pace with the social evolution of their society. The current reality in developed democracies is that there is no evolved democratic process to bring the original authority of citizens, the pubic, to bear upon the antiquated political process that still exists as though it were 1835. What the founders of the American democracy established in 1789-1791 proves that a politically viable democratic nation can exist. Now, the question is, “Can it exist as a politically evolved democracy with an evolved democratic process?

What will be described in this chapter is the means to accomplish several strategic projects:25

1) The permanent establishment of an evolved form of citizen participation in the democratic process;
2) the means to provide a conscious intention for social change so that it contributes to the common good of all;
3) a means for validating existing public policies, and for designing public policies for consideration by elected and appointed public officials and legislative bodies and their committees;
4) an intelligent means to recommend individuals for candidacy; and
5), a means for screening candidates about real issues. These are only a very few examples of how the Design Team Process can be used to citizen’s advantage and the benefit of an evolving democratic process.

Design Team Process

The Design Team Process is the result of a methodology involving the 1) seven values, 2) Schematic, and 3) the Team. The Design Team Process involves 5-11 Team Members using various roles to work through the steps of the Social Sustainability Design and Validation Schematic, page 167.  Though the Schematic is inert it provides a dynamic format for team members that empowers the working environment to become highly interactive. Synergism usually develops spontaneously when Team members work through the Schematic using their role functions, and when they feel emotionally and socially safe in that environment. They will then proceed with confidence.

The Design Team Process is a highly educational environment where members learn how to think, rather than what to think. Members I have trained to work in a Design Team have remarked that their listening skills became more perceptive while their thinking became more keen and discerning. The best result is that team members learn how to ask cogent and intuitively incisive questions that add clarity to discussions, in or out of the Team.

“Flow” of the Team Process. When the team is in the flow of its work, it is as though time stands still. The flow of the team process takes on a character and “glow” of its own so that the serendipity of insights and participation of the team members occurs when it is needed. There is an underlying awareness among the team members that they “know” the way ahead and their work is on target, useful, and effective.

Using a fillable PDF of the Schematic on individual computer tablets will help keep the members working together and help the team anticipate what is needed to add to the Schematic as new input is developed. As comments are added, other members can use them to modify their own thinking as blank areas of the Schematic are filled in. It is also valuable to have additions and modifications visible when other members may be working collaterally with support staff or engaged in online research.

The Design Team Process roughly follows the following procedure:

●    Fill in the numbered spaces in the top half of the Schematic for the project you are working on.

●    Proceed to fill in Column #6 for the desired results you want to achieve.

●    Proceed to Column #7 to identify and record the Team’s expectations for the topic;

●    Proceed to Column #8 to identify and record the Team’s beliefs about the topic.

Because beliefs are often vastly different between Team Members, the cause for those differences is due to unexposed assumptions. See page 158, “The Process of Revealing Hidden Assumptions” to expose and identify the assumptions. It is important to record the assumptions so that those who read the “Findings Report” will also become aware of the underlying assumptions.

●    Proceed to Column #9 to identify and record the Team’s

Interpreted Values that support the Beliefs in Column #8.

●    When the above process has been completed, it is time to use the seven universal values in Column #10 to validate the interpreted values, beliefs and assumptions, and expectations. Only then can the Desired Results in Column #6 be validated as being moral, ethical, and adhere to the seven values.

●    Write the Findings Report of what was discovered during the validation process.

●    Continue creating a Design based on validations.

●    Validate the final Design against the seven values.

●    Write the final Statement of Findings.

Keep in mind that the Design Team Process is flexibly designed to be instructive rather than being didactic in nature.

Sources Of Knowledge And Wisdom

The sources of knowledge and wisdom used by the Design Team include:

●    Using what the members know;

●    Investigating historical and contemporary social research;

●    Researching archives of wisdom on the Internet and in libraries;

●    Entering into moments of reflection where each Team Member must reach within and find the Source to guide them to those ingenious, serendipitous insights that did not exist before..26

The wisdom of sustainability is historic and all around us. From historians millennia ago to contemporary historians they all have much to say about the reasons societies and civilizations fail. The failures are very pragmatic in what they tell us: Not this way!

It is time that we consciously, intentionally, and conscientiously began the process of accumulating wisdom related to social sustainability to turn our state and national organizations into learning organizations. To that end it would be very helpful to create a “Library for Sustaining Human Wisdom,” a repository where that wisdom that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere. Local Design Teams are an excellent addition to families and communities because they can train and educate millions of citizens to become contributors and collaborators of the future they and their children will fulfill with their lives.

No one in the past has engaged this work with the intention of designing socially sustainable societies. The work of the Design Team Process is the means to avoid adding democratic societies to the historical list of failed nations and societies. Gathering and writing Statements of Validation must not become just another book of platitudes, but pragmatic wisdom that is incorporated into the vision and working policies of sustainable family designs and organizations; and, that those designs become developed into plans, and action taken to implement their accomplishment.

Wisdom Finding. Consider the following piece of historic wisdom from Cicero, 55 BCE, that alludes to the sustainability of a national economy.

●    “The Treasury should be refilled,

●    public debt should be reduced,

●    the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and

●    the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.

●    People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

Example. Economies are a product of human social activity. What are the universal, underlying truths, principles, and axioms of sustainable economies? We must discover and apply them to stabilize our communities, nation, and world; and, to avoid the obvious causes of economic destruction. Ironically, we are in possession of thousands of years of experience in hundreds if not thousands of cultures, yet we have not compiled that wisdom to answer the question, “What works economically and financially to support the social sustainability of our nation and world?”

Once those principles become known and validated, we must create designs that incorporate that wisdom into the training and operation of financial institutions. History is fairly explicit in its identification of what financial and economic actions do not work, and must be avoided. What we need to discover is what does work, 27 and eliminate what does not work. When we generate designs that work through this process, the economy of our societies will become stable.

It seems an obvious development that a small number of design teams with a predisposition for examining historic and contemporary wisdom relating to social sustainability could begin working to discover those universal axioms and principles. Because the four primary values — life, equality, growth, and quality of life — provide the validating “truths” of social sustainability, inquiring teams would soon discover the principles and axioms that are universal to the sustainability of all social structures and processes of all cultures. I suspect that inquiring teams will begin to “mine” the history books and social research sources to collect the bits of wisdom that hundreds of generations of thoughtful historians, writers, thinkers, philosophers and social researchers have shared.

Initiating A Local Community Design Team

The Organizer. Every community has within it certain individuals who possess the wisdom to understand and appreciate that cultural leadership means looking out for future generations by preparing today. Although their numbers have been calculated at only 1% of any population, they are those natural born volunteers who come forward on their own initiative. They are the forward thinking individuals who will initiate Local Design Teams in their communities without being asked. They simply see that it needs to be done and begin.

The Organizer is a person with leadership qualities who possesses insight, courage, curiosity, and initiative. The role of Organizer is an important one. He or she chooses a topic they hope will become a socially sustainable design. The topic that holds the interest for the Organizer will often serve to captivate and motivate the energy and action of potential Team Members. Teams usually form around a common interest shared by Team Members, such as the design of sustainable health care services, sustainable education systems, pre-school programs, home healthcare, parenting and child rearing, sustainable relationships, or community gardens, for example.

Recruiting. Once the Organizer has identified the topic for validation, he or she will begin the process of recruiting potential team members. The Organizer may initiate recruiting by discovering like-minded people who share the same interest for improving a social issue, social policy, or institution in their community. These may be people who are familiar with the Organizer or people with whom the Organizer has a social connection or from their employment. Secondly, the Organizer will also want to recruit people who have skills for the various Team Member roles. It should be noted that young people, the unemployed, and retired individuals are good candidates because they typically will have more time to devote to such a project. Writing an article in a periodical or other publication may generate interest from those who may be unknown to the Organizer but who share the same interest and concerns.

First Meeting

Once the Organizer has identified the subject, and recruited a sufficient number of potential members for a Design Team, the next step is to invite them to attend a social gathering to discuss matters informally.

The purposes of this informal social gathering are several:

1.    The Organizer will make the details of his or her intentions known to the group by outlining those intentions and why they are important.

2.    The Organizer will discuss the make-up of a Design Team, the roles within the team, and the options for decision-making. Thereafter, potential team members should be invited to ask questions as well as make comments and suggestions.

3.    Team building begins immediately. This is a time for the potential design team members to get acquainted with each other and begin the process of bonding as a potential team, and for discovering the “best fit” of members of the new team.

Some will volunteer and join in, and some may choose not to. Team members who choose to volunteer will want to discuss their qualifications for the various roles of the design team. When enough volunteers for a team (5-11 members) have been enrolled, the Organizer’s next task is to set a regular day and time, and meeting place.

The role of Organizer is an important role, but it is only temporary. The Organizer may or may not become the Facilitator. If not, then the role of Facilitator must be filled by another member of the team, a role for which he or she is qualified.

Where do we begin? After getting acquainted and in the early stages of bonding, the team will ask itself, “Now, where do we begin? What do we do?” One of the first considerations is to find a suitable location where the team can meet in person to conduct its business without interruptions. Soon the team will discover how necessary it is to plan their efforts and to plan the effective use of its resources— the time and participation of team members.

Some teams may decide that all team members “do their own thing” and then come back together and discuss those parts. Other teams will work simultaneously with everyone present, and produce in their own way where everything stays at the same level of progression. Team Process is a new way of doing business for most people. You are, in fact, learning how a sustainable design team works. The team and its operation must as well become sustainable within its operation. It does so by each member keeping their your fingers on the pulse and vital signs of team process, so that all elements progress together.

Decision-making. Members will soon need to discuss and discover how the team will make decisions. Quorum, majority, 2/3 majority, unanimity, and consensus are available. Although the “flow” of work in the team may become seamless to provide a uniformity of direction when options are exercised, there will come times when an actual vote count will be necessary. It is good to have that worked out ahead of time.

Team Building 28

Building a working and functional team involves discovering the member’s commonalities by sharing their personal experiences of their lives to appreciate their mutual commonalities, to support their willingness to achieve personal and common outcomes. Working in a design team is as much a process that joins people with their hearts as well as their minds.

“We must establish a personal connection with each other.
Connection before content.
Without relatedness, no work can occur.”
Peter Block

By sharing similar experiences and discovering those commonalities, emotional ties develop – evidence of social and emotional bonding between members that ties them all together in a “shared community” of personal experience. The team building that began at the very first social gathering of potential team members now has become an ongoing facet of the Design Team Process. Team building is an ongoing and critical element for the smooth functioning of the Design Team. Team members will eventually begin to see their team as a social process that promotes efficiency, cohesion, and creativity that produces outcomes, as well as growth by individual team members.

Feeling socially and emotionally safe leads to trust. The Facilitator plays a highly important function almost immediately by facilitating the early stages of team building: The team can only become highly effective when the team has become a framework for positive interaction among team members where each feels the freedom to express his or her own viewpoints without criticism or rejection, and where each member respects the viewpoints of other team members. Feeling safe emotionally leads to a shared trust and ultimately to confidence in the process itself so that the team achieves focus, unity, and direction. Without a firm feeling of being safe, trust will never develop, and the bond within the team will be weak and ineffectual.

A Design Team that has bonded effectively is able to operate without an authority figure, yet possesses unity of effort and purpose. Members have roles and functions within the team, yet the process is free-flowing in nature permitting the creative ability of individual members to emerge and contribute to a synergy of effort that far surpasses what individuals working alone can accomplish. An effective Design Team promotes and uses the best attributes, skills, and abilities of each member.

A Functional Team Environment is not an environment where team members can hide their prejudices and biases! Design teams work best when each member is transparent, and has no agenda, ulterior motives, or ego pursuits (power, control, and authority). Ego issues and the lack of transparency are contrary to the humility that is crucial to the functioning of the team. Though the Team uses the Team Process to expose and identify beliefs and assumptions for their project, the very same process will help the team discover and identify the unsustainable beliefs and assumptions of each team member. The result of good team building is that a Design Team will become socially sustainable in its own right to fully develop its potential to design functional socially sustainable systems. Before too long the Team will begin to automatically function in alignment with the seven values and develop its beliefs and expectations for performance.

Though the team is not a therapeutic environment, individual agendas and ego manifestations will become very evident in a team environment, and these often work against the productive outcome of the team. This is a nuance of teamwork that must be worked through, and particularly in a team environment that does not use the position of a leader, “boss,” manager, chairperson, director, or el jefe. Rather, this is an egalitarian group of individuals who have particular roles that assist the team to function more effectively.

When a team begins to work together more than 100 hours, members will find that most of the human problems and human ego/personality disorders become highly evident and manifest, and individual members will either work toward their maturity and growth or opt out of the team. A team will be very fortunate to have a member who is trained in some form of inner personal development, to aid the Facilitator.

As a team member, you are there to assist your fellow team members — not to be a crutch to them, or to enable them — neither are you there to be an antagonist to bedevil them about their shortcomings. The Consultant’s responsibilities include bringing these sticky, personal issues to the forefront of the team. This is different from the Facilitator, who has also become aware of these problems and these resistances, but it is not their job to dissolve them — this is within the venue of the Consultant.

Social Sustainability Design Team Roles

A Design Team provides a collaborative environment that in some ways represents a micro-image of our society with its beliefs and assumptions. In this collaborative environment, team members are able to explore their roles, (Inquiring Members, Recorder, Consultant, and Facilitator), and develop a synergism as they work through the Schematic.

I’ve been asked, “Why is it necessary to use a team to work the Schematic? Why not use one person who understands it very well to save time?” There are two answers to these questions.

First, Design Teams provide a means of accessing the individual and collective intelligence of several people to fulfill a creative project. The creative synergism that develops in a team can produce results that are far more creative, ingenious, and more complete than an individual working alone.

Teams offer a community or an international organization a means of tapping the intelligence, wisdom, and creativity of several people. Compared to individuals working alone, teams can

  • Generate many more ideas and innovation;
  • Motivate each other by bouncing ideas off each other;
  • Take more risks in their innovation;
  • Develop a well rounded team “personality” that more accurately reflects the social “persona” of society;
  • Stay on task more easily – to support the team process both socially and productively for the goals at hand;
  • Create a synergism of personalities, skills, work styles, and team role interaction that is unavailable to individuals, alone.

Second, the team’s primary purpose is to design sustainable social processes, organizations, and policies for example. In order to create sustainable designs that have the potential of lasting 50-500 years, the underlying flaws inherent in the thinking of society that undermine its longevity must be exposed, identified, and tested to determine if they are validated by the four primary values, and the morality and ethics of those values. When there is a procedure of dialogue that produces this outcome, the designs of the team will have a far greater assurance of being sustainable in the long term.

The root of the inherent social inconsistencies of any culture come from the beliefs and unrevealed assumptions that children learn when they are young, and usually remain in place into their adulthood. It is rare that an individual has the skills to isolate and identify the assumptions that underlie his or her beliefs. A team of individuals is better able to uncover those assumptions because members are “outside” other member’s system of beliefs and assumptions. It requires the inquisitive diligence of a team of individuals to question, test, and validate the beliefs and assumptions of each other’s suggestions to produce social designs that are sustainable for the long term.

Local Design Teams are “learning organizations” as Peter Senge would interpret them. To paraphrase Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline, the Art and Science of the Learning Organization, “In an era of immense social change, and social and global problems of immense dimensions, no individual has the answer.” Hundreds of teams across nations that collaborate will learn how to provide options to existing social problems that are common to all democratic nations. Those solutions will come to the surface as Team Members accept that responsibility when state and national governmental processes have proven incapable. By operating within the parameters of a Local Design Team, team members learn how to become sustainable as individuals and as a team to influence their communities. This develops as a result of a subtle but significant mind-shift whereby the individual constructs a new mode of thinking. It is this paradigm change of thinking that transforms not only the individual and team but their communities and eventually their entire culture as these local teams proliferate and begin to transform society incrementally. What we learn from this is that we are not separate. We must shift our thinking from isolation to connectedness and from social fragmentation to wholeness.29 Finally, we will learn and accept at the core of our being that each of us is inseparable from one another and the whole of everything.

A brief summary. Local teams provide a remarkable hands-on experience for citizens to work with their neighbors, associates, and friends to learn how to build sustainable communities and societies. Because most technologically developed nations and their economies are knowledge-driven, the team environment will feel comfortable to most people. People enjoy working on a project that they can identify with, where their efforts produce useful results.

Hundreds of Local Design Teams represent a new paradigm for social and political/governmental progress that fills the all too obvious vacuum of moral social, political, and financial/economic leadership. The products of hundreds of Local Design Teams will provide a new paradigm of social leadership that reflects the best intelligence and application of wisdom from society. Bottom-up designs for social action will create a very broad base of intelligent support to overcome the tremendous challenges that await any democratic society in the 21st century and beyond. Through the direction found in the efforts of several hundred teams, cultural and social leadership is provided without an authority figure.

Roles, Functions, and Qualifications of Team Members

Though a Design Team is composed of several specific roles, every team member to a degree takes on the functions of every role. The team is composed of Inquiring Team Members, Recorder, Consultant, and Facilitator. The preferable number of members is 5-11, with 7-9 being optimum. Too few members inhibit the fluid nature of the team process, and too many limits its effectiveness by making it too fluid. Too many members often results in distractive side-bar conversations and the potential of cliques.

Inquiring Team Members. The task of asking questions is a responsibility of all team members, but it is the primary role of “Inquiring Team Members” to ask diligent, probing questions. Authors Peter Senge, Chris Argyris, and David Bohm all point to the capacity to ask questions as the most meaningful way of exposing assumptions and fallacies while offering the possibilities of acquiring knowledge and wisdom for taking actions that change the outcomes to those that are useful.30 The team environment provides a socially and emotionally safe venue for members to suspend their assumptions, opinions, and judgments. A safe environment is necessary for the team to engage in a free-flowing dialogue among themselves without concern for “stepping on someone’s toes.”

It is helpful if Inquiring Members have an expertise in the field of inquiry that is without pride or arrogance, and exercise humility when revealing this. Above all they should be curious. It is also helpful if they have some training in the arts of inquiry, discernment, and reflection to develop cogent questions, questions that seem to intuitively lead to unraveling the topics of inquiry.

Because Local Design Teams are learning organizations that learn about the larger venue of their community and society, team members are also learning about their own personal inner processes and procedures of inquiry. Teams are composed of individuals who acknowledge the need for reflection and the examination of the procedures of inquiry so that their time becomes more productive. The task of Inquiring Members is vital to what the Team produces, or does not produce. The quality of the questions links directly to the quality of the answers. This work is not for dullards and lazy-thinking individuals, but for those who are inquisitive and choose to use their minds and their time effectively.

Inquiring Members should engage one another in a respectful, cooperative, and non-judgmental manner. They should respect the different opinions and ideas that others bring to the table even when their own opinions and ideas may differ widely. They should strive to see not as individuals but as team members where the contributions of the group become significantly greater than the value of the sum of the individual contributions alone. It is this synergistic effect of the group process that will achieve the goal.

Inquiring Members should be humble but powerful. They should maintain their focus in the present (“The Now”). They are interested in the work of the team and take notes of their own insights. Doing so, the team achieves inclusion and integration, oneness, and wholeness as an element of critical thinking and discernment.

NOTE: Teams will soon realize that their work is tedious, yet as beliefs are validated, there will be no further need to go through the tedious process of a redundant and intense examination. There is a “however.” However, the awareness of assumptions that underlie each belief will expand as each belief is examined in light of distinct ethnic groups, cultures, and nationalities that have their own set of assumptions for that specific belief. As you can imagine, it will be eventual that the clarity of the validation of any one belief will become more and more distinct as more and more sub-groups of belief are examined.

Recorder. The Recorder’s main function is to record the occasional “ah-ha!” insight, conclusion, or succinct comment that is often forgotten. The second function is to observe and note any change in the flow and process of discussion. Often in a highly creative, flowing team situation the topic of discussion may change rapidly as members make contributing comments about another topic, leaving the original topic as a “lost line of inquiry.” The Recorder, having noted that the focus of the team has been deflected, can later use their notes to assist the team to refocus on the original topic.

The Recorder takes note of the most important aspects of the team process, and any insights that contribute to the work of the team. Thoughts, insights, conclusions, and observations are all valid for recording and shared with the team at opportune moments, and later distilled and organized in the Findings Report or other conclusions of the Team. These may be published separately or with the Findings of other Teams.
It is not desirable for the Recorder to take verbatim notes, as this would prevent him or her from making their own contributions to the team process. Though deeply connected to the development of answers to questions, the Recorder also takes on the role of “Observer”. The Recorder’s perspective to pose insightful, cogent questions as well as relevant and reflective answers is vital to the integration of the validation process. By providing an objective viewpoint, the Recorder provides a valuable contribution to the group process.

Consultant. The Consultant has three main roles:

1) Provide backup to the Facilitator. In a rapidly moving team process diversions may occur. If pursued too long they will lead the Team away from its productive course. Sometimes the Facilitator may also get caught up in this diversion. This is much like what happens on the ski slopes when going too fast – getting off track, into loose material, and getting bogged down.

2)    To provide a “centering” function to the Team by maintaining a long-term perspective to the work of the team. Often the team will become too focused on the immediate dimensions of their work and lose perspective of how their work fits into the scheme of societal sustainability in the order of 50 to 500 years.

3) The Consultant keeps a vigil of the possibility that the Team has blind-sided itself by not exposing a topic that is vital to decision-making.

Facilitator. There are two functions of the team that the Facilitator is primarily responsible: the social process and the work production process. It is the Facilitator’s function to guide these two processes so that the Team becomes effective in its work. It is very helpful if the Facilitator has had training and experience in the areas of team building, team and group dynamics, group facilitation, team processes, and mediation, for example. This role is perhaps the most demanding within the team. The Facilitator must not only monitor him or herself but the team as well, and do so without butting in. The Facilitator provides non-toxic, non-judgmental guidance to team members and working sub-units of the team so the dialogue of the social and work processes advance.

In many ways the Facilitator becomes a trainer of the Team to the extent that training facilitates members in the art of effective inquiry, dialogue, reflection, self-observation, and discernment. Further, the Facilitator supports members to monitor their own problematic participation, and correct it independently. Often the Facilitator must act as a moderator, or even a mediator, but never an arbitrator.
This person facilitates the group dynamics and team process; monitors the evolution and development of the Team process, and records the conduct, developments, insights, progress, and product of the Team; and makes suggestions as to how to improve the Team process. The Facilitator acts essentially as a lubricant, taking action only when necessary to keep the process running smoothly and productively.

Further, the Facilitator should have an awareness of his or her weaknesses and strengths; and, call upon the Team or outside resources to work with those skill deficits. The Facilitator must monitor him or herself as well as the team in order to avoid being too controlling. Effectively playing this role requires much patience and discernment.

Perhaps the best example of a facilitator is described by John Heider in his book, Tao of Leadership, Leadership Strategies for a New Age. The Facilitator leads by understanding the “how” of the Team’s work completion, and leads only when the team stumbles in the process. Less is more. Following this method teaches the team how to do for itself as much as possible.

Joellen P. Killion and Lynn A. Simmons, in their book, Zen of Facilitation, 1992, tell us, an effective team facilitator:

  • “Establishes a sense of community that provides an open, honest and safe environment to share, explore, disagree, and contribute.
  • Trusts his/her own intuition…functions from ‘gut feelings’.
  • Listens carefully.
  • Keeps the group on task and moving ahead.
  • Stays in the now… rather than diverting to the past or future.
  • Reveals the thinking of others in the group.
  • Encourages the group to generate their own best solutions.
  • Trusts the group’s ability to find their own direction.
  • Lets go of preconceived notions.
  • Models appropriate attitudes and behaviors.
  • Develops a ‘seat of the pants’ feel for what is happening and what needs to happen next.
  • Honors various perspectives.
  • Refrains from only providing his/her point of view.
  • Fosters independence…equalizes everyone’s sense of power.
  • Establishes a sense of safety for group members.
  • Regulates group member contributions equitably.
  • Assists in bridging one concept or idea to another.
  • Guides the interaction through reflective and clarifying questions.
  • Moves group thinking from reacting to reflecting.
  • Provides nurturing.
  • Remembers that he/she is facilitating others’ process not his/her own.
  • Does nothing when he/she is unsure about what to do.”

Facilitating Dialogue. Creating an emotionally and socially safe environment is a crucial function of the Facilitator. A safe environment is necessary for the team to engage in a free-flowing dialogue among themselves, and to allow Inquiring Members to ask questions without concern for “stepping on someone’s toes.”

Typically in the beginning phases of a new Team, the Facilitator will not participate very much in the topics of discussion, but rather monitor the functioning of the Team’s processes of dialogue. The Facilitator is there to assist in the development of the Team’s discipline of “dialogue,” including identifying particular problems that inhibit effective dialogue. Later, as the Team has become more effective and has learned how to monitor and correct ineffective dialogue processes, the Facilitator may become just another participant with little need for ongoing facilitation of the Team.

The work of the team is to come to a convergence of validated assumptions, opinions, judgments, and beliefs about what they are designing. If they are shy to expose their assumptions, it is the Facilitator’s job to guide them to examine their resistance. Then he or she will use this situation to train and facilitate dialogue to gain clarity about their resistance, and their assumptions.

Quirky Problems and Stumbling Blocks of the English Language. As Bohm tells us, “The problems of thought are primarily collective, rather than individual.” The following is a brief list of stumbling blocks to dialogue the Facilitator and team will have to overcome:

  • The overlay that the English language gives to English speaking individual’s world view;
  • Cause-and-effect relationships;
  • The linearity of thinking used for problem solution;
  • The paradox of “the observer and the observed”;
  • Shared meaning;
  • The pervasiveness of “fragmentation”;
  • The function of awareness;
  • Undirected inquiry;
  • and “the problem and the paradox”, to name the major impediments to productive dialogue.

Proprioceptive. In all cases, for Bohm and Senge, it is highly important that the members become “proprioceptive,” having the ability to be aware of their own thinking. When members practice this technique, they will be able to take the advice of an insightful bumper sticker — “Don’t believe everything you think!” Becoming proprioceptive is a practiced skill that develops when an individual simply observes what they are thinking, without getting involved in the topics. Becoming a “Self-Observer” is described on page 183.

What is vital to the effectiveness of the Team is to expose the numerous points of view on the same topic. The Facilitator does this with care and compassion. Though those points of view may remain after dialogue, each member has been exposed to those views and the assumptions behind them. If a community is not operating with the same set of assumptions, and those have not been fully exposed and validated, social problems will surely arise in the future, if they have not already. In this way we can come to understand why members judge and defend certain points of view. Concerning social sustainability, assumptions, opinions, and judgments must be exposed in order to move forward toward the validation of designs the team has developed. As a whole community or nation moves toward becoming integral and whole, Design Teams pave the way toward social continuity and stability. The point of the team’s work is to come to a convergence of validated assumptions, opinions, judgments, and beliefs about what they are designing.

The Art of Inquiry, Reflective Thinking, and Discernment

Inquiry is the primary function of the Design Team: It is the thoughtful business of asking questions, and answering them. The Design Team process is dependent upon the capability of all members to ask questions and it is the duty of every team member to ask questions. No questions, no answers. The best questions are intuitive and cogent to reveal the fundamentals of sustainable social institutions. Students will learn a great deal from Chris Argyris’ book, Action Science, which deals with designing organizations that contain an embedded learning component with the capacity to learn from mistakes. The Fifth Discipline, the Art and Science of the Learning Organization, by Peter Senge, discusses organizational systems that lead by learning. You may want to go online and research “inquiry and reflection,” “inquiry and advocacy,” and “inquiry process,” for guidance how to ask productive questions.

Reflection. Individual and group reflection is imperative for gaining insights and wisdom about the Team’s project. It is a subtle means of accessing inner wisdom. For conundrums, problems, or questions that remain problematic and irresolvable even after rigorous discussion, Joseph Jaworski in his book Synchronicity suggests team members should take a recess from discussion, go apart and enter into their own meditative state of contemplation or reflection. By stilling the mind and asking specific questions of the inner Source within them, members will receive the answers and guidance sufficient to move forward.

The beginning of growth for everyone is to take time apart, time aside to reflect on your life and your experiences. Some have seen this as a waste of time as getting nothing done, but it is strongly argued that the most creative moments that have guided the course of our world, materially, spiritually, socially, psychologically in all regards were generated through a time of reflection and contemplation by individuals.

Teams offer a generous opportunity for individual growth, to work in unison with others to accomplish a common goal. The individual grows within themselves and within the team. Yet, there will be times when a team member will need to go aside to consult and reflect within him or herself to consider what is developing. From our personal experiences we must invoke our capacity to reflect, and from reflection we will derive a “lesson” for that individual situation. From lessons, the reflective mind will grasp the over-arching “wisdom” of similar lessons. This is how the individual grows. This is how wisdom is gathered and civilizations are sustained. Only when individuals share their wisdom in team and community settings will societies become great.

Peter Senge, Chris Argyris, and Joseph Jaworski all have much to say about using reflective thinking and reflective action individually and in the team setting as a way of accessing wisdom and insights that are not available during the busyness of life. Reflection involves the relevant experience we are studying without an agenda, without a procedure for analysis, but rather by the stillness of our mind to do its business more profitably when the conscious side of our mind is still. Unfortunately, few teams will become conscious of the “still water” of movement in the team as a signal to withdraw into stillness and reflection. These reflective moments occur when our mind is free to rearrange the bits and pieces we are trying to make sense. It knows your intention for these moments, so let it do its work.

When team members return to the presence of their team work, then that wisdom and those insights can be shared with everyone, where the sum of what members return to the team setting is far, far greater than before they went into their reflective retreats. Minutes of reflection can often reveal far more than hours and days of intense activity striving to do the same work. The secret is letting — taking a moment apart from the Team to let your mind take the reins of your inner process to find its direction. Some members may wish to engage qigong, tai chi, yoga, or some form of quiet motion as a means of letting the thoughtful side of their brain move into stillness. And, it is relaxing!


From Merriam-Webster – Discernment

Main Entry: dis●cern●ment
Function: verb

1 : to detect with the eyes  : DISTINGUISH;
3 : to come to know or recognize mentally
–dis●cern●ible  adjective
–dis●cern●ment  noun

As a thinking skill, discernment seems to have been ignored or an under-developed skill; and has had little emphasis in educational systems. Yet, it is essential in all social, political, financial activities and in the grocery store. Because the Design Team Process is totally dependent upon the thinking skills of the team members, the following considerations should prove particularly useful.

1.    Discerning the Message

Does the message of the team member make sense? Is the message consistent within itself? Is it consistent with previous messages. Is the “meta-message” consistent with the speaker and the Team? Does the message make a meaningful contribution to our knowledge, or is it just more “fluff”? Does the message lead us in a direction that is consistent with our topic?

2.    Discerning the speaker

Examining the message is the primary means for discerning the reliability of the speaker. If the content of the message revolves around ego issues or fear issues and is unchecked by the Facilitator or Consultant, they can show up as almost invisible controlling influences that work against a Team’s productivity, and integrity.

Ego — The intention of ego involvement is always some form of “return” that comes back to the speaker in some form of self-gratification, self-aggrandizement, power, and control. It is usually expressed as

1) power in the forms of manipulation, control, authority, and position. This may take the form of an agenda that provides a political, financial, social, or other form of return to the speaker;

2) self-aggrandizement, self-importance, self-centeredness, selfishness, conceit, arrogance, and sometimes as “Guru syndrome” either projecting or accepting same from followers; and/or envy, jealously, and more.

Fear — Fear makes statements of position and may express as judgment, biases, strong opinions, prejudices, bigotry, distancing, or withdrawal, for example, causing separation. Fear positions become known in the form of statements, attitudes, and opinions that shock or immobilize the group. Repeated presentations of a horrific and terrifying nature is a sign of fear in the person when it causes fear in the audience. It, too, may be a method to gain power, control, and to be seen as the “guru” and/or savior of the group.
However, statements that cause fear that are NOT made often about horrific or terrifying topics may indicate the topic is real and that fear is an appropriate response. In that case, listeners may want to work with their own fears so that they remain effective members of the Team.

Mental Illness — In the case of aberrant thinking, i.e., what most people would call mental illness if diagnosed by professional psychiatrists or clinical psychologists, also falls into the realm of discernment. If you discern a message to be far out of the ordinary, and, for example, appears to involve paranoia, extreme fear, fetishes, to name a few issues of aberrant thinking, and any of the other evidence of bizarre thinking, then you have discerned enough to reject the message. Dealing with the messenger then takes tact, skill, grace, and perseverance.

3.    Integration and Separation

Generally, the work of the Team is toward integration, rather than separation. Ego, fear, and mental illness cause separation in some form. Our first observations are of actions, then moving inward we observe/listen to the words, and these two indicators tell us what is dominant, or dormant, in the thinking of the speaker.

Discernment is one of the most important personal and social skills that is essential to the prevention of bias, prejudice, and bigotry. It is worthy of being taught at home and in all educational settings, with refresher sessions along the way to adulthood.

25 - Raphael, Daniel 2016 The Progressive’s Handbook for Reframing Democratic Values
Raphael, Daniel 2017 Designing Socially Sustainable Democratic Societies
Raphael, Daniel 2017 Democracy for 2017 — The Political Empowerment of Citizens
26 - Jaworski, Joseph 2011 Synchronicity, The INNER PATH of LEADERSHIP
27 - Wright, Kurt 1998
28 - 28    Web searches for “connection before content” has yielded a great bit of wisdom. For example, see the Link
29 - Link: YouTube TEDx Taipei, Tom Chi, “Everything is Connected - - Here’s How.
30 - Senge, Peter M. (1994): 198; Argyris, Chris (1985): 236.; Bohm, David (2004): 70.