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How to Run Better Meetings, Groups, Clubs and Classes
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Dynamic Format opens Socratic Method to all of us, rather than only to an advantaged few. For the first time in history, it is now feasible to bring the benefits of Socratic Method to absolutely everyone in a group or classroom, at one and the same time, over extended intervals of time.
Previously, the most-tested educational method in 2400 years of history, Socratic Method, whose main concept education and educators are themselves named after, the method which over that span of history has always and consistently and dramatically been associated with highest-level intellectual performance, had been only the purview of a privileged elite. While you Socratically interviewed one or two students, the other forty-seven in the group would get understandably restless, and eventually their restlessness would disturb even the one interview. A Socratic educator for just one or two students is way too costly, and that was why Socratic-powered education was limited to only a select few. Now, Socratic-powered learning and growth can benefit literally everyone.
And now that we finally understand what makes Socratic Method so consistently productive of highest-level intellectual performance, we see some uses for the method which are more important even than its educational use, including its major applications to your own life and work....
Have you ever had the experience of having something important to say but no opportunity to say it? How easy or hard is it for you to really hear and respond to what someone else is saying while you're sitting there seething with your own thwarted urgent contribution?
The same goes for your participants. Every time you've done your job as chair or moderator so well that your people have gotten interested and involved, you inflict that perception-inhibiting frustration on your brighter members and in direct proportion to the degree that each has something important to contribute.
The same for your students. Every time you've done your job so well that your lecture starts to get interesting, you inflict that perception-inhibiting frustration on your brighter students and on your class generally.
In a corporation where time is money, how much time is wasted in board and staff meetings, either in lengthy discourse by the chair or CEO while expensive specialists and executives sit mute, or in pre-orchestrated speech presentations whose "discussion" outcome was determined long since, or in a chaos ended only when the chair or CEO goes out and either does things himself or by dictate, dismissing 99% of all that was said at the meeting? Or where everyone is saying only what the chair or CEO wanted to hear, providing no meaningful feedback or direction?
Here, then, just a few paragraphs below, is a summary of a very few, very simple provisions through which you can build interest and sustain tight topical focus while fostering dynamic expressive interaction. It wonderfully integrates and develops your group's various perceptions and perceivers.
This highly efficient group, boardroom or classroom management process is also a way to discover and focus your people's (your people's!) very real genius.
What is Dynamic Format?
Dynamic Format fits comfortably with, and can benefit, most other group methods and procedures. It can turn miraculously productive all kinds of group meetings, from classroom (and even faculty meeting!) to board room to sales meeting to Town Hall and civic clubs.
Dynamic Format makes it easy for you to get the members of your group actively, richly exploring, debating, investigating and relating to any topic or issue, yet staying far better focused than can the most forceful lecture or most rigorous use of Robert's Rules.
Dynamic Format helps your participants to participate without getting in each other's way or in your way. Dynamic Format is a set of techniques to conduct the transaction of information and/or decision with maximum sensitivity and breadth of consideration and perception, quickly, crisply, in depth but efficiently. (Doesn't sound like some of the meetings you've been in before, does it?)
The simple "house rules" of Dynamic Format enable your people to be interactive, thoughtful, perceptive, expressive, comprehensive, and yet to maintain a tight, clear, progressing focus on your topic.
Here is how to bring about these and other desirable effects from a group meeting:
Form teams or partners
At the start of your session, have any group of more than 5 to 6 participants subdivide so each is already in place with his or her partner(s) on a stand-by basis. This way you can move swiftly and smoothly in and out of the interactive mode when you come to the point in your session where you want to use it.
Have your people stay oriented with their partner(s) even while functioning in your larger (plenary) group. This way, when you want to switch modes, no logistics are required and you are free to move deftly between levels of interaction as well as from step to step, or into interaction and seamlessly back to formal lecture or other formal process.
Your teams can be pairs, or threes, or you can have "buzz groups" consisting of as many as 5 or 6 participants, depending upon what you want to do with them.
Each participant in a pair has more "air time" in which to examine and describe what s/he is perceiving in the context of the defined topic or question.
The larger the group, the more chance that someone in it will catch on to what you want and model how it is done. The more difficult your question or task, therefore, the larger you want your groups, up to a maximum of six, to ensure that someone there in each group will be able to comprehend and get things moving as you want.
Most of the time, to get the maximum of Socratic benefit, you will want to work your participants within pairs. You can even have your participants, as this writer has often done in his workshops and teachings, orient in pairs within larger sub-groups of 4 to 6 members.
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