Facilitation Patterns and Antipatterns: Curious George

Posted by Doc
Jan 27 2009

If you happen to be one of my Twitter followers, or you’re one of the friends or colleagues who is willing to listen, you’ll know that I’ve been focusing on this topic recently: Facilitation Patterns and Antipatterns.

The focus came about because I submitted a proposal to present at Microsoft’s TechReady8* (February 2 – 6 in Seattle), in their Architecture track, on Facilitation. When my proposal was accepted, I then had the challenge to put together a presentation for as many as 300 people at a time, to be done twice. I’d prefer a workshop, because I like interaction and games and fun. But for 300 people, plus a webcast/recording, it’s gotta be a presentation.

As I thought about it, and thought about presenting to a bunch of Software Architects (and others – I don’t think they turn them away if they’re not architects), I tried to think in terms that would make sense to them. Being a colleague of Martin Fowler, the idea of patterns and antipatterns came as a natural idea.

As I’m evolving my ideas, I thought I’d start posting some of them here. I’d love to have feedback. This stuff might make it into a book at some point, so the more you help me, the more successful I’ll be. 😉

Both the patterns and the antipatterns can apply to facilitator or participant.

Nothing is exclusive – I can take on the behaviors and beliefs of multiple patterns and antipatterns simultaneously.

Let’s see how it goes.

For each pattern or antipattern, I will describe four things: motto, belief, behavior, and characteristics. I expect it to get a bit mushy at times.


Pattern: Curious George

curious_georgeMotto: I’m here to ask, not tell.
Belief: Asking questions is better than making statements, when I’m trying to bring out information.
Behavior: Asks questions, listens actively, and uses effective techniques to clarify and to elicit.
Characteristics: Calm, questioning, persistent

This pattern is most evident in facilitators. I believe that a facilitator’s role requires that she be focusing on drawing out information. That means asking questions. That means expressing interest and curiosity to elicit knowledge and information that is in the brains of the participants.


* Microsoft TechReady8 is one of two global events that Microsoft puts on for the education of their employees. There should be some thousands of folks there. Microsoft accepts a very limited number of outside presenters, because much of the content is about Microsoft products and technology, and they have that expertise in-house. I’m pretty excited about this.

3 Responses

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