I have recently read two books by Margaret Heffernan; ‘Wilful Blindness’ and ‘Beyond Measure – The big impact of small changes’. It’s unusual for me to read two books by the same author back to back but I enjoyed Wilful Blindness so much I wanted to read the other straight away, both are excellent reads, AND made me reflect on our facilitation practice.
I am going share why I felt both were relevant but first Wilful Blindness probably needs explaining a little more by way of a definition.
Wilful blindness is sometimes called ignorance of law. Wilful or contrived ignorance is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a person looks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally keeping himself or herself unaware of facts that would render him or her liable.
This is often thrown out in court as the court quickly determine that the defendant SHOULD have known.
The term wilful blindness has come to mean any situation in which people intentionally send their attention away from a problem, either because the problem is too disturbing or from the knowledge that solving the problem would require considerable effort. Closely related to “ignorance is bliss”.
What wilful blindness made me think about was how sometimes in meetings and workshops participants, and even some key clients/stakeholders, choose to ignore the obvious, or choose to ignore certain participant’s opinions or feedback. This can be likened to ignoring the elephant in the room. This ignorance may be down to the fact that they either simply do not want to address the obvious or hear the obvious, for whatever reason(s).
As Facilitators it is our job to ensure that the elephant does indeed get addressed, broken down in to manageable chunks, but addressed none the less. It is also our role to ensure all participants views are heard and captured if necessary and appropriate. BUT, this does have to be contracted with your client and participants, preferably beforehand and most definitely at the start of the meeting or workshop.
The second book I mention above, ‘Beyond Measure – The big impact of small changes’, is a smaller book from the TED series, and focuses on how actually it is often the smallest of changes that can have the biggest impact rather than going for the big wholesale change that might at first seem the best option. This also made me reflect on our facilitation practice and how actually, it’s often the small changes in a meeting or workshop that can have the biggest or most dramatic impact.
For example, it might be a small change in approach, a tweak on how you use a tool, technique or process, a short pause for reflection, a timely Facilitator intervention, a short unscheduled break, a simple, clear and well thought through question, a simple marker pen diagram on a flip chart, a single comment or remark or even a little bit of humour that can make a big difference or change.
With regards to both wilful blindness of participants and small changes, both require us as Facilitators to be on our ‘A game’; by creating a safe space and environment to enable participants to see and hear the obvious, and by observing, listening and making timely and appropriate Facilitator interventions.
I strongly recommend both Wilful Blindness and Beyond Measure (Margaret Heffernan) as great reads.
If you are or colleagues are suffering from wilful blindness or you have an elephant in your room you would like to chat about or if you just would like more information on the type of meetings and workshops we facilitate please visit us at www.circleindigo.com or call us for a chat on +44 (0) 1279 723 283.