When you feel included and engaged, do you do a better job? Do you think teams in which people work well together produce much better results? Have you noticed the best ideas often come from unexpected sources? Do you want to work at the top of your intelligence and give the same opportunity to others?
If YES, we have found this is the kind of organization and community that people want to be part of. AND, Liberating Structures help make it happen.
So why is it that so many organizations of all stripes are filled with disengaged workers, dysfunctional groups and wasted ideas?
While there will always be some justification for blaming leaders (or professors and administrators in education), the more compelling and useful explanation is not that people involved are bad, stupid or incompetent, but rather that the practices they have all learned are neither adapted to today’s realities nor designed to achieve the ideals listed above.
Unwittingly, the conventional structures used to organize how people routinely work together stifle inclusion and engagement.
Conventional structures are either too inhibiting (presentations, status reports and managed discussions) or too loose and disorganized (open discussions and brainstorms) to creatively engage people in shaping their own future. They frequently generate feelings of frustration and/or exclusion and fail to provide space for good ideas to emerge and germinate. This means that huge amounts of time and money are spent working the wrong way. More time and money are then spent trying to fix the unintended consequences.
Liberating Structures start with something so simple and essential as not to seem worth doing and end with something so powerful and profound that it hardly seems possible.
This website offers an alternative way to approach and design how people work together. It provides a menu of thirty-three Liberating Structures to replace or complement conventional practices.
Liberating Structures used routinely make it possible to build the kind of organization that everybody wants. They are designed to include everyone in shaping next steps.
Liberating Structures introduce tiny shifts in the way we meet, plan, decide and relate to one another. They put the innovative power once reserved for experts only in hands of everyone.
This alternative approach is both practical and feasible because Liberating Structures are quite simple and easy to learn. They can be used by everyone at every level, from the executive suite to the grassroots. No lengthy training courses or special talents are required. Mastery is simply a matter of practice. LS routinely unleash a vast reserve of contributions and latent innovations waiting to be discovered.
Every person interested in leading change—in schools, hospitals, foundations, agencies, and businesses—can use Liberating Structures to generate innovation and great results.
Liberating Structures are easy-to-learn microstructures that enhance relational coordination and trust. They quickly foster lively participation in groups of any size, making it possible to truly include and unleash everyone. Liberating Structures are a disruptive innovation that can replace more controlling or constraining approaches.
Click on any Liberating Structure below.
Leaders know that they would greatly increase productivity and innovation if only they could get everyone fully engaged. The challenge is how. Liberating Structures are novel, practical and no-nonsense methods to help you accomplish this goal with groups of any size.
Liberating Structures spark inventiveness by minimally structuring the way we interact while liberating content or subject matter. Very simple constraints unleash creative adaptability, generating better than expected results. Individual brilliance and collective wisdom are unbridled. Such a dramatic shift cannot be THAT simple, engaging, and powerful but it is. Read Getting Started if you are ready to liberate yourself.
By design, Liberating Structures distribute control so that participants can shape direction themselves as the action unfolds.
Immersion workshops are a great way to get started. Like a foreign language immersion course that temporarily relocates you away from a familiar culture, a LS immersion experience is a very effective way to learn. There are no presentations, facilitated discussions, status reports, brainstorming sessions, or open discussions. Only Liberating Strucutres are practiced. Organizing a workshop for people in your working group can accelerate "fluency."
Vancouver BC, Canada. February 17-19 (2 1/2 days on the gorgeous UBC campus). The focus will be on education and learning. Description and registration details. Participants from all sectors--business, government, NGOs, and health--are welcome.
Liberating Structures are immeasurably practical. Our world is increasingly complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse. Many of our most pressing challenges cut across geographic, cultural, and technical boundaries. Simple methods that help us work together productively are central to making progress.
Like Wikipedia, LS create simple rules to guide and liberate everyone’s contributions. Wikipedia’s must-dos and must-not dos specify how anyone can write articles, edit content, reach consensus about the facts, and share with attribution. This structure makes it possible for a diverse community to generate and sustain accurate content that compares favorably with professionally edited encyclopedias. Like Wikipedia, LS is a disruptive innovation in regard to how we engage people in organizations.
Like improv jazz, LS sparks freedom that arises from shared understanding of simple rules. Great jazz comes from playing creatively within the context of melodic and harmonic structure. Like water in a river, LS takes the shape of the banks that it touches: adapting a similar pattern at every scale and in each local setting.
Like FoldIt (read Novices To Expert Innovators in Biology) LS is a form of crowdsourcing that enables innovation by including and unleashing more people.
Check out a very visual presentation for the Plexus Institute annual conference--Pecha KuchaThe Structure of Liberation.
Below: watch this inspired video by Professor Arvind Singhal talking about liberating education and the role of changemakers. UnScripTED: Liberating Structures
Below: watch Keith facilitate TRIZ--a Liberating Structure that makes space for innovation by stopping counterproductive behaviors. With participants from Mass General/Harvard and the Boston healthcare community, the focus is on primary healthcare services and innovation.
Below, enjoy scenes from the LCJP Restorative Justice Summit. Liberating Structures were used to organize a three day event full of learning, designed to advance the Restorative Justice movement. Restorative Justice (RJ) aims to create communities in which people feel safe by carefully structuring opportunities for offenders to make amends and victims to regain their personal power. Restorative Justice practitioners found Liberating Structures to be highly structured, liberating better than expected results.
LS were used to design the Transformation of Nursing summit. Coalitions from all 50 states and DC came together to advance the cause. Keith was the lead consultant and designer.
For the United Nations ITC-ILO, Henri and Keith offered a Liberating Structures immersion workshop and follow-up consulting sessions. (The Centre is in Turin Italy.) The focus was how to organize for promoting decent work and sustainable development by not over-helping but rather facilitating networked self-organization.
While the individual LS microstructures are powerful separately, they function as an interrelated set which can transform a entire organization. The LS repertoire is inspired by ten liberating principles.
When we decide we belong together, LS principles help to guide behavior and leadership actions. Detailed descriptions here.
Liberating Structures are informed by complexity science--the science of emergence. This entertaining Radiolab program explores how order in nature emerges without central control. It starts with how lightning bugs synchronize their flashing. "What happens when there is no leader? Starlings, bees, and ants manage just fine. In fact, they form staggeringly complicated societies -- all without a Toscanini to conduct them into harmony. This hour of Radiolab, we ask how this happens."
The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures book! Preview and buy on Amazon. The color paperback ($49.95 USD), black&white ($19.95 USD) and e-book are now available on the Amazon website. Amazon offers deep discounts and free shipping to some customers.
LS @ the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Board Retreat. All board retreats should look and sound like this one! Thanks to Professor Eric Olsen & Kara Rutherford (videographer).
Falling Off the Horse (while faciliating with Liberating Structures) article by Keith McCandless. Describes a minimalist user-centered approach to facilitation and how the author "falls off the horse and gets back on."
University of Texas El Paso professor of Communication, Dr. Arvind Singhal, designed an interactive, inclusive, two-day working meeting on the topic, Partners in Health: Aligning Clinical Systems, Faith and Community Assets. April 15-16, at the White House. Story here.
LS User Groups (inventing and enlivening a new way to organize)
Below: early LS users and co-developers in Latin America, Europe, Canada and the USA.