Drawing Inspiration: Group Works Card Deck

As I was doing some design work recently for the 2012 Western Cities Conference I pulled out my Group Works Card Deck.

Why is it that some meetings bring life to your soul, while others leave you wishing you'd never stepped in the room? What happens at the best ones, that makes them productive, fulfilling, sometimes even magic?

This deck of 91 full-colour cards names what skilled facilitators and other participants do to make things work. The content is more specific than values and less specific than tips and techniques, cutting across existing methodologies with a designer's eye to capture the patterns that repeat. The deck can be used to plan sesssions, reflect on and debrief them, provide guidance, and share responsibility for making the process go well. It has the potential to provide a common reference point for practitioners, and serve as a framework and learning tool for those studying the field.

I haven't used these cards as much as I would like, but one practice I'm liking is using them as a source of inspriation. Sometimes I randomly pull a handful and let them inspire my design. In this case I flipped through the cards and chose the ones where I felt resonance with this event. The cards I chose were below and I've added a few words on how they showed up in my design work:

  • Opening and Welcome – Inviting me to carefully think about how to set the tone and start intentionally for the group of 100+ to connect with each other
  • Circle – Reminded me of an opener where I invite a large group to form a circle as fast as they can. This time using their first names, alphabetically as a way to start to meet each other.
  • Playfulness – More about how I wanted to show up with light-hearted and light-spirited interaction.
  • Generate Possibilities – An invitation to shake things up with improvisation and thinking out of the box. From this I wove in an improv game into the design (Psychic Handshake).
  • Story – This tipped my design ideas away from a risky tiny squishy Open Space session to drawing from Christina Baldwin's work with story and the Art of Hosting's Collective Story Harvest process.
  • Follow the Energy – Always. But especially before I began one of the breakout sessions to sense what the group really wanted in the moment. (I think this is part of my life's work to get better and better at this!)
  • Silence – Looking for moments to stray from some of my ‘turn to each other' prompts and instead invite silent reflection.
  • Closing – Creating a formal ritual to close the collective time and space. I had a lot of fun planning the closing!

This deck is a great resource, inspiration source, pattern keeper, and oracle of sorts. If you are a facilitator I highly recommend you order a set and discover how they might bring new sparks of life to your work.